Goodbye, money. Goodbye, public services

Posted on June 8, 2010

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Money for a duck house? Who knows where our money is really going

We knew it was coming, and that it would come quickly. That’s right – there’s no money. And, by the way, it was Labour’s fault. And the cuts are going to hurt. Ouch.

Today’s announcement that “the public” will be consulted on where cuts can be made looks great on the surface. So we’ll all get a say in where money is being wasted? Fantastic!

Well, actually, no. Unless you fancy sounding off on the comment board of the Daily Mail, for all the clout that will have. Details of consultation with the public have not been outlined, except for that, in the words of the Beeb, “A ‘star chamber’ of senior figures will be created, before which ministers will have to justify their spending.” Sorry, what was that? Tory businessmen being asked to agree with how the Tories spend their money?

Even if we all do get a say, well, we’re not exactly in the best position to do so. None of us knew that Sir Peter Viggers had a £1,645 duck house sitting on his moat until the expenses scandal exploded. For all we know, Mr Cameron could be stockpiling paperclips for the unlikely event that we run out of staples.

So we can look forward to painful and unavoidable cuts which will affect “our whole way of life”. And ministers might be asked to consider if services their department provides could be performed cheaper by the private or voluntary sectors. Post-traumatic stress disorder counselling for soldiers? Surely a volunteer would pick up the slack. Public transport? Well, surely someone could offer to pick someone up if they hover by a bus stop. Public service broadcasting? That’s just plain pointless when you could be making money advertising instead.

Hopefully such ridiculous cuts wouldn’t be made, but nothing can be guaranteed. Despite encouragement, martyrdom and self-exemption from any responsibility coming in an almost constant stream from good ol’ David, one key fact has to be remembered – we’re dealing with Conservatives. These are the people with private healthcare. The people with money. The people with moats.

Hello, mini Oxbridge

And their values are creeping in already, almost under the radar. Turning schools into academies is great, according to Cameron – it will set schools free to set their own curriculums, have greater control, etc. But they’re also run by an individual or sponsor. Cue visions of miniature investment bankers in training at four years old, wearing tiny suits as they toddle into class, the next generation of big business.

How about sorting out education as a whole rather than, yet again, giving a leg up to those who are already the elite? Those schools who are already at the top of their game will be fast-tracked to academy status, and they will have more control over their admissions policies – mini Oxbridge, anybody? Actually, it’s all ok, because spare money will be used to help poorer children. Yeah.

Sorry, we can’t afford to treat you

Healthcare cuts are obviously inevitable, and this one has crept in while everyone else is busy talking about the wider issues. Hospitals are to face charges for readmissions in a bid to encourage better treatment in the first place, apparently. This is based on a stat that readmissions have gone up 50 per cent over the last ten years, and where hospitals would usually receive a payment for each emergency patient they receive, they will now only get a payment the first day they come back and get nothing for further care within the next 30 days.

Their justification? Cutting the incentivising to get people out of hospital quickly. Great – in theory. Actual scenario? People will still get readmitted to hospital for one reason or another, hospitals will have to argue that their original treatment was good and argue for funding, then standards will fall because they won’t get that money. It’s all right, though, because there’s always private healthcare. Except we can’t all afford that, can we?

It’s the same theory as for education – try sorting out the standards rather than shifting money to the ‘best’ places. And if this makes you angry, its pretty much guaranteed it’s nothing compared to what’s coming.

Image from Greg Timm‘s photostream.

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