Social Liberal Forum responds to government’s Comprehensive Spending Review

Having examined the announcements in the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Social Liberal Forum has released the following statement:

“The Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review contains a range of measures to reduce public spending, some of which the Social Liberal Forum welcomes. There are however some aspects of the Review that cause grave concern, as many of the proposed cuts will impact on the most vulnerable in society. Others risk deepening the lack of economic demand whilst expecting the private sector to fill the gap left by shrinking the state.

It is heartening to see policies that we as Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for being delivered: the Pupil Premium, the universality of most welfare payments, the creation of a Green Investment Bank, Regional Growth Funds and the protection of spending for schools, the NHS, international development and science. We are pleased to see the levy on banks made permanent and Trident not renewed. These are all to be welcomed as progressive policies designed to make Britain fairer and more prosperous. There can be no doubt that they are all the result of Liberal Democrats’ presence in government.

There remains a significant danger, however, that many of Chancellor George Osborne’s measures will disproportionately affect the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised in society – precisely those that depend on public services the most. The steep cuts to welfare payments – including withdrawing disability benefits after a year and the reforms to housing benefit – are in direct contradiction of the government’s rhetorical commitment to fairness.

Without rigorous, holistic impact assessments of the cuts, there is a serious risk that cuts in one service today may lead not only to greater spending elsewhere but also greater misery for those already under great duress – such an impact assessment will become more crucial as details of specific spending cuts emerge in the coming days.

The deep cuts to local government budgets, only partially mitigated by allowing authorities to raise bonds, will also mean an end to many vital services. As Liberal Democrats, we strongly oppose any reduction in the capacity of councils to provide for their local communities.

There is also a danger that as jobs are lost, tax receipts will fall and a second recession could ensue. The Social Liberal Forum therefore calls on the Government to revive demand in the private economy by investing directly in skills training and small business development, as outlined by the recent Liberal Democrat conference motion Fairness in a time of Austerity .

Finally, the SLF believes that reducing the deficit must not come at the expense of creating a fair and just society. We cannot support a package of measures that will widen the gap between the rich and the poor – and we fear that the CSR is likely to do that. Spending decisions taken today will shape both the economy and society for years to come. We remain unconvinced of the need to seek to reduce the bulk of the deficit within a single parliament. It is vital that Government carefully avoids cuts that hurt the vulnerable and focuses on rebalancing the economy to make it more diverse, sustainable and equitable.”

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5 comments on “Social Liberal Forum responds to government’s Comprehensive Spending Review
  1. Alex M says:

    Absolutely agree with the position set out in this statement. Let’s hope the party leadership are listening!

  2. Mark Yeates says:

    I am on the verge of leaving, this has left me totally demoralised with the Party. If only someone in parliament would speak against these cuts, but they all seem to be impotent or accepting of them. On a personal note, they will leave me bankrupt and homeless. I read today the only way a person can be deemed too ill to work if they are dead: if you can breathe, you can work.

    The regressive nature of the Welfare cuts certainly go against the recent motion passed (as above) ‘Ensuring Fairness in a Time of Austerity’: particularly Item 9:
    “Ensure that any cuts to welfare benefits are progressive in nature: reducing benefits enjoyed by the most affluent before cutting benefits for the poorest and most vulnerable.”

    The weakest, the poorest and the most vulnerable in society are paying the price for the Credit Crisis and Labour’s mismanagement of it.

    On a final note: if this budget was one of such seriousness and one of austerity: one in which ‘we are all in this together…for the good of the nation’, why exactly did the majority of Tories laugh, cheer and bay for more (cuts) when Osborne completed his statement? It was not so much that the cuts were necessary (are they?) but they were received with zealous greed by the right-wing Milton Friedman, Chicago Economics. This neo-liberal monetarism, landed us in a mess in the 1980s, do we ever learn? Monetarism has never been proved to work, in fact in all cases it has failed to deliver a FAIR society, only enriching the upper deciles of income in society.

    What sticks in the craw more than anything else was the smiling faces on the front bench and then the back slapping of Gorgeous George, led by Danny Alexander and Nick Clegg. What sticks in the craw is that whilst Clegg was happy to praise the IFS during the election he is now against them. What sticks in the craw is that whenever Clegg or Alexander are asked whether these welfare cuts are fair, they avoid answering the question hiding it behind a response of smoke and mirrors claiming that all these measures are necessary and they are clearing up the mess from Labour. I expected Cameron & Osbourne et al to be evasive, as Lib DEms I had hoped and expected more honesty from our representatives.

    Where to now?

  3. prateekbuch says:

    Alex M – it’s our job to ensure the leadership listens, so keep at it and help the SLF make our message heard!

    Mark – I understand that you’re concerned, but plead with you not to lose faith in the Party and its policies. I agree that we need to hear more about aspects of government policy our Ministers don’t agree with, especially on the impact these cuts will have on the most vulnerable.

    I certainly hope the CSR measures don’t leave you homeless and/or bankrupt – should this be the case the government will have failed you and anyone else in you position. But it’s up to Lib Dems to ensure that doesn’t happen, by campaigning for policies that mitigate the worst aspects of the spending cuts – and for that we need to have our brightest and best campaigning hard for what we believe in, not leaving…

    Hope that helps, do keep going though…!

  4. Philip says:

    To be honest, I’m on the verge of leaving as well, but don’t really see anywhere to go. Wondering whether to spend my last few months on my DC as an independent – I will certainly find it hard to stand in May as a Lib Dem. I came into politics to fight for those with less opportunity than I’ve had and I feel like I’ve betrayed them.

  5. Terry says:

    Instead of leaving, stay and fight! The Lib Dems are pivotal in British politics; the SLF and others have begun to make progress in combatting the ‘economic liberal’ clique which has taken over the party’s higher echelons. We did quite well in the 2008 Federal Conference elections, and having voted the SLF slate this time, I hope to see further progress for 2010.

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  1. [...] Social Liberal Forum say “It is heartening to see policies that we as Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for [...]

  2. [...] the timing, coming so soon after heavy concessions appear to have been made over tuition fees and many aspects of the CSR, but at the public show of dissent against a Coalition [...]

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