Monday 1 March 2010

Denham's double-speak...

A nifty piece of double-speak came out of Community Secretary John Denham's briefing just now.

He was rolled out to shoot-down stories flying around about council spending cuts. They were “confused”, Denham told us as we waited to be enlightened.

Public services would not be cut – they would be protected, even improved. But they would probably not get any more funding.

There would be less money around past 2010/11, but at the same time the "innovative" way services were managed would mean they were improved.

Two councils, for example, could share a chief executive (i.e. sack one), share backroom operations (i.e. sack lots of people) use the internet more instead of people (bet no-one’s thought of that yet) and streamline etc...

In other words – services would be protected through spending cuts. ‘Peace through war,’ said a little voice in the back of my head.

Denham then provided us with ten ways that councils could make savings. The irony of putting numbers 8 and 9 in sequence seemed to go unnoticed.

8 - Make managers leaders of innovation to improve services. (Translation: Encourage managers to think up ways to save money)

9 - Streamline management. (Translation: sack managers)

Could he at least tell us how much spending would have to be tightened next year. Nope – sending plans were worked out in blocks and they hadn’t done the figures yet.

In fact, he suggested, we won’t know what we’re spending next year until they work out what we might have to spend in 2014 too.

Hmm. Story successfully shot down then.

The Tories have their own problems in deciding how tough to sound about spending cuts, but the Denham episode encapsulated the difficulty of Labour’s current line.

You can’t claim you will protect services and attack the other party for wanting cuts soon, while suggesting you too will make spending cuts but refusing to say when.

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