Monday, September 03, 2007

Tory spending plans

Further to a post by Iain Dale on tax credits, I've been musing a little on what, beyond the obvious avoidance of Labour 'Tory cuts' slurs, the Tories are playing at with their pledge to match overall spending levels for the next three years. On the face of it, it seems absurd: we can all pinpoint huge areas of Government waste, from tax credits to quangos. If £147bn (or whatever) is being spent on a plethora of quangos, which appear to have sprung from dragon's teeth, surely any half-competent Government with an aim to trim the state could find substantial savings?
Tax credits similarly are a fiscal black hole that spend so much more money than the alternatives (increasing the tax allowance for a start) that it seems incredible that it is not at least being considered at CCHQ. So why bother to pledge equal spending? Well, as has been repeated as nauseam, partly to rebut Labour 'cuts' arguments. But there are other possibilities too. The Tories have mildly ambitous spending commitments to meet - both in areas like law and order that have been loudly trailed, and in areas like defence where the tone has been quiter, but everything in Conservative tradition and inclination suggests a propensity to increase spending.
So, is it possible that what the Conservatives are going to propose is not 'more of the same' but a reshaping of what the State spends our money on - rather than, at first anyway, how much of it is spent?

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