Lean Government: how to make cuts without wounding low earners

Sunday 20 September 2009 Public Finances and the Economy

The Resolution Foundation held a fringe event at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference to discuss how to make cuts without wounding low earners. Allegra Stratton, political correspondent for the Guardian, chaired the event and the speakers were Clive Cowdrey, Jonathan Fox, Jamie Bartlett and Jeremy Browne MP.

Clive set the scene for the discussion by, explaining the origins and role of the Foundation and, outlining the findings of the recent Low Earners Audit. Jonathan Fox, of London Citizens, followed Clive giving details of the London Citizens’ Living wage campaign. He argued that although 29 businesses in London have signed up, tax credits and benefits remain crucial. Jamie Bartlett continued the discussion presenting some thoughts on how the Government could avoid certain cuts by making existing services more efficient, he highlighted the use of personalised budgets in public services and preventative homeless services in Boston as examples. This was followed by Jeremy Browne MP, who argued that the scale of the deficit was catastrophic but that relatively speaking things could be worse.

The discussion that followed addressed a number of areas including, power issues in relation to low earners, the cost of personalised budgets and the tendency of Local Authorities to make cuts to services rather than staff redundant. In conclusion members were asked to suggest one policy recommendation. The suggestions included rolling out a living wage, introducing self-directed teams in local authorities, re-training and offering skills training much earlier on by Local Authorities and a public sector pay freeze for all salaries over the Prime Minister’s.