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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Will Labour bite the bullet?

Yesterday's Independent reports that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may bite the bullet after all and hold his comprehensive spending review before the General Election so as to be honest with voters as to what is needed to get the books back into balance.

The paper says that Mr. Darling's comments will be seen as a rebuff to Lord Mandelson, the business secretary and first secretary of state, who suggested recently that plans for a government department-by-department spending review had been abandoned ahead of the election:

Prime Minister Gordon Brown also warned that it would be a mistake for the Government to try to set departmental budgets for up to three years ahead at a time when economic outlook was so uncertain.

But with whichever party wins the next election expected to have to make deep cuts in order to rebuild the public finances in the wake of the recession, Mr Darling said it was important to "try to level with people".

"I'm very clear that we do have to tell people the lie of the land. People will understand there are uncertainties but we do have to set out our stall. Public spending will be tighter than it has been in the past," he said.

"People will need to know where we stand and what judgments we are likely to make if we are faced with difficult situations."

Difficult as it may be for the Government to set out the reality of the situation facing public expenditure prior to an election such honesty would be welcome. It would also let the Welsh Assembly know where it stands for the next three years and enable the Government here to plan ahead.
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