The bottom line is this: around £360bn in savings have to be found in the next five years (why oh why were we all getting so excited about the £6.2bn mentioned in the election campaign?!) and the deficit for the last tax year was £156bn which works out to be around £2500 per person in the UK.
Phew, pretty frightening.
So, what are we doing about it? Well, so far STILL no actual detail but apparently we're all going to get involved in talking about it and we are going to look at what Canada did in the 1990's for inspiration...But tidbits are coming through from Westminster, through both rumour and policy and the below could give us some indication of what to expect:
- Libraries being staffed by volunteers? Mooted by Head of Public Sector at consultants KPMG, Alan Downey on yesterdays Today programme. Lots of libraries in the home counties then; not so many in the inner cities?
- Increase in VAT seems imminent. An increase to 19% or perhaps a two phase rise? There is even talk of extending VAT to include some currently zero-rated items such as food, children's clothes or books.
- Was the 5% ministerial pay cut a precedent for wider public sector salary cuts? Will the coalition be asking our teachers and nurses to take a reduction in salary? There is a growing belief in Westminster that this could be the case.
- After Cameron's attack on the £20bn increase in benefits spending under Labour, the Department for Work and Pensions is bound to a take a hit in the emergency budget. Let's hope they keep their promises to protect Britain's poorest and most vulnerable and in particular their children when these cuts are allocated.
- New Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander refused to comment on means testing child benefit, so this looks likely to be part of the cuts
- The Department for Education announced today that they will not be implementing the extension to free school meals. The extension, which would have affected 500,000 pupils was due to include all of those will a combined parental income of less than £16191. Michael Gove's department said that this measure can no longer be afforded.
Let just keep an eye on these savings, I am not seeing that many that are affecting Cameron, Osborne and their pals from Britain's elite so far! Instead we've got kids losing out on free school meals, mum's potentially having to pay VAT on kids clothes and no public libraries....