Friday, 11 September 2009

EU gets 60% more as public services face 'efficiency savings'

This week, Alistair Darling proclaimed that the government is "ready to make the tough choices necessary" in order to bring Britain's public finances back into balance.

Speaking in Cardiff, the Chancellor warned of "slower growth in public spending in the coming years" and that "setting priorities inevitably means tough choices."

"The first priority", he said, "has to be to look for areas where we can achieve greater efficiency."

The Chancellor's comments have been seen as paving the way for public sector spending cuts expected to be outlined in the Pre-Budget Report this autumn.

Wrong priorities

But in an early example of the kind of priority setting we can expect from this government, just a couple of weeks ago we learnt that one of the most wasteful elements of government spending - Britain's cash contributions to the European Union budget - will next year rocket by 60%.

According to the BBC, the increase will take Britain's annual net contribution to the EU budget from £4.1bn to £6.2bn in 2010 - equivalent to writing a cheque to the EU for £119 million every single week.

Unjustifiable increase

Handing this much extra cash to the EU is completely unjustifiable, not just in today's tightened financial circumstances, when public services are clearly facing cuts.

But also in light of the fact that the EU's accounts have been severely criticised by auditors now for 14 years running.
Even the EU's auditors have trouble telling us how EU institutions are spending the money they currently receive.

That any public money at all is still being handed to the EU, given the
on-going uncertainty by auditors over how it is being spent, is scandal enough. But now Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling plan to give the EU billions more.

Short-sighted deal

The increase comes as a result of the 2007-2013 EU budget deal done by Tony Blair in late 2005 and pushed through Parliament by Gordon Brown in 2007. All highlighted by the Democracy Movement at the time in a campaign called Stop the Cheques.

Some of the main myths perpetuated by the government to justify the deal were dismantled in our December 2005 EU budget factsheet and these points remain just as relevant today.

Because if you tackle the government over their enthusiasm for splashing billions more on the EU, you'll get the same old myths in response.

The full consequences of that short-sighted deal are today hitting home at the worst possible time for Britain's public finances.

EU waste

The EU has to be by far the least deserving of all possible recipients of extra public cash.

Beyond the critical role of public services like the NHS, on which so many depend, you only have to watch programmes like Channel 4's Secret Millionaire to see how many people are struggling with next to no financial help to support the worst off in our society through small, local charitable initiatives.

For these people, often working to improve people's quality of life in struggling communities where the local council cannot or will not provide much-needed facilities, even small amounts of money can make a huge difference to their work continuing.

Next to such real life realities on our screens every week, news that the audit-failing EU, with its legions of pampered hangers-on and lavish glass palaces in Brussels, is being given an extra £2bn by the government - despite no-one being absolutely sure how such money is being spent and regular reports of waste and fraud - is a glaring injustice.

Real message

The message from Alistair Darling is clear. Swathes of services on which people depend for their health, care, education, financial security and much more will shortly find themselves in the firing line. But spending on the EU is sacrosanct.

The reality is that, as public finances are squeezed, the government plans to deprive essential services of funding and cause cuts in order to pay for this outpouring of cash to the wasteful EU.

Unless the government and the MPs who voted to approve this EU budget deal take urgent action now to reverse it - to refocus public money on real needs in a very different economic situation than when the deal was agreed - they must accept personal responsibility for the resulting public service cuts to come.

Short-sighted decision-making, disinterest in correcting their mistake despite the billions at stake, topped with hypocrisy over the proper funding of public services will hardly be the best scenario for success in the looming general election.

Alistair Darling may talk of his "tough choices", but inaction now over the unjustifiable scale spending on the EU will mean that he makes the choice of many at the ballot box very easy indeed.

1 comment:

DavidD said...

Never mind Alistair Darling(they are pretty much gone) its the charlatan tories we should be more concerned with.CallmeDave has also pledged not to reduce our contributions to Brussels and to even increase them if necessary,this despite saying budjet cuts are inevitable.They are willing to make drastic cuts in an area such as defense when our armed forces are undereqipped and overstretched but not willing to make cuts to the fraudulent undemocratic European Oligarchy.It is getting to the stage when the electorate is going to have to try and be brave and make a break from the bought and paid for LibLabCon cartel and their international financier/Biderberg masters.Cameron must get the message No referendum on Lisbon/EU Constitution=No Tory Vote