Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Coalition priorities all wrong

Institute for Fiscal Studies director, Paul Johnson, points out in today's Guardian the implications of severe cuts in social programmes ( if taxes are not increased) if the Chancellor’s  £25 billion  cuts in public expenditure between 2015-17 are implemented post-election (“Too much of a squeeze," 7 January; www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/06/osborne-proposing-too-much-squeeze).
He mentions defence as one “public service” that might face cuts, but does not offer any specifics. May I suggest the replacement of the Trident nuclear WMD system, which will cost around  £25 billion to build, with a further £75 billion add-on operational running costs over 40 years, all to be paid for by future tax payers?
Sadly the leadership of all three major political parties at Westminster want to spend this vast £100 billion on deadly nuclear weapons, which means they won’t be spending it on other social investment.
Only the Green Party and Scottish and Welsh national parties in Parliament oppose Trident replacement.
Angus Robertson MP, SNP Defence spokesperson in Westminster said this week: "Trident is an immoral system of mass destruction. It is vastly expensive and designed for the Cold War targets of the 1980s and there are now serious questions about the design and safety of the warheads.”
One area where social investment has been lacking - highlighted by the floods over the past month - is flood defence. Yet, as Green MP Caroline Lucas  revealed  in Parliament on Monday (6 January) the environment secretary Owen Paterson has overseen the decision to slash his department’s team working on climate change adaptation from 38 officials to six and the communities  secretary, Eric Pickles, has scrapped the obligation for councils to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
Dr Lucas rightly described this as an “incredibly reckless approach to the risks that extreme weather presents.”
On Tueday the environment select committee – chaired by Conservative MP Dr Anne MacIntosh – berated the environment department (Defra) for destroying the morale of its own staff  through its willingly-implemented cuts in departmental expenditure and decimation of environmental programmes.
They also point out that when Mr Patterson became environment secretary he stripped any commitment to be sustainable from his departmental priorities. What kind of environmental stewardship is that? ( http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environment-food-and-rural-affairs-committee/news/publication-of-dar-report/).
Politics is said to be the art of picking priorities, The Coalition has got its priorities all wrong.

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