Monday 27 July 2009

Cuts and Age

We face a recession in the Public Sector.

Britain will face spending cuts of more than 16% to key public services, such as law and order and higher education, if Labour and the Tories deliver on their goals to protect schools, hospitals and defence, the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned last week . Politicians are been very coy on this. Gordon Brown has yet to accept publicly there is a problem and though the Tories are very much clearer on the fact that cuts are coming are simply refusing to spell out how or where they will cut.

Saturday saw Conservative Treasury Shadow talk of the need for major cuts but he did not address the conundrum of where and how. It is also a matter of concern that any swinging programme of cuts could feed into further recession. We now see that economic activity has declined more sharply than predicted. We can't afford moves that might excaberate the problem and throw yet more people onto the dole queues.

Into this debate our sector must jump. We can help lead and inform; making the case for radical spending shifts to prevention , to rehabilitation and delivery through sector innovation. We can demonstrate or ability to provide jobs , training and volunteering to the unemployed.

The IFS says Britain is facing a decade of pain that will see the tightest constraint in public service spending since 1977.

Talking to one of my Futurebuilders Trustees (he is a top Venture Capital boss) after our last Board meeting he said he they were planning on a long recession. He expects the effects of the recession to be exacerbated by a public sector recession and with interest rates going up. He suggests thee markets may react badly to a heavy Tory cuts approach which may reverse any signs of an economic upturn.

That is why sector CEOs have to look to partnerships and alliances to strengthen their organisations. Even mergers. I met Tom Wright last week- the new CEO of Age UK, the merged Age Concern and Help the Aged charity. An impressive guy. He has a clear vision of their future combined with a sound business sense. A fine exemplar as an ACEVO member. He says they will realise over £20m from the merger; money that can be ploughed back into serives for older people. We also had a good discussion about the increasing power of older people; a voice that is still largely unrecognised by politicians.

So beware those false sirens of "it aint that bad" and those polls and research which say people are crying wolf. That does not mean we become Cassandras or pessimists. There are opportunities for our sector. We can grab them. But we must also be realists.

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