Editor’s blog: The four-litre enema syringe

This Budget will fundamentally change the nature of the public sector. And not before time.

Well that wasn’t so bad, was it? I feel a bit like the patient who has been approached from the end of the ward by Sister Hattie Jacques with a four-litre enema syringe and then hardly felt the pain of insertion. In fact, she passed me by and delivered it to someone else. (Probably someone less well off than me.)

What one must approve of, though, is that it looks like the era of consistent government expansion has now been brought to an abrupt close by Wee Georgie’s first budget. Spending in ‘non-ring fenced’ departments (i.e. most of them) is set to come down by 25% over the next five years, which is bound to result in many thousands of civil servants facing the squeeze, possibly even the chop. We all know – and observe day in, day out – wasteful spending that wouldn’t be tolerated in our own families or companies. The fact that it’s ‘someone else’s money’ is an appalling excuse.

The budget will fundamentally change the nature of the public sector and make sure it tightens its belt as the rest of us have been doing since 2008. What’s more, a two year pay freeze has been imposed across the entire public sector, although those on less than £22k will get a £250 pay rise. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see that being enough to stem the tide of foaming invective from the Bob Crows of this world. What Bob needs to realise is that he has got off lightly – in Spain, public sector workers are 5% down on their monthly salary packet. I hope mass walk-outs don’t occur because they are fruitless. All they will do is make a political point, and George is highly unlikely to budge.

It’s clear that with this package of measures, Osborne and his more or less reluctant Lib Dem chums are eager to show that the high-water mark for big government has passed, and that life in future will be less statist. I suppose there may be a reverse of the transfer of the skills that has occurred from the private to the public sector over the last decade. The civil service nest is starting to look a lot less well feathered than it did a year ago – and there’s still more grief to come with public sector pensions.