Taking sides in the war of the cuts

In the run-up to the Comprehensive Spending Review a battle is raging. On one side are those who argue that cuts are necessary to secure long-term growth and to maintain confidence on the UK economy. These people include leaders of 35 major companies in the UK who wrote a letter to the Telegraph (see below) suppporting George Osborne’s policy of cuts.

On the other side are those who maintain that the cuts will drive the economy back into recession or, at least, will hamper economic recovery. The Federation of Small Businesses warns that “Some small firms rely on public-sector contracts for 50 or 60 per cent of their turnover. If the cuts are swingeing and overnight, these companies will be lost to the UK economy forever.”

Read the following articles to get a clear understanding of the arguments on both sides. Hopefully this will then put you in a better position to assess the cuts and their impact.

Osborne’s cuts will strengthen Britain’s economy by allowing the private sector to generate more jobs Telegraph, letter from 35 business leaders (18/10/10)
Spending Review 2010: cut now or pay later, say business leaders Telegraph, Andrew Porter, and Robert Winnett (17/10/10)
35 business leaders back Osborne’s cuts BBC News blogs: Peston’s Picks, Robert Peston (17/10/10)
Prominent Tory donors among business leaders who backed Osborne’s cuts Independent, Andrew Grice (19/10/10)
On the tight side The Economist (30/9/10)
History will see these cuts as one of the great acts of political folly Observer, Will Hutton (17/10/10)
Osborne has taken the coward’s route Guardian, David Blanchflower (18/10/10)
Osborne reading Christian Andersen, claims economist The Herald, Ian McConnell (19/10/10)
Time to broaden the debate on spending cuts Guardian, Ha-Joon Chang (19/10/10)
Slugging it out over spending cuts Independent, Sean O’Grady (19/10/10)
Spending Review 2010: We should all fear the darkness, David Cameron included Telegraph, Mary Riddell (18/10/10)
Spending cuts: Molehill and mountain BBC News blogs: Stephanomics, Stephanie Flanders (19/10/10)
Does fiscal austerity boost short-term growth? A new IMF paper thinks not The Economist (30/9/10)
Spending Review: Forecasts rely on ‘heroic assumptions’ BBC News (20/10/10)
Spending cuts: City divided on whether cuts are good for recovery Yorkshire Evening Post (20/10/10)
Spending Review 2010: Spending cuts will hit small businesses hardest Telegraph, James Hurley (20/10/10)

Rebalancing the Economy Speech by Mervyn King, Bank of England Governor (30/9/10)
Mervyn King warns of 1930s-style collapse (Extract from above speech) BBC News, Mervyn King (19/10/10)


  1. What are the main arguments for making large-scale cuts to government spending at the present time?
  2. What are the main arguments against making large-scale cuts to government spending at the present time?
  3. To what extent should the government’s poplicy on the size and timing of the cuts be influenced by international economic relations?
  4. What role might the ‘inventory cycle’ play in the economic recovery?
  5. Why may the government “pay heavily unless it learns to temper its bloody cuts with humanity”?
  6. How will large-scale spending cuts impact on (a) consumer confidence; (b) business confidence; (c) the confidence of international financiers?
  7. Will monetary policy allow fiscal policy to be tightened without causing a recession? Explain the effectiveness of monetary policy in these circumstances.