We’ve decided that it’s time to start counting the cost of public sector cuts in terms of the real impact. It’s all very well bandying around percentages and figures, but it’s hard for most of us to truly understand what those numbers mean. It’s only when we count the cost in terms of closed community resources that we begin to truly comprehend the impoverishment of our local and national social structure.
We’ve written before about how short-sighted the government’s attitude is: accruing future expenses (unemployment costs, policing costs due to increased social unrest, lost tax revenue, etc) in exchange for apparent savings. It’s worth mentioning, though, that cuts also threaten to undermine the UK’s skills base and status as a pre-eminent player in the knowledge economy. By cutting off investment in our young people, we’re inevitably building a future where fewer of those young people have an opportunity to study and explore their capabilities, where fewer emerge competent and confident from their time at university, and where wisdom that serves the public good is pushed aside in favour of science that suits the agenda of whichever private company is funding the research.
Even if such philosophical arguments hold no sway with you, consider the purely financial cost. A report by The Work Foundation, highlighted here by the Times Higher Educational Supplement, suggests that the international education sector (that’s students who choose to come and study in the UK) contributes around £40 billion a year to the UK economy. Someone really needs to explain to our government that there are more ways of measuring wealth than pure finance, and that their attempts to secure the latter are doing immeasurable harm to the former.
Another way cuts look likely to damage the UK’s social fabric is in their impact upon women. A study published jointly by the University of Warwick and by Coventry Women’s Voices, and reported here in The Independent, claims that services for vulnerable women are likely to be affected disproportionately, and that pay inequalities are set to increase.
All that said, there is some positive news. The wonderfully-named Barbara Disney, older people commissioning manager in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, has taken to the task of demonstrating the value of the services she requires funding for with considerable verve, as reported in The Guardian. Quoting both relevant studies and participants in programmes, she seeks to prove that money invested in preventative care saves later expenditure in emergency care.
A no-brainer to anyone who’s not a government minister, you might think. Apparently, though, it takes a lot of documentation to explain to politicians things that sound like common sense to most of us. If you’re striving to minimise the damage caused by public sector cuts to yourself and/or your community, that could be a valuable lesson.