Doubts have been raised in the past about the competence of individual Whitehall departments. Be it the Home Office, Communities & Local Government or Culture, Media & Sport, the question often asked is: are they fit for purpose?
Now, it seems, the same concerns are being expressed on a much larger scale. It’s not just individual ministries in the line of fire, but whole governments across the globe. And their financial health will determine the fate of the jobs and services that affect us all.
Greece is the most obvious example. It may have finally formed a government, but there are still worries about whether it can survive as a euro member. The OECD and others have questioned the country’s ability to link short-term austerity measures with a long-term economic vision.
Spain, the fourth largest eurozone economy, is generally assumed to be next in line to fail. Moreover, contagion could even bring down the whole edifice of the single currency.
As former Bank of England deputy governor Sir John Gieve tells PF this month (The firewall next time), the problems facing the eurozone far outweigh those after the Lehman Brothers collapse.
The seriousness of the situation has not gone unnoticed domestically. In his Mansion House speech, Chancellor George Osborne admitted that the ‘risks for our economy of a disorderly collapse of the euro are huge’.
His response was to announce a ‘funding for lending’ scheme to encourage banks to provide cheap loans. It wasn’t quite a Plan B, but was spun by the chancellor’s aides as a ‘maxing out of Plan A’.
Any revival in the economy, however, has to be matched by improved performance across the public services. Financial pressures can only get worse following next year’s expected Spending Review and, inevitably, some services won’t pass the test.
It’s appropriate, therefore, that this year’s CIPFA conference has taken ‘Survival of the fittest’ as its theme. The July/August issue of PF includes interviews with many of the speakers including Gieve, Joe Anderson and Sir Tony Redmond.
There are also feature and opinion contributions from Amyas Morse, Jonathan Portes and Nick Seddon.
We hope they provide food for thought and help you and your organisation to get in shape for the difficult times ahead.