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Nick Wood: Radical steps and a cultural shift are needed to break the country's addiction to public spending

Nick Wood square Nick Wood is a former press secretary to Conservative leaders William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith who is now Managing Director of Media Intelligence Partners.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of trade unionists will parade through London in protest at the cuts. And today, George Osborne will take another small step along the path to fiscal sanity by unveiling his second Budget.

There is a considerable mismatch here. The protesters believe that the Coalition is embarked on the most savage round of spending cuts since the days of Attila the Hun. More measured souls, such as former Chancellor Norman Lamont, point out that in cash terms spending is actually set to rise over the next four years. After allowing for inflation, it only comes down by 3.7 per cent.

This gulf in perception points to a deeper truth. After the binge of the Labour years, Britain is addicted to public spending, currently gobbling up 47 per cent of national output.

Osborne is toying with the idea of merging tax and national insurance to create greater transparency in the tax system. But such is the reach, cost, power and general inefficiency of the public sector, far more radical steps and a cultural shift will be needed to break the nation's spending habit.

Growth and jobs won't come while business remains burdened by the state.


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