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To say "no cuts here" sounds like it's doing it because we are scared of the labour taunts, and therefore looks like they have the power and conservatives look weak.

There should be assurance that the quality and level of service won't drop in key areas (or even could improve with less money) but no commitments to keep (labour chosen) spending the same anywhere

There is one, only one exclusion that should be made, Defence, indeed in the unlikely event of any spare cash being found that must be the first call for spending.

I think it will be better to be positive and tell the electorate where the Conservatives WILL make cuts: cuts in waste, cuts in inefficiency, and cuts in taxes.

You don't want to remind everyone that the Tories "might" cut hospitals or schools. Don't do Labour's job for them!

I believe that having only just voted for them in July Mr Cameron will want to protect Trident replacement at £20bn initially rising to £65bn over 30 years and the aircraft carriers at £4bn for the two boats plus the costs of aircraft, additional systems, substantial crews etc.

The defence establishment have made the case for these very strongly in terms of jobs, investment and military capability. Further, many Tories would be extremely concerned if the UK pulls its troops out of Afghanistan, indeed, I believe that Mr Cameron favours increasing investment there, so another protected area I should have thought.

It may well be that these are excellent priorities in 'a dangerous world'. The Welfare State and education are I think going to be protected in contrast to Mr Purnell's slash and burn plans, as I understand, is the NHS. Mr Cameron has pointed out that the private sector has much to learn from the public sector, so will want to go carefully in cutting or slowing the growth of this valuable part of the British economy.

Areas that will be not necessarily be protected are coal-fired and nuclear powerstations, airports and other infrastructure that many feel the world's environment cannot afford.

I am sure many readers know more about which areas of the public services could be slowed responsibly than I do. Interesting topic.

We need to stress that we will improve mainline services and increase expenditure on the armed forces with savings to be made from waste and bureaucracy.

Improvements to schools and the NHS can easily be made by reforming the way they operate, as has been argued many times on ConHome.

There is no theoretical reason why there shouldn't be cuts across the board, where it is deemed that public money is being wasted. It may be politically expedient to ring-fence 'sensitive' public servants, and Labour might find it more difficult to attack us for targetting our savings on management, however, political parties should not exist to provide somehow 'acceptable' policies. They should be the RIGHT policies.

All Conservatives should be agreed that the public sector should not grow indefinitely - the recession has now given us the stage upon which we can more confidently assert this. It is not yet clear whether or not a policy of 'cuts during recession' is good politics or not. The polls show that the electorate remains bewildered about the causes of this downturn, and there is no clear vote of confidence in either Labour's approach or the Conservtives' approach.

The question is, is David Cameron prepared to do what he believes is right, and risk losing the election? Unless the electorate agrees with us, we will not win. It is our job to persuade the voters that our economic policy is the best one. It should not be our role, in dire economic circumstances such as these, to fashion specifically an economic policy that is protected from Labour's attacks, or the give the electorate what it thinks it wants. The greatest achievement of any opposition party should be that it is able to change the electorate's mind in order to gain power. Hence, the next election may well have to be one that the Conservative Party has to win, not that the Labour Party has to lose.

The budget for public service broadcasting could be cut! On local radio one hears Government-sponsored advert after Government-sponsored advert! We are exhorted non-stop by Stephen Fry to "Get the Jab", we are warned by the FCO about the dangers of travelling abroad without adequate medical cover and we hear Customs Officials telling travellers to "leave it out" when it comes to trying to smuggle in sausages from outside the EU!! Ridiculous...

The current approach seems to be we can't give any figures on budget priorities because we don't know what the real position will be when we take over. It would be inconsistent to start defining "safe" areas.
Making commitments not to cut certain areas at this stage suggests either we know those areas are waste free (how, when we don't know the real position yet? this is contrary to our main stance) or they are untouchable (why? waste is waste, wherever it is).

During the 2005 election, when I was contesting a County COuncil seat on what was largely a former Council estate, the question of "Tory Cuts" was easily countered by pointing to the specific examples of waste which Michael Howard's team had identified (The James Report, if memory serves me right)

These largely working-class voters responded well to the idea of cuts in bureaucracy (eg the Regional Assemblies) and the "Guardianista" jobs.

While I very much welcome Mr Cameron's very belated acceptance of the need to cut the state something like the James Report would be extremely helpful to fend off "Tories to cut schools'n'hospitals" by pointing to examples of blatant waste which would be cut. I think few working-class voters would go to the wall to defend Real Nappy Co-Ordinators.

And how many times do we have to remind Mr Osborne that on the one occasion he promised a real tax cut our position in the polls went from -10% to +10% almost overnight? If we want to win the next election (and not just be the largest party in a hung parliament - see "Canada Conservatives" for what happens in this position) we must start to really hammer home real tax cuts NOW.

Any area that benefits the most vunerable of our citizens should be protected.I personally find it offensive that some people think buying bombs and guns should be more of a priority than buying drugs to save peoples lives.
I suspect at the end of the day you will find that there are far less savings possible than you suspect.
On this site i continually hear people complain about health protection and prevention measures but sometimes areas like this need money spent on them if you are to save money spent elsewhere like actually curing people.
If you really want to save money you will spend more on preventing crime and ill health and also talk to our enemies not fight them. If you use a bit of imagination and new thinking you may find that you may even be able to have some of those blessed tax cuts we hear some much about on this site.

Blathering on about inefficiency savings (whether done by Osborne or Darling) cuts no ice with most voters, because they don't believe it.

As has been said a gazillion times before on these august pages, there are obvious things that can be shut down (regional assemblies, 90% of the quangos, ID cards) pronto, without causing any problems at all. Quite frankly, freezing council tax for 2 years is piffling in the overall scheme of things.

And I have another suggestion: if we win the GE, we promise to cut the coming year's payment to the EU by 50%, no ifs, no buts.

What could Brussels do about it, send in the gunboats?

Oh yes, and one last thing - foreign aid should be stopped, except on the occasion of a one-off catastrophe.

A future Conservative Government should not 'protect' the police from any 'cuts'- quite the opposite.

We should start by abolishing the worthless Community Support Officers- a vast army of glorified busy body lolly pop ladies who have been added to the Labour pay roll vote since 1997.

You should attack.

When Brown accuses the Tories of cuts, just come back and say boldly;

"Tory cuts? You bet. We'll cut the number of people losing their jobs, we'll cut NHS waiting lists, we'll cut the debt burden Labour have heaped on our country and we'll cut the Home Information Packs that are strangling our housing market."

We should protect Iain Duncan Smith's social justice agenda.

This will show we remain compassionate and different from previous Conservative parties.

Any promise not to cut any particular area simply focuses the debate, and the anti Conservative media, onto the areas not named which will then be scare mongered by Labour.

It is an unnecessary hostage to fortune.

Better to force the debate onto Labour attempting to justify their massive expansion of the public sector, because they can't.

Jack Stone - Labour troll advocating policies that have been failing for the last 11 years thereby demonstrating once again that Labour have learnt nothing at all from their years in power.

SJM You have it one! "Blathering on about inefficiency savings (whether done by Osborne or Darling) cuts no ice with most voters, because they don't believe it."

When Dave said he would call his party out of the EPP, "not within months or even in weeks" etc, but then never did, that was a major blow to confidence in his veracity and promises.

Back to the point. He should cut our crippling EU payments Billion £55,775pa (direct and indirect costs including EU "regs") entirely.
Now, there would be a conviction politician for you !

We still need to neutralise Labour's sole campaign strategy that we will cut services. The idea of agreeing to Labours spending plans was sound up to a point and is still valid now.
All we need to say is that not a single doctor nurse teacher or policeman will lose their job.

This completely blunts Labour's message but allows us almost infinite scope to cut the budget across the public services. It implies we won't cut health spending etc. but in fact says no such thing.

We have to remember the politics of And. This is a totemic promise that we will not slash and burn the public services on which people will increasingly rely and in turn allows us to be more aggressive in reality about bringing the budget back into balance.

Less 'X is a troll' comments please.

All spending should have a business case - this doesn't mean it has to make a financial 'profit', it means that you know the value of what you will get for your money.

Put these in place, prioritise them, set the total budget, work from the top of the list 'till you run out of money.

Nothing is 'cut', but all the 'best stuff' is implemented.

The difference between the political parties should be their prioritisation. Unfortunately labour spend on pet projects regardless of any 'value' because they think the private sector have bottomless pockets, and every thing in those pockets is theirs - so things get money (i.e. ID Cards et al) just because the government 'fancy it'.

Easy-peasy 'cuts' can be made. e.g.

My own Tory run Council employs 35 people in the Children & Young People's Dept to:

(1) Collate statistics for central government and monitor whether we are achieving our 'targets'. Much of this information is of no practical use. Moreover achieving 'targets' often distorts policy priorities and decision making (e.g. Sharon Matthews taken off the care register to enable her council to achieve targets regarding the number of children on the register).

(2) Bid for the myriad of government ring fenced grants. 25% of the budget in childrens' and adults' services provided by my council are financed from these grants. One of my council colleagues identified 85 sources of finance for childrens' services before he got bored and gave up!

Just one department, in one council. Add in all the other departments in 100s of councils nationwide (not to mention PCTs, police authorities etc) and you have scope for massive 'cuts' which will not impact on front line services. Indeed they will make life easier for those delivering as they won't need to spend so much time on form filling and red tape.

So a reduction in statistic gathering/ ridiculous targets and increasing the block grant to councils (instead of having to apply for lots of ring fenced grants) would save billions at a stroke.

Consulting 'Conservative' council leaders about waste is not enough - many are empire builders, 'go native' and are in the pocket of their senior officers who do not want to see the secretariat reduced. They also don't want to deal with the hassle of sacking staff.

CCO should set up a 'waste watch' on the CCO website. Party activists, 'backbench' councillors, school governors and indeed members of the public who work in, or receive public services can e-mail suggestions for painless 'cuts' - which the shadow treasury team can then research, cost and adopt as policy.

As a councillor, volunteer and user of public services I can identify many other areas of waste. We could indeed increase staff delivering frontline services yet reduce budgets dramatically. I am sure that most readers of this blog could also suggest painless cuts.

So David, George, Phillip - listen to us!

I think a general reassurance on things like teacher and doctor numbers might be helpful, but if you start to absolutely crystallise things that are safe then people will think what isn't on the list will definitely get cut.

Very tempting to agree with you unreservedly, Jonathan at 11.06:

"All we need to say is that not a single doctor nurse teacher or policeman will lose their job".

The trouble is that Chris Woodhead a few years ago stated that there were a huge number of poor teachers in schools.

This is a massive trap. By doing this you enter into the premise of Labour's smears.

People understand that private sector companies are having to lay people off - why not the public sector ?

If I am a troll because I believe you don`t turn your back on the sick, the poor and the needy by advocating cuts in spending then allI can say is that i am one of the many who are not prepered to see a return to spending cuts..

We can't put up a blanket "do not touch" sign on any profession or area of government. In many areas what we really need is a re-design of the processes that deliver services - and both front-line and support people are involved in those. What matters is delivering good services in the most cost effective way. If we ringfence certain posts, then we end up with a distorted system with lots of bottlenecks - e.g. lots of nurses but not enough cleaners or porters, or lots of policemen or community service officers but no one to make sure their IT equipment works. We have to consider all these things in a holistic way. The "defend the front line" sounds good, politically, but is useless when it actually comes to managing services.

Defence is the one area I would be very concerned if the Tories made swingeing cuts. And I guess it the lack more mundane equipment that worries me most rather than hi-tech kit.
And of course the need to ensure that the military is up to strength.
Consider the impact of ZaNu Labour's cuts on the Navy and the problems being faced by shipping in the Gulf for one thing...
...Wind Factories and their subsidies would be scrubbed from my list tho...!

Man in a shed. If a company lays off someone it really doesn`t affect anyone else but the person and there family who as been laid off. In many of the areas that the government operate if someone is layed off it can be the difference between life and death not for the person that`s layed off but for the service they provide.
Would you suggest that we should start laying off doctors, nurses, teachers etc.Don`t talk about the public sector as if its the enemy within it isn`t!

This whole issue is fraught with political difficulties but our economy is in such a poor state, and getting worse, that it is a nettle that will have to be grasped. However I think it would be a genuine error to start saying at this stage what would be safe from cuts and what would not. A future Conservative government will not know the scale of the problem it will inherit until after the election.
I believe therefore that Cameron should continue to examine now what the role of the State should be and then to arrive at a priority list of funding those responsibilities that are properly those of Central Government. When those have been arrived at, and costed, it will be time to see what else can be afforded.
If policy is arrived at in this way, and properly explained to the electorate, it should be possible to show that trying to arrive at a `quick fix` to suit the electoral calendar would not only be inexpedient but it would offer a recipe for disaster. For example a thorough Defence Review is necessary and that cannot be undertaken until there is a government in office. By all means outline the Conservative strategic view of Defence priorities but for heaven`s sake don`t mortgage the nation`s security by trying to arrive at some half-baked solution now, only to find it will have to be changed once we are in office.

Don't fall for labour's argument that "spending money helps". we then get labelled with "spending cuts make it worse for people".

this has to be about tax cuts - but not by tinkering with what existing spending plans. By redefining what Government is all about.

Government needs to be there to ONLY do those things that private industry or indivuduals CAN'T do on their own - which means helping those who need to be helped, while freeing those who can help themselves, to do so. The era of the "big clunking fist" approach to government is over.

The Conservatives need to demonstrate that you can have "smaller government" and lower taxes, without cutting ESSENTIAL services.

We need to distinguish the essential spending on front line services (nurses & doctors treating patients, teachers teaching children, workers renewing roads and railways, construction costs of new schools and hospitals), from the non-essential spending involved in managing, measuring, auditing, reviewing, commissioning and assessing all of this.

Only by redefining government can we shape the argument OUR way. Otherwise it's just an argument about who can do the same thing, better: and when it comes to the crunch, in this argument, the incumbent nearly always wins.

Jack Stone:

You are a troll because you equate changing the amount someone who is sick or poor receives from the tax payer as 'turning your back' on them.

David Belchamber @11.54

I didn't mean to interpret it that way, only as regards numbers in employment. Disciplinary action is quite separate. Besides we can't discipline anyone until after we've won.

pp. So you agree the party policy is to spend less on the sick and that is justified. If that ends up with cancer patients dying because the state will not fund drugs to keep them alive that in my books does mean turning your back on them,
All this troll nonsense is getting very silly.You say more about yourself by resorting to personal abuse than you do me about me.


So if the NHS can reduce its burden on the taxpayer by (say) not making staff compile stats that are known to be meaningless/useless - would you call that 'turning your back on the sick' ?

Or are you fully in favour of cuts, as long as quality of service is maintained?

Fair comment, Jonathan at 16.39. We must commit to maintaining the appropriate establishment in the essential professions but the real savings will come from managing things like the NHS much more efficiently and cutting back on red tape and bureaucracy (as opposed to administration).

Unless we are very determined to get a much greater output from the same investment, we won't be much different from the wretched government we have at the moment.

There are inherent dangers in this sort of ringfencing exercise.

Firstly, they can tend to be done with regard to people's pet projects and political expediency rather securing any actual minimum need. For example, why exactly do we need 2 aircraft carriers? They have nothing to do with defending the UK. Aircraft carriers are mobile airfields, so you can operate really far away from the UK - they are about force projection. I think they should be retained, but I don't kid myself it's because we really absolutely need them.

Secondly, there is a tendency to stop viewing things as a whole and connected service. So when we talk about the NHS we talk about saving the jobs of doctors and nurses - but what about pharmacists and midwives (both facing chronic recruitment and retention crises at the moment)? What about the drugs bill?

It's no good trying to get away with trimming and re-trimming the hem if we actually need to re-tailor the whole garment. We need to coolly sit down and work out what we think Britain will look like and will need to do in a recession, and where the spending pressures are going to come from. I humbly submit that anyone who thinks they're going to take great chunks out of the NHS budget or unemployment benefit payments during the recession needs their head examining (more people will be sick and more people will be unemployed).

pp.Personally I think the waste in the NHS is far less than you would like to imagine but if there is waste that waste should be reinvested into the NHS.
The NHS is still in need of more staff especially nurses and better facilities so any savings that are reinvested is fine with me.
What you are talking about is cutting out waste and taking that money away from the NHS and using it for tax cuts. That certainly is giving the two fingers to patients who are waiting for operations or can`t get drugs to prolong there lives because of cost.

Apart from the article and all the arguments in the posts above the right solutions to which are vital there is another vital task for the conservative party should it win the next election [this country is just about a lost cause if it doesn't]: that task it to demonstrate utterly and without a shadow of doubt that capitalism, a free and open democracy, a free and liberal society which trades freely throughout the world, which has strong defences and a state which intervenes minimally is the surest path to the safety, prosperity and well being of its ciizens. The world is on the brink now of a statist, big brother socialistic mentality - perhaps nowhere in the advanced world more than right here in this country. This must be resisted with every means at our disposal. It isn't capitalism which has failed - it is that we have been foolish enough to be hypnotised by false profits. The main cause of all this distress is really rooted in Alan Greenspan and his ilk in the USA and his policy of low interest rates and to allow the economy to run out of control with huge public and private indebtedness. Here, his devotee, Brown, has managed to outperform Greenspan, if that were possible. It is now demonstrably irresponsibility of a high order but it is not a failure of capitalism.

Sorry about 'profits' - it should be, of course, 'prophets'!

Jack - You are irrational.

The NHS can consume every penny that the wealth-generating private sector can generate (as could the military, or forign aid etc).

You need to define what you want to acheive then cost it - otherwise you end up as we are with labout - massive extra spending, but nothing much to show for it.

I think it would be good sense to point to a couple of key public service areas we won't cut but more specifically to concentrate on pointing to an area we would cut completely. A good argument could be to target a couple of non-essential areas Labour are committed to but that the public would recognise in hard times would have to go to save other areas. ID cards srping to mind but I'm sure there will be others. Maybe we should be quite radical.

The Defence budget has been systematically plundered for the past 10 years in order to pour money into welfare bureaucracy and the Quango State. An incoming Conservative government has a duty to repair the damage done by New Labour. Our Armed Forces are chronically under-funded and over-stretched. Simply reducing our military commitments overseas will not be enough - we urgently need to rebuild our Armed Forces and honour the Military Covenant. We need to be ready for the unexpected; after all, Russia and China are expanding their armed forces dramatically, and we have plenty of rogue states to contend with. The Conservatives should commit to a significant increase in Defence spending, and ensure that our Forces are brought up to strength and provided with the equipment and weapons that they need. The UK National Defence Association recommends raising Defence spending as a proportion of GDP from around 2.2% to at least 4%.

Having such a list would be an error.The problem is that we are then pandering to the Labour agenda and denying cuts.The fact is we should be able to drive up productivity levels in all areas of public service provision including the so called sacred cows by challenging the vested interests and pushing through change.

David Cameron knows this and the public are more and more receptive to this notion.As Frazer Nelson has argued it is a nonsense for Government at this time not to be forced to tighten it's belt (in all areas) at a time when families are doing just that!!

I hate to say "No Cu_ts Here" is well open to graffiti artists and we'd look complete asses if that was ever on a poster !

I suggest "Tory Snips".

Come on use your loaf eh ?

Incidentally, where's the coverage of the German Finance Minister calling Brown's VAT cut "crass and breathtakingly stupid" ???

Why can't we get that in the news here and a German can ???

Re Winston C - While there are areas where savings can be made and productivity increased, they take time to work through properly. Indeed in the short term it can cost you more to save money and deliver better services further down the line. Anyone who has worked in industry will recognise this point. The fact is that many ordinary people know this or sense this point so simply saying that general efficiency savings will be made tends to be received with a degree of scepticism. We should of course continue to say we would seek to reform services but we have to accept there is some phasing in the approach needed. Trying to find quick savings in most key services is risky and it would be better to identify 2 or 3 areas that are not strictly essential (but Labour are committed to) and say we will cut those. This means we can say we are being honest and practical, that the public recognise that it is hard times and that to protect services in a recession tough decisions are needed on 1 or 2 non-essential areas. This would not preclude carefully worked out reforms in all services that would genuinely save money in the longer term but it would mean we could show we understand how organisations work and are being responsible. It would also mean we could say we would not be looking to cut any frontline key services and it would mean we can show why and the rationale behined it. Look at your own lives and think about this. When we are in difficulties we cut extravagances (new cars, meals out, posh purchases etc), we don't mess around with our insurance or health arrangements because we know if we are struck ill or our house is damaged we need to be safe and our savings need to be protected to tide us through the everyday payments. It would do no harm to explain the issues in terms of household finances. I seem to remember Mrs T doing the same before 79.

Jonathan @ 11.06 - 'We still need to neutralise Labour's sole campaign strategy that we will cut services.'

Jonathan I think that one way to 'neutralise' this endless repetition, is to retaliate by challenging them to state what services that we are going to cut! After all NOBODY in the conservative party has ever said that a particular group of people are going to be decimated, but Labour by making these statements always pretends that someone has made such a statement, and THAT is what the public pick up (which of course is what the spinners are absolutely aware of - its all implication and lies - but who cares if it has effect!). The only effective answer is to challenge them!

Jack Stone @ 15.54 At the moment we have a Labour party in government it is under THEIR direction that PCT's and NHS Trust's are not funding necessary drugs. It is nother to do with the Conservatives at the moment. You know that. When Conservatives are in power then your arguments will be valid!

I don't see what is wrong with making a general point about productivity and the delivery of efficiencies.Why do we need to be specific at this point? I don't see Gordon Brown rushin to tell us which taxes he would raise to fill his black hole!

The principle is simple.The state is costing too much.If we continue as we are it is reasonable to expect that cost to rise.Such an eventuality given Labour's world view will inevitably mean higher taxes for all.This in turn will lead to a greater inbalance in our economy in favour of the public sector againts the wealth producing private sector.

This will have a disatrous impact on all of our futures.As a result Cameron is absolutely correct to call for an early election to fully air the issues.What is at stake is a free market which underpins my understanding of a society based upon fundamental liberties set against a planned ,unproductive illiberal state.

Patsy @22.41
It is not sufficient to challenge them. There will always be doubt; every commitment or lack of it will be tested against the premise that we are regressing into the 80s. Unless, we give a cast iron reassurance along the lines I indicate, there is always going to be a smell of fear about us. My formulation is a guarantee, in sound bite form, that we are going to protect all the front line services people actually care about, yet it leaves us completely free to axe everything else that we have the courage to axe.

It's the opposite of Blair's no rise in income tax promise. Not a single Doctor nurse, teacher or policeman to lose their job through cuts. A child of two could work with that and shave £100 billion of the public services. I don't understand what's not to see. It worked for Blair. Can't we learn an old trick after 11 years and three general elections being taught it?

Our poll lead is slipping. No one I talk to and, as a doctor, I talk to people across the entire socio-economic spectrum has anything but contempt for Brown. So why isn't the lead higher? Why is it shrinking?

One possible answer is that it now looks like Cameron for all his modernity is reverting the Conservatives to type. We have forgotten the politics of And.. If you voted Labour in 1997, it is not yet safe to vote Conservative again, however much one hates Labour.

Lung cancer patients - don't bother treating them - it never works in the end - throw them onto the skip immediately.

Trident missles - useless - cancel.

ID cards - cancel.

NHS database - cancel.

Road building - cancel.

Outreach officers - sack the lot of them.

HR departments - close them all down.

and so on

and so forth.

Basic income tax - slash to 10p.

That was a bit over the top - very in some cases (not all) - apologies.

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