Pain anticipation: the shock of reform needed to the public sector

Pain anticipation is a dangerous thing. Knowing the plaster is about to be ripped off and pre-empting what it will feel like is fraught with speculation and worry. Is this emotional reaction what is being exploited in the protest marches and the media with the public sector spending cuts?

There are some legitimately complicated financial wrangling going on in the public domain but it is worth driving home that these issues are complicated. Horrifically so. One obvious indication of this complexity is the sheer volume of disagreement between well-respected and accredited experts. From Nobel prize winners and international monetary bodies; to NGOs and private firms all have a stake in the result of our economic strategy, but all have different perspectives and vested interests to protect.

So when circa 500,000 people participated in the weekend ‘March for the Alternative’ I’m sceptical that they were all there for the same logical and meticulously hypothesised reasons. If experts and media can’t agree then how can the public?

Much commentary has been accumulated in the past week over Ed ‘I have a dream’ Miliband’s participation at the march. Ed has vocally admitted that he too would make cuts should Labour have regained power which begs the question: is endorsing an anti-cuts march is a tad hypocritical? Are these protests, similar to the student protests earlier in the year, merely a platform and front for union and leftist critiques of a Conservative-Liberal Government?

Accepting change is never easy. We naturally and behaviouorally react against that which is different. This is what makes the ‘March for the Alternative’ so very naïve. Savings in local and national government have not been easy. No-one elected to public office started out their political journey to enforce one of the deepest cuts packages in recent memory. It has to be done. The cuts will not be easy, but long term sustainability of public services will emerge from the removal of excess waste. As a rainforest regularly cleanses itself with forest fires, the public sector must take this cattle prod of an opportunity to deliver demonstrably higher impact with maximum return on investment from state funding.

If the Government can articulate the potential for future growth as a result of the cuts and the public sector can work hard to rise to the painful challenge of streamlining services then it will all be worth it. Less money on waste means more funds to pay off our national debt. Less money spent on horrific debt interest means more money for strategically improving and growing strong public sector services.

The perceived pain may be little in comparison to when the cuts finally come in; but if we use them as an opportunity to improve performance and resist politically biased demonstrations then Britain will benefit as a result.

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