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Government's Spending Review: fair?

The government's claim that its 2010 Spending Review promotes 'fairness' has been challenged by Dr Tania Burchardt, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

In her contribution to In Defence of Welfare –  a critique of the coalition government's Spending Review by the Social Policy Association (SPA) – Dr Burchardt argues that overall 'its effects are likely to be a polarisation between the "haves" and "have-nots"'.

Detailed analysis of immediate winners and losers indicate – in contrast to the Treasury's own figures – that a much higher share of the overall burden of spending cuts and tax rises will be borne by the less well-off. In the longer run, higher inequality and lower investment in public services could damage intergenerational justice and hinder social mobility.

Dr Burchardt said: 'The coalition government has made considerable use of the concept of "fairness" in support of its policies. However, as the cuts begin to take effect any claims of fairness will soon ring hollow.'

Comprising 24 short pieces by leading social policy commentators, In Defence of Welfare explores the likely impacts of reforms across a range of policy areas and sets out alternative approaches. 

In his Foreword, SPA President and Financial Times Public Policy Editor Nicholas Timmins observes 'there is no doubt that what is happening is historic given the coalition's announcement of the biggest single set of spending cuts since at least the Second World War', even though he stresses that only time and events will confirm the effects. The rise in tuition fees for higher education, he says, is 'a watershed', as is 'the ending of child benefit as a universal payment.' He notes that cuts to housing benefit have led to fears that the least well off will be forced out of city centres - potentially 'changing the shape and nature of British society.'

In Defence of Welfare, can be downloaded free of charge from the SPA website www.social-policy.com

Posted 9 February 2011