Members on the Benches opposite are, understandably, repeating this desperate mantra about "unavoidable cuts". I suppose they think that if they can cling to that enough and repeat it often, somehow it will become true. These announcements of reductions-these swingeing cutbacks of public services-are not unavoidable; there are alternative strategies. Taking out 25% of public spending in these unprotected departmental expenditure limits within such a short period of time-four years-is to act too quickly and too harshly. There is no consensus among economists-that is certainly the case globally, let alone in this country-that this approach is the only way to protect our triple A rating and is essential in order to avoid a Greek-style arrangement. I suspect that either there is a little naivety on the part of the Liberal Democrats in propping up this ideological zeal to reduce public spending, which has always been present in the right wing of the Conservative party; or the Liberal Democrats-at least some of them-have sold their souls in order take on the trappings of high office. I hope that is not the case, but I am sure it is beginning to look to many of my hon. Friends as though it might be.
In my constituency, in Nottingham, the first tranche of service cutbacks-taking out the £6 billion and having £1 billion of reductions in local government spending-meant £4.5 million taken out of Nottingham's front-line services. Some £2.7 million has been taken out of the education area-based grant-that money is not just for the one-to-one tuition that we were hoping to have for children in most need, but for the school transport budget, the special educational needs budget and so on-and £1.2 million has been taken out of the working neighbourhoods fund. The title of that fund does not really capture what it does, because the fund helps to combat teenage pregnancy and ensures that welfare rights advice is given to people. It provided the money that went hand in hand with the future jobs fund to help to get young people off benefits and into work. Millions of pounds have been taken out of these services, with £350,000 being removed from road safety spending and £2 million from the transport capital grant.
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