DIGBY, Lord Jones of Birmingham has called on the government to “change the system” to ensure the inevitable cuts in public spending don’t result in front line job losses.
In a rousing speech to business leaders in Peterborough, the former Minister for Trade and Investment at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it is possible to make cuts in public sector spending among unnecessary civil servants without losing nurses and teachers. “We need to change the means of delivery,” he said. “Change the back office. Because if this government, or the next, says we should lose one nurse or one teacher, we should join the barricades.”
Lord Jones told delegates at the Business Solutions Conference, organised by the Learning Skills Council, that it was sad that the recent budget hadn’t really addressed how money would be spent to help economic recovery. He said the private sector should play a bigger role in the delivery of services. “Policy-setting must remain with democratically-elected government,” said Lord Jones. “But more of the delivery should be given to professionals who know what they’re doing.”
He also issued a warning about the levels of government borrowing. “Borrowing is just deferred taxation,” he said. “But rather than just raising taxes on individuals we should be encouraging small businesses to grow. They create wealth and jobs, so contribute taxes.”
Lord Jones went on to say that there were some small signs of optimism in the economy and that it may have bottomed-out. “Some are calling the bottom of the market,” he said. “Someone, somewhere can’t see themselves getting it cheaper tomorrow. It’s all about confidence. I spoke to one small business that had two good weeks in recent months – the week Jonathan Ross was all over the papers and the week Barack Obama was elected – weeks when the recession wasn’t all over the news.”
Lord Jones said better implemented regulation was needed to manage the economy, not more regulation. But the need for learning and up-skilling is vital. “Development, transfer and the exploitation of knowledge is key,” he said. “Everybody has to get involved to get vocational training and apprenticeships working.”
More reports from the Learning Skills Council‘s Business Solutions conference will be published at Peterboroughbusiness.co.uk tomorrow.