Saturday, August 14, 2010

britain reels as austerity cuts begin

NYTimes | Last month, the British government abolished the U.K. Film Council, the Health Protection Agency and dozens of other groups that regulate, advise and distribute money in the arts, health care, industry and other areas.

It seemed shockingly abrupt, a mass execution without appeal. But it was just a tiny taste of what was to come.

Like a shipwrecked sailor on a starvation diet, the new British coalition government is preparing to shrink down to its bare bones as it cuts expenditures by $130 billion over the next five years and drastically scales back its responsibilities. The result, said the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a research group, will be “the longest, deepest sustained period of cuts to public services spending” since World War II.

Until recently, the cuts were just election talking points, early warnings of a new age of austerity. But now the pain has begun. And as the government begins its abrupt retrenchment, the implications, complications and confusions in the process are beginning to emerge.