Austerity is alive and well, and giving public services a kicking
There are plenty of ways to measure austerity. Before, during and after the budget this week, voters will hear Rishi Sunak herald the end of tight spending as the government builds a bridge from the pandemic to a glorious recovery. What economists do when they want to kick the tyres on such claims is look at the Treasury’s books. They want to see whether public spending is contracting or expanding. And if there is a squeeze, we can be said to be living in a period of austerity.
In the period when George Osborne was chancellor, his supporters would claim that after the first two years of his reign, the spending taps were turned on again and austerity was no more. Many were unhappy that the state was playing a significant role – believing more austerity was justified – while becoming incandescent with rage that those on the left were perpetuating the “austerity myth”.