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It's a gamble and we can't afford to lose.

THE headlines have been written and the battle lines drawn, but the impact of yesterday's Comprehensive Spending Review will only become apparent in the coming weeks and months.

Only then will the talk of billions of pounds in cutbacks begin to translate in to real job losses for real people in our own communities.

Now, after yesterday's much anticipated announcement, public sector leaders across the country are being forced to make tough decisions about what the cutbacks mean for them.

As we know, the consequences in this region threaten to be widespread.

The calculation that as many as 55,000 public sector jobs will go in the North East is indicative of that - as a share of the expected 500,000 redundancies nationally, it is well out of proportion with the size of the region.

It is clear, too, that it is not just those who work at local authorities or the regional development agency who are under threat. Already, Durham Constabulary have announced job losses and other bodies like them will doubtlessly follow.

But for all the pain these cutbacks will mean for those affected, the success or otherwise of George Osborne's measures will be judged primarily by what impact they have, not on the public sector, but on the wider economy.

Some measures announced in yesterday's 'mini Budget', such as the support for green industries are welcome in this respect - but they don't go far enough. The regional economy, like that of the UK as a whole, is in a fragile state just now and the bitter medicine dished out by Mr Osborne yesterday may be too much for it to swallow. If so, and the economy slips back towards or into recession, the Chancellor will have some difficult questions to answer.

The government has taken a huge - and arguably unnecessary - gamble with the future of our region and our country. Time will tell if it pays off.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 21, 2010
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