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Head To Head

Are the spending cuts fair? No

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 27 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6053
  1. Polly Toynbee, columnist
  1. 1Guardian, London, UK
  1. polly.toynbee{at}

Karol Sikora (doi:10.1136/bmj.c6049) believes that the government’s choices have ensured everyone will share the burden of spending cuts, but Polly Toynbee (doi:10.1136/bmj.c6053) argues that the vulnerable will suffer most

There was no chance that the government could make cuts of £81bn (€91bn; $128bn) and expect them to fall fairly on rich and poor alike—even if it had tried harder. Governments spend more on people who are less well-off: it would be odd if that were not the case. Benefits and social spending, the safety net of a civilised society, flow mainly towards those in most need. As Mike Brewer of the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) says, “It would be astounding if cutting a quarter of public spending were not regressive.”

The chancellor, George Osborne, used the word “fair” 24 times in his House of Commons speech. But the IFS laid out the hard numbers: apart from the richest 2%, the burden would fall hardest on the poorest decile. The top 2% were mainly hit because of the 50% tax rate Labour introduced in its last month in power, and families with an earner above around £42 000 will lose their child benefit and child tax …

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