Spending Review: The nation's reaction

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Chancellor George Osborne has unveiled the biggest programme of public spending cuts in the UK for decades, in his long-awaited Spending Review.

The cuts will affect welfare, councils and police budgets. People will also have to work for longer after the pension age was raised, sooner than expected, and some incapacity benefits will be time limited.

Changes have also been made to tax credits and housing benefit.

As the news broke, BBC correspondents gauged the reaction from communities around the UK.


A coffin followed by mourners made its slow, solemn way through the county town of Dorchester on Wednesday lunchtime, but those forming the procession hadn't come to remember a lost friend.

The men and women in black were all public sector workers, out on the street to demonstrate their concerns about job cuts which they say will herald the death of effective public services.

As part of the Spending Review, nearly half a million jobs in the public sector are expected to be lost over the next four years. In the South West and South East, one in 12 public sector workers could lose their jobs - that would mean more than 100,000 people out of work.

The protest in Dorset was echoed in Southampton, Reading and Winchester. In Portsmouth, union leaders called the cuts to council funding "devastating".

The Liberal Democrat council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he would do everything he could to limit redundancies and protect services to the really vulnerable.


Events in the House of Commons wouldn't normally be required viewing in the Corporation Arms in Grimsby. But Wednesday was an exception, as lunchtime drinkers watched the chancellor's big speech in the pub, which lies in one the most deprived parts of the town.

In Grimsby, the number of people reliant on state benefits is higher than the national average, as is unemployment. Of the people who do work, many are on low wages.

A pub regular called Amanda said: "Don't cut the benefits for the people who are really, really struggling. I don't think it's fair - we are struggling enough as it is.

"I live on £174 a fortnight and it's not fair."

The challenge for local council leaders is how to continue delivering the services many have come to rely on - for less.

The chief executive of North East Lincolnshire Council has suggested that people in Grimsby may choose to sweep their own streets in future, so the local authority can prioritise front-line services.

Tony Hunter told BBC Look North communities need to be "more imaginative" when cutting costs, and asking for volunteers to do council work may be one answer.

So could this broad-brush approach be a taster of things to come in our town halls?


It's often said that Wales has a public sector culture.

Not only does it employ 27% of the workforce, but the spending power of those workers and contracts with the public sector are essential for so many companies in the private sector.

These range from large construction firms, which rely on contracts for half of their work, to small firms like the appropriately named Kutz N Kurlz hair salon in Brynmawr in the south Wales valleys, where a third of all the customers are directly employed by the public sector.

That's why organisations like the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales are deeply concerned about the threat of a double dip recession.

Wednesday's cuts in welfare could also have a dramatic effect for thousands in Wales.

With nearly 190,000 people on incapacity benefit or its successor, employment and support allowance, Wales has the highest proportion of claimants in Great Britain.


Northern Ireland is the region of the UK most reliant on state spending, with a third of its workforce employed by the public sector.

So there was considerable anxiety about the potential for job losses as a direct result of the Spending Review.

If the average reduction for Whitehall departments is 19%, then Northern Ireland would appear to have done fairly well.

According to the Treasury, the power-sharing executive's current budget is being cut by just under 7%.

However, Stormont politicians are unhappy, pointing to what they regard as a severe 40% cut in capital spending - the money used for new roads, schools, hospitals and public projects.

They say this will have a damaging impact on the local construction industry.

Having lobbied the government to stand by a previous pledge to provide an £18bn capital investment programme, Northern Ireland politicians are now accusing the Treasury of reneging on that deal.

One group happy to hear the chancellor's announcement are the 10,000 savers of the failed Presbyterian Mutual Society.

Mr Osborne's confirmation of a £200m rescue plan should certainly sugar the pill of this Spending Review for those who feared losing their savings.


After more than 15 years of planning, reviews and many false dawns, at last the expansion of the Midland Metro in Birmingham is finally going ahead.

Not much comfort though for those in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Warwickshire, who depend on newly threatened rural buses.

Other services fared better than expected. For the police, Wednesday's announcement will still mean job losses across the West Midlands, but not as many as the 6,000 which were predicted at one point.

Which forces get cut the most will be up to the Home Office, and the coalition government wants chief constables to avoid any reduction in the visibility and availability of police on our streets.

And our universities have given a guarded welcome to the news that for science too, things might not be as bad as first thought.

Privately, some scientists had told me that they were considering refocusing their efforts on more medical research, where funding looked to be more assured. Now, though, that probably won't happen.

Finally, the BBC will be involved in providing rural broadband for a pilot scheme in Herefordshire.

Good news for farmers in particular, who have complained for some time that it's impossible to do all of Defra's online paperwork on a dial-up connection.

But looking at the cuts to the Defra budgets, just how much farming form-filling will be left?


The spending review aims to set northern England on a different path, away from over-reliance on the public sector. There will be significant numbers of job losses among council workers and civil servants.

Union estimates of 30,000 public sector job losses in the North East look a reasonable guess, even if some will be lost through natural wastage rather than forced redundancies.

But the government wants to see the private sector grow in northern England, and it has a plan - green jobs.

The chancellor promised £200m of investment to help ports build a new generation of giant offshore wind turbines. There are already plans in place for a factory in the Tyne's old shipyards, so that funding will be welcome.

And rural Cumbria and North Yorkshire will benefit from pilots to bring superfast broadband to areas which the private sector would never touch.

There was no news though on one of the biggest potential boosts to jobs. A plan by Hitachi to build train carriages in County Durham could be a "new Nissan " according to its supporters, generating 8,000 direct and indirect jobs.

But the government says a decision on funding for the carriages won't come through for a few weeks.

The question now for the North East and Cumbria is can the private sector grow fast enough to cushion the impact of big spending cuts on the English region that is most dependent on the public sector?


On the day of the chancellor's big cash squeeze, Nottingham's ambitions to extend its tram network have just squeezed in. Plans for two new tram lines have survived.

Other significant transport projects have been saved, including improving the Derbyshire stretch of the M1 and rail improvements on the Midland Main Line near Nottingham.

But business leaders will be disappointed that turning the main A453 between the M1 and Nottingham into a dual carriageway appears to have been shelved.

Public sector unions are alarmed at the impact of the chancellor's announcement on employment. One business survey has estimated that 58,000 private and public sector jobs will be lost. Leicester City Council is already warning that it may have to axe up to 1,000 jobs.

The chancellor has given us some headlines, but it may be a few weeks before the whole picture and its impact for the East Midlands is clear.


On one side of Glasgow, there's good news that two aircraft carriers will protect 4,000 shipyard jobs.

But it's a city with big social and economic problems, and a high proportion of people dependent on welfare benefits. That's where George Osborne's announcement is causing immediate concern for many Scots, as its implications sink in.

The bigger impact will sink in more slowly, as most public services in Scotland are funded through the parliament at Holyrood. Its budget is falling by 10% over the next four years, with a larger-than-expected 38% cut in capital spending.

Next month, the decisions on how nearly £30bn in block grant is broken down will be put to the Scottish Parliament by SNP finance secretary John Swinney.

And as his party doesn't have a majority, there will be a battle over his priorities, only six months before the next election.


Standing on the banks of the River Medway in Kent is a pile, eight-high, of blue shipping containers. They are used as a viewing platform to look out over Rochester Riverside, in the Thames Gateway.

From the top, you should be looking down on 2,000 homes, a primary school, shops, offices and community centres. Instead, all you see are acres and acres of scrubland - a result of the economic downturn.

And now, because of the Spending Review, the organisation responsible for the area's regeneration, Medway Renaissance, is also being scrapped.

Some of the homes that were to be built here would have been affordable homes. But even if they are built, as a result of the chancellor's speech those homes will be more expensive for ordinary people to rent.

Hundreds of millions of pounds of regeneration money have been spent in the Medway Towns in the past few years, but now that regeneration appears to be grinding to a halt.

Is it all bad news? Maybe not. Medway Council says regeneration will continue. Some housebuilding, however limited, is continuing in parts of the Gateway, and some projects will be finished before the money runs out.

But like the scrubland at Rochester Riverside, the future of the UK's largest regeneration project, the Thames Gateway, is at best uncertain.


There was one big loser and one big winner on road projects.

Ministers said the £1.4bn plan to widen the A14 in Cambridgeshire was "simply unaffordable" for the time being. But a much cheaper project to dual the last single-carriageway stretch of A11 between Barton Mills and Thetford did get the go-ahead.

Every council boss and chief constable is grappling with big budget cuts - 7% and 4% per year respectively. And there was no respite for what the government calls "under-used courts".

Buildings in many of our market towns will be sold off. More money was promised for coastal erosion although we've yet to establish exactly where.

Finally, I watched George Osborne's speech with retired printer James O'Leary from Brampton, Cambridgeshire. He was one of 100,000 people in the east to lose much of their pension when Equitable Life nearly went bust.

Mr Osborne announced a £1.5bn settlement. "There's light at the end of the tunnel at last," Mr O'Leary told me.

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