UK Politics

Lib Dem views: The deficit and big business

Vince Cable's criticisms of big financial firms and discussion of how to deal with the deficit have dominated the end of the Lib Dem conference. What do delegates think?


The Lib Dems and the country want to see something that mitigates what appears to be unfettered bonuses. It is a balancing act. In the private sector, rewards for high levels of productivity are fair. It is where there appears to be people taking risks with our money and being awarded bonuses where there is unease. There is also an issue about an imbalance about access to capital - banks do need prodding to get flow of money back into business. But interfering with the free market, in terms of takeovers, is very dangerous territory. I very much regret the loss of jobs at Cadbury but a government intervention would have been worse.


We have to acknowledge there is a huge deficit and something has to happen. As a Liberal Democrat I don't feel comfortable in having to make cuts to any public service because it is tough and potentially means job losses or services that people really depend on going. But we have to take a reality check and realise it has to be done. I don't think cuts can be progressive but you can balance them out with things that offset them like taking people out of tax and closing loopholes on tax evasion. These would not have happened had it been a majority Conservative administration.


I think Vince Cable is right to draw attention to what is going on. He is not anti-big business but trying to get through to them they are not above the government and can't walk over everyone. Big business is getting too big for its boots, with a lot of people thinking they are not subject to the same constraints as the rest of us. There are a lot of people out there who are addicted to money. I know where he stands on small and medium enterprises. He has spoken many times in support of them.


Everyone is going to be up in arms about the cuts. Everybody will know somebody who has a rumour about someone being badly affected. There is going to be trouble politically. But what I am hoping is, come the actual cuts, that somebody will have found a way of putting in place measures to help those for whom a cut is really a cut at the table, a cut in the heating, a cut in the clothing. There are millions of people in this country for whom a cut will not mean these things.


Vince Cable's main point is that, left to itself, the free market produces monopolies, unfairness and is detrimental to the consumer. I think all governments have accepted that. I don't see him saying anything groundbreaking. I don't see competition as being a problem for creating jobs. Driving up prices is not good for the consumer in a tight financial situation.


We have had a culture of spend, spend, spend which is completely unsustainable. But we do have to remember that government is not a business. It is not here to make money. It is here to provide services and we have to ensure we sustain these services in one way or another. If we have to look at job cuts, we have to look at management areas where there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians. I am incredibly angry at the level of corporate waste in government, in terms of spending on consultants.


In local government, we have been doing this [cutting spending] for years. We have had to take difficult decisions and, in my view, it is always better to get the majority of the pain out of the way as quickly as possible. That is the way we are going to deal with the next lot of cuts that are coming our way. I think we have to sacrifice some short-term pain for long-term gain. Everybody will be sympathetic with people losing their jobs but ultimately if it has to be done to put us on the right track we have got to do it.


Most people in the country are in agreement that the deficit will have to be tackled, but there are "buts". Efficiency cuts make perfect sense, cutting waste and clawing back savings that way. I think everybody would be happy about that. But if it goes too far, that's another matter. We are not blindly accepting the cuts. In our area we have put up a petition to stop the potential closure of ticket offices. There are going to be lots of conflict of interest but there will be on the Tory side too.