Cutting the deficit

Hannah PerryProduct Manager - SoMA
May 16, 2011, 2:20 AM GMT+0

In light of Osborne’s budget speech YouGov consulted the public on how they would manage government spending. 1,000 panellists across the UK took the YouChoose consultation, a deliberative study which asks respondents to cut £80billion from the deficit. Panellists selected the government departments they thought should face the deepest cuts and which should be saved from the axe, while being given full information on the consequences of each of their decisions. The results illustrate the depth of public concern around domestic versus international spending.

The respondents’ treatment of the Schools and NHS budget, however, is broadly consistent with the Government’s approach. A slim saving range of 4-7% in education and health suggests that the public are most concerned about protecting front-line service providers from spending cuts whilst allowing central departments to take a greater hit. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills took an average cut of 31%, which would indicate public scepticism about government intervention in business development. The Department for Energy & Climate Change also took a 29% average cut, despite the proposed consequences of a reduced environmental emergency budget and the abolition of the low carbon programme. Our panellists also opted to cut culture and sport funding by an average of 27%, despite London’s plans to host the Olympics in 18 months’ time.

The biggest anomaly with government spending proposals relates to elements of our foreign policy. The YouChoose consultation was fielded to respondents during a period which saw Libya descend into violent chaos, and an earthquake and tsunami devastate Japan, and yet the YouGov panel opted to cut the budgets for both the Department for International Development (Dfid) and Foreign & Commonwealth Office by 37%, despite Osborne’s ringfencing of the Dfid budget during last year’s Comprehensive Spending Review. The panel weighed up consequences including the scrapping of aid to conflict and disaster zones, Russia, China and the British Council. And while the Ministry of Defence budget suffered a much lighter touch of 19% cuts, even this inferred the scrapping of the Harrier fleet, a reduction in Trident, and job losses.

The YouChoose consultation is an online budget simulator developed by the London Borough of Redbridge and hosted by YouGov. YouGov panellists were invited to complete the survey via email. Results have been weighted by age and gender to the UK population. A separate, local authority version of YouChoose has already been circulated and used by 35 councils around the UK.