Following on the heels of two million unemployed, yet another worrying econmic statistic was published today. The nation's public sector debt is set to grow to a colossal £180bn as the recession worsens in the next financial year.
The prediction by a leading independent forecasting body, suggests the Government will have to borrow some 12.6% of GDP in 2009/10 to counter a rapid surge in unemployment, a sharp increase in spending and a plunge in tax receipts. Today's Times newspaper comments that "Unless the government wants to do something politically suicidal - like protect all public spending and raise the basic rate of income tax by 9p - then spending cuts are going to have to be on the agenda."
So what does this mean for you and me, other than the very real threat of much higher direct and indirect taxation than we have previously experienced in our lives ? In real terms it implies huge cuts in the welfare dependent economy that such a large proportion of the population have come to depend on after ten years of Labour government.
A local resident wrote to me this week and asked why she pays three times more council tax here in Thanet than her relations in Scotland. I replied that is very likely,along with free prescriptions, university fees and more, that her relations are generously subsidised, North of the border, by those of us living further South. I rather wonder how long this level of subsidy - averaging, we are told, £1,500 a year per person - will be sustainable now that Scotland's ruling SNP, following the expensive collapse of its two proudest and largest financial institutions, is a little quieter in its calls for independence.
Here at the very oposite end of the country, we need to be realistic about the future. Local Government across the UK is now looking into a financial abyss and yet the population at large expects that the hundreds of services that Local Government provides on an almost invisible, daily basis, should continue uninterrupted.
Every Town Hall now has to consider what it can or can't afford over the next two years and the impact of the financial chaos that surrounds us on fast shrinking reserves. So next time you read in the 'Blogs', the council should spend money on this or that, consider whether the council can actually afford to indulge in any project that isn't necesary without, cutting back on more important services?
Businesses can go bust and they are doing so with alarming regularity at present. Councils can't go into adminstration in the same way and can only plan and exist within their means.
While Government tries very hard to rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic, the ship is now showing an unhealthy list. Meanwhile, the Captain and First Officer still refuse to consider the prospect of it sinking on their watch. Passengers too are in a state of denial. This is after all one of the greatest economies in the world, how could it sink; it's unsinkable isn't it?
Whether we find ourselves in the freezing water or not is increasingly looking like a matter of luck and so all of us who have become very comfortable with the safety net of a generous welfare economy need to start asking where the lifeboats are kept because there will not be room enough in them for all of us without a very cunning plan to refloat a very damaged economy.