The budget looks like an attempt to hold things together until the General Election in the vain hope that something will turn up.
A few years ago I got a copy of the Treasury Economic Model programmes. However, without the data that the Treasury put into the model the model cannot be properly scrutinised. The treasury refused to provide the figures.
I would presume that the government have "kitchen sinked" the 2009-10 figures so they can point to improvements from their forecast for what I expect to be a general election in 2010. However, it is still not clear that their forecasts beyond that are at all reliable.
Superficially it appears some progress has been made on bingo taxation, however.
The real challenge is one of how we move towards providing public services in a more cost-effective manner. We haven't really managed to do that in the past. My own personal view is that we need to look at the bureaucratic overhead in running services and try to move away from overly complex assessments towards designing systems with localised feedback.
The government has gradually made the provision of public services more and more complex and at the same time prone to error. It is that approach that needs a systematic revisiting.
Talking as I do to refugees who have left the UK for other European Countries it seems clear that public services in other places are a higher quality. In Sweden, for example, they are very worried about any patients who have been in an English hospital. They immediately place them in an isolation unit to protect against MRSA.
Those doctors who have been concerned about "dumbing down" in the NHS are I think right to be concerned. I have seen two people recently in my advice bureau who have been harmed by wrongful initial diagnosis by less qualified practitioners.