2010, what a year! Didn’t it contain some corkers and twists? A general election that no one won; a Royal engagement; cuts and austerity aplenty; a World Cup where England didn’t do as well as expected, and continuing economic turbulence. What will 2011 have in store for us? How will it affect life in the West Country. I’ve been asked to dig out my crystal ball and make some predictions for 2011, so here goes:
1. The VAT rise will suppress consumer spending in the first quarter putting the high street recovery at risk. This will probably bounce back as people get used to higher prices, but will take a while.
2. The cuts will hurt. 2010 was the year where the cuts were announced. 2011 will be the year when the cuts are zealously implemented and that means a tough year ahead for the region’s public services and public servants. We can expect lots of job losses in the region as we depend heavily on the public sector for employment.
3. The Bank of England will begin to slowly raise interest rates. The mood of the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street will change and rates will go up, albeit slowly. Millions of home owners on tracker mortgages will need to tighten their belts a tad more, but savers’ moods will be lifted a little.
4. The Lib Dems will be punished by the electorate in May’s local elections. Labour will do well, as will the Tories. There will be calls for Nick Clegg to change course after the elections if things go badly for the yellows.
5. The referendum will be won by the No camp. Whether this is the right thing or not is debatable, but a split ‘Yes’ camp won’t inspire and the head of steam needed for change will be lost by the Royal Wedding a week before the vote itself.
6. There will be a public backlash against plans to cut the armed forces. Naval cuts will hurt Devonport especially and the sight of seeing frigates sold off, carriers go and ships tied up alongside will provoke strong anti-cuts feelings.
7. Mr Cameron will begin to lose his sparkle. If I’m honest DC has weathered the storms since May rather well (and much better than Nick Clegg). The Teflon coating will have rubbed off by the time 2011 begins though with his own Parliamentary party calling for more right-wing policies and cuts beginning to hurt. 2011 could be a tough year for the PM.
8. We haven’t heard the last of the student demonstrations – expect more West Country activists to be organizing protests and demos against the Coalition’s education cuts in the region and around Westminster.
9. Crime will go up in the West Country as police numbers are cut.
10. Plymouth Argyle will be saved from bankruptcy – and fans will have a larger role in the running of the club at long last. Putting a fan on the board will be an early step to win the backing of the Green Army for the club’s recovery plans.
Above all, 2011 will be about the economy. How the economy performs and whether the cuts will produce growth and new jobs will be the key questions. On that front we all need to keep our fingers crossed. Slipping back into recession will not only be a disaster for the government, it will be a disaster for each and every family in the nation and needs to be avoided at all costs.
On that cheerful note, Happy New Year – and remember you have until Tuesday, January 4 to avoid the VAT hike – happy spending!