Anyone within drinking distance of a newsroom on 20 October would have felt the palpitations of the journalists within as they geared up for the Comprehensive Spending Review.
As 12.30pm approached, hacks everywhere were hunched over their monitors, speakers on loud, waiting for George Osborne to start giving us some hard and fast news – not only on what spending had been reviewed, but what comprehensive plans he had to reduce government spending. And we got £81bn in cuts that mostly affect the public sector, hitting local councils the hardest.
Now, us journalists get a deluge of press releases through our inbox in the minutes and hours after the review from a range of business groups and accounting firms to let us know what they think of the announcements (and they’re hoping to get some coverage themselves).
And the one that summed up what the spending review actually means for business came from the National Outsourcing Association: it is positively drooling over the volume of new business it expects its subjects to get off the back of some 490,000 public sector jobs being eliminated.
Which reminded me of the conversation over who will take up the Audit Commission’s job: yup, the good ol’ boys from the Big Four are widely expected to lap it up. For sure, we won’t really know what is going to happen to make the spending review announcements real. But one thing seems clear. Osborne has given the public sector no choice but to give chunks of its work to business. We’d better be ready.