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October 06, 2006

Pollyanna on Budgeting

Yes, Polly goes into a tantrum about what the eeeevil Tories would do, slashing budgets, turfing the poor out on their ears and in general slashing the welfare state. Just a few minor points:

So what exactly would a Tory small state withdraw from? (No, "bureaucracy and waste" will not do as an answer.)

Why not? Is there anyone actually insane enough to think that there is no bureaucracy or waste in our current system? Out of the 520 billion planned for spending, there is not the odd 1%, 2% or so that is currently being wasted? Remember PJ O'Rourke's Law of Circumcison, you can take 10% off the top of absolutely anything.

How would they cut? It would be easier under the camouflage of "devolution", with lump sums handed over to local authorities to be allocated according to "local choice". When the funds fall short, the often mythical "community" can be blamed for its local "choices". It is depressingly fashionable with all parties, but devolution is essentially a rightwing policy allowing a postcode lottery of local decision-making to disguise the retreat of universal provision.

Silly girl. It isn't right wing to think that power should be devolved downwards. The UK is possibly the most centralized of the advanced states. Even your darling Sweden devolves huge amounts of such power (most especially the health and education systems) down to organizations of the size that can actually deal with things. This is simply Statist nonsense, that everything must be micromanaged from the centre.

To ask again:

So what exactly would a Tory small state withdraw from?

This is of course far too radical for the Tories but a sensible government would find the necessary 17 to 19 billion very easily indeed.

1) Abolish the DTI. 10 billion saved.
2) Leave the EU. 3 billion or so in net contributions saved (and rising strongly).
3) Adopt free trade. As Patrick Minford has pointed out, if we were outside the EU trade barriers (and even if we could not negotiate some form of free trade pact) this would lead to an immediate boost in the UK economy of some 2.5-3%, some 30 billion odd. Given the tax take on marginal activity (40% or so?) this is 12 billion.

There we go, 25 billion quid saved in three easy moves. What's so tough about that?

Update: Wonderful comment under Poll's article:

I understand that a paper would employ jounalists to provide Comment and Opinion, but what is the point of a Random Thought & Unsupported Hypothesis section?

October 6, 2006 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink


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"Is there anyone actually insane enough to think that there is no bureaucracy or waste in our current system?"

Is there anyone insane enough to think that someone whose only "real" job has been as a lying PR flack for a TV company that went down the tubes could differentiate "bureacracy and waste" from "appropriate staffing levels for executing vital procedures" ?

Tim adds: Certainly not me, no. I want Chris Dillow for PM anyway.

Posted by: dave heasman | Oct 6, 2006 11:18:48 AM

Find a list of all jobs paid for by the state and advetised in the guardian over the last 8 years

Remove from the budget of whatever government entity is paying them a sum equivalent to their wages plus benefits.

No idea how many millions it would save but I bet it would be rather a large sum and I sincerely doubt we'd miss the jobs they perform.

Posted by: Francis | Oct 6, 2006 11:20:41 AM

So do I Tim.

Posted by: dave heasman | Oct 6, 2006 11:45:20 AM

Bin the ID card project: billions saved.


Posted by: Kay Tie | Oct 6, 2006 12:17:20 PM

It is not too challenging to find many media reports of wasted government spending of taxpayers' money running into billions without having to go to extremes - such as abolishing the DTI, which the CBI opposes according to reports in the FT. To recap:

"Truancy rates in England's secondary schools rose by over 10% last year, according to government figures. Despite £900m spent on anti-truancy initiatives, the annual figures show the highest truancy rates since 1994."

"The government's flagship Sure Start programme is setting back the behaviour and development of young children in the most alienated households, according to the first big national evaluation of the scheme. Though the £3bn programme is benefiting some poor families, the government commissioned study published yesterday concluded that children of teenage mothers and unemployed or lone parents did worse in Sure Start areas than those in similarly deprived communities elsewhere."

"The government's tax credit system lost at least £460m two years ago because of mistakes, or fraud by claimants. The estimate is contained in an audit of the Revenue & Customs' accounts by the National Audit Office."

"The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has denounced the government's new tax credit system as a 'nightmare'. In their second report so far the MPs say tax credits have been routinely overpaid to 1.8 million claimants. The committee also claims that the system may be fatally undermined by its complexity."

"Billions of pounds are being wasted by government departments which have failed to learn the lessons of the past, a Commons committee has warned.

"'Basic errors are repeated time and again,' the Public Accounts Committee said, adding public services were marred by complexity and bureaucracy."

"NHS trusts in London have been warned that they will not be paid for treating extra patients if they reduce waiting lists too quickly."

"A NEW generation of hospitals will overshoot its original budget by at least £3.5 billion because of unrealistic planning and expensive delays, The Times has learnt. Most hospital projects are running at more than double their projected cost. The spiralling overspending is being blamed on a lack of financial scrutiny by the Government and local health trusts. The average bill for the 18 largest schemes under development has risen by 117 per cent. All of them started with budgets of at least £75 million."

"A multi-billion pound adult literacy and numeracy strategy has done little to improve standards, a report says. The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) looks likely to spend nearly £6bn on the Skills For Life programme. But the House of Commons public accounts committee says the first few years of the scheme have provided 'little evidence of improvements'."

"The government appears to have failed to achieve its already delayed target of ensuring that 85% of 11-year-olds leave primary school with adequate maths and English skills by 2006.

"The number of pupils leaving primary school with the required, level 4 English skills has risen by just 1%, to 80%, in English and by 1%, to 77%, in maths, according to the 40 local education authorities - out of 150 approached - who responded to a survey for the Independent."

"Academics have challenged ministers’ claims of improved pupil performance in national tests and GCSEs.

"Government research obtained by The TES compares the results of pupils in England with teenagers in other countries. The findings weaken ministers’ claims that pupils are getting better at English, maths and science. . . The analysis found evidence that pupils who had achieved average results in key stage 3 tests in English, maths and science and GCSEs performed worse in the 2003 tests than those in 2000."
Times Educational Supplement 18 August 2006

"A failed government scheme to offer UK university courses online has been branded a 'disgraceful waste' by MPs."

"A Labour MP has condemned a failed online degree scheme as a 'shameful waste' of tens of millions of pounds of public money. Dr Ian Gibson, who chairs the science and technology committee at the Commons, called the UK's e-university 'an absolute disaster'."

"More firms report skill shortages: The number of firms reporting IT skills shortages has gone up and the business consequences of the skills gap are worsening, according to the latest quarterly E-Skills UK ICT Inquiry":

Posted by: Bob B | Oct 6, 2006 12:46:15 PM

A large amount of money could be gained by forcing Polly to give the government a pound every time she says something stupid.

Posted by: sanbikinoriaon | Oct 6, 2006 12:47:11 PM