Conservative spending plans

David Cameron made an excellent speech yesterday, calling for a new approach to public spending. He called for value for money across all departments. He demanded a culture change at the top, where Ministers are rewarded for spending less, not encouraged to spend more. He wishes to see better schools and hospitals, and to strengthen important public services through more devolution of power and less expensive centralised meddling. He identified several examples of the cuts he wants to see elsewhere- Regional Assemblies, regional Planning quangos, ID cards, national databases, bloated advertising budgets, numbers of Spin doctors. It was on the money and about our money.

Some of his lieutenants then seemed stumped by the media asking the Labour question, What exactly would the Tories cut, as if David had not clearly set out yesterday and elsewhere many of the things he would do without in government. So for those collagues who have missed David’s speeches and statements on this crucial issue, I list below some of them so next time you can get through the interview by answering the question. The media too, might like to read the Conservative work on controlling spending, instead of parroting the new Labour lie that the Conservatives have failed to come up with any proposals.

1. ID cards and the National Identity database
2. New centralised NHS computing schemes
3. Regional assemblies
4. Regional Planning quangos
5. Reduction in the number of Special Advisers
6. Reduction in the number of MPs
7. Reduction in size of civil service through natural wastage
8. Reduction in Tax Credits to higher earners
9. Reform of welfare payments to put more people into work and off benefit
10 Cuts in government advertising budgets
11. Cuts in government purchasing of consultancy services – £4 billion of contracts currently out to tender
12. Cuts in MP expenses by reducing the number of items they can claim for
13 Removal of Learning and Skills Council bureaucracy
14 Removal of £1 billion plus overhead monitoring and interfering with local government from Whitehall
15 Accelerated sale of assets
16 Greater role for private finance in housing
17 Make future public sector pensions more affordable for taxpayers
Etc etc

Whatever we say Labour will both claim Conservatives have no ideas on how to cut spending, and that Conservatives intend to massacre essential services! Same old Labour lies.

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60 Comments

  1. Ian Jones
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Since Labour is following a scorched earth policy this year (spending up 7%!!!) it will take a huge amount of effort just to get back to 2007 levels.

    Trying to just cut at the margins wont get you anywhere.

    Its a massive mistake by Brown and is the best opportunity to radically energise the country’s economy since 1945!!! Get the mandate (from the IMF if need be) and break up the state!

    Lets get back to 19th century innovation!

  2. Mike Gill
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    There is one aspect of departmental budget culture that is ripe for reform, namely the highly inefficient March scramble to spend the remains of the years budget or lose out on next years budget

    Budget setting should be project-based and projected expenditure (and outcomes!) re-forecast monthly. This is private sector practise in even the smallest firms

    Remember the rule of thumb that the time of reaction to events is twice the forecast interval. Annual forecasting implies a two year reaction time that well characterises the “ship of state”

    • Chris p
      Posted April 27, 2009 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      The same system of budgetting applies across most if not all large charities. It is totally and utterly flawed. Effectively, the budget is spent to the last penny even if the charity has a growing deficit. The similarities of charities and government (in all its forms) are all to do with the culture that has been honed to perfection by the beaurocrats who infest these organisations.

  3. Colin D.
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Item 18: Renegotiate payments made to the EU. If we are all having to pull our belts in, then so can the bloated, corrupt and undemocratic EU.

    • Amanda
      Posted April 27, 2009 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Agree, this is a prime area for cutting expense and getting rid of unwanted and costly regulation that shackle business and innovation. The Tudors (Henry V111 and Elizabeth) put ‘two finger’s’ up to Catholic Europe and set us on a prosperous course; time the Conservatives took a lesson from the history books and did the same.

      And, this would show us that the Conservatives really do mean to ‘do something’ about the undemocratic EU.

  4. Simon D
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    It is important to go into the election with proper plans to cut public spending which are well understood by the public. The response of most individuals to the credit crunch has been to cut out non-essentials and to defer key purchases – such as postponing the acquisition of a new car. The calamity created by Labour means that good house keeping must now also apply to governments. The party is over.

    The main challenge is to make sure that the electorate understands that (a) there will have to be cuts and (b) the cuts won’t adversely affect key services such as the NHS. In fact, there will be a case for such essential services to be run more efficiently.

    Plans to reduce our preposterous army of MPs and peers will be extremely popular and should be part of the Conservative manifesto. So should plans to rationalise MP’s remuneration and a solution to the West Lothian question.

  5. richard b
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Perhaps colleagues of yours might also like to mention that Brown is, again, lying through his teeth.

    He tells us that the tories would cut essential public services. In a speech reported this weekend he said tories would”..cut, cut and cut again.” Images of starving nurses, coppers, etc, ensue. What Brown didn’t say is that Darling’s budget contains within it massive “efficiency savings” running into many billions with absolutely no detail whatever about where these cuts will fall. When your colleagues are asked what the tories will do – point out that we don’t yet even know what Labour will do – notwithstanding the fact that we’ve just had the budget.

  6. DennisA
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Usually it is the BBC that are highlighted for biased reporting, but I find no difference between any of them. This Channel 4 news e-mail is typical: Channel 4 News – Snowmail

    TORIES PROMISE CUTS
    “David Cameron is on stage at the Conservative Conference in Cheltenham and pulling a bit of a fast one. He’s claiming to have a list of things the Tories would cut – like ID cards and so forth. But surely cancelling something that has not happened is not the same thing as cutting something which exists. The important distinction seems to have been lost on the man who would be the next PM. So I shall be asking William Hague what the Tory government would really cut, what exists that should no longer exist and what we simply cannot afford any more.”

    A simple 30 second search brought these links, which I sent to Jon Snow:

    http://www.silicon.com/publicsector/0,3800010403,39157740,00.htm?sr=idcards

    “The London School of Economics estimates ID cards will cost up to £19bn over 10 years and that figure remains the only definitive public costing of the scheme to date, despite criticisms from the Home Office that it is flawed.”

    http://www.computerworlduk.com/management/government-law/public-sector/news/index.cfm?newsid=4224

    July 27, 2007

    “Spending on the government’s ID cards scheme has hit £72m, despite the fact that procurement on the project has still not begun. The long-delayed procurement for the £5.3bn ID cards programme stalled again just ahead of Gordon Brown becoming prime minister, with IPS chief executive James Hall admitting: “We’re not quite ready yet.” ”

    http://www.silicon.com/publicsector/0,3800010403,39186792,00.htm April 2008

    “The UK’s ID card scheme has helped fuel a 2,000 per cent hike in the cost of Home Office consultants – taking the bill up to £147m last year.

    Home Office spending on consultants shot up from £7.6m in 1997/98 to £147m in 2006/07, a period described by shadow home secretary David Davis as the “worst period in its 200-year history”.

    Spending on consultants within the Identity and Passport Service, responsible for realising the ID card scheme, increased from £237,000 to £30m during the same period.”

    http://www.computing.co.uk/computing/news/2241093/home-office-spending-7bn

    24 Apr 2009

    “The Home Office is currently undertaking £1.5bn-worth of IT projects in addition to the £4.7bn National Identity Scheme, it was revealed today.

    The department is spending £370m on a new immigration casework system due in 2015, £749m on the e-Borders system for tracking travellers into and out of the country, and £330m on building and operating a criminal vetting scheme for the civil service, due later this year.

    A further £12.4m is being spent on identity cards for foreign nationals and £41m on a shared services programme.

    In addition to the above projects, the Home Office is also the lead department for the cross-government Interception Modernisation Programme, announced by the prime minister in February 2008, which is currently under consultation.

    Reports have suggested that a communication database proposed as part of the scheme could cost up to £12bn.”

    Suffice to say that I had no comments in reply. These people are highly paid, so-called journalists, yet they are too lazy to do a brief “google” on the matters they are reporting.

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 27, 2009 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      Dennis
      They are not really interested in getting a proper brief.
      They are after headlines and sensatialism.
      They are very few good investigative journalists about, most are just PRESENTERS.
      Its what they are asked to do, they probably know some of the real facts and have some of their own opinions, but time constraints, political motivation by the programmers, and the culture of always looking on the negative side (a bit of an English/UK/British culture) keeps the story going.
      The media have an awful lot of responsibility to report the facts, sadly in many cases they do not, which is why G Brown has got away with borrowing, spending and curtailing our liberties for so long.
      The media has been spun, and they swallowed it hook, line and sinker.
      They are only now waking up to the fact, and do not like what they see, they will suffer like any other business with advertising revenues down, so they will have to make cuts eventually themselves.

      • brian kelly
        Posted April 27, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        On todays BBC’s ‘Today’ program they interviewed Harriet Harman [on equality legislation] and Jack Straw [Titan prisons] – I heard no contribution from any other party during the broadcast. At some point in the program James Naughtie made a minor gaffe when introducing an interviewee [saying ‘conservative’ rather than ‘conservationist’. He immediately corrected himself by a little joke ‘I must have been still thinking about MP’s expenses’ followed by guffaws in the background from Sarah Montague.

    • Simon D
      Posted April 27, 2009 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Snow knows perfectly well that, at government level, the country is living well above its means. There have to be cuts. The issue is prioritisation. What to cut, when to cut it and what to ring fence. Companies and individuals have to do this all the time.

      Channel 4 News has always struck me as very similar to the BBC – part of the broadcasting arm of New Labour. Snow plays perfectly in this scenario.

      Interestingly, the Conservatives will inherit not just a wrecked economy but a wrecked political system. The initial back story will be the implosion of the Labour Party. The second phase will be the annihilation of the Conservatives by the mainstream media. “Cuts” will play a major role in the annihilation process.

      • brian kelly
        Posted April 27, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        Channel 4 not so long ago needed govt funding of about £100m, I believe. I don’t know whether that is still a current issue. In so far as what a conservative govt, if elected, will face from sections of the media, will, I believe, depend very largely on the political and financial situation leading up to the election. If it is a deteriorating situation then the case will be overwhelming for radical change – and this is the scenario I hope will exist. The manner in which the BBC performs its public broadcasting duties will, I believe, be addressed – as will all the left leaning appointee ‘opinion formers’ heading up the multitude of quangos. The majority of voters – and growing by the day – are completely fed up to the teeth with Brown and his govt and cannot wait to see him go. You may remember the endlessly critical media reporting of Mrs Thatcher and her govt in the years after 1979 – it didn’t stop the conservatives being re-elected 3 times more – the electorate knew that by and large she was doing the right and necessary thing for the country and not for narrow partisan reasons.

  7. Robin
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Conservative MPs might also want to be remember that Gordon’s debt splurge will take 22 years, until 2032, to pay off under his plans.

    By 2032 India, China, Russia and Brazil will be far bigger players. the UK will be a relatively smaller player. The world will have changed and it won’t be cuts based forced on us by absolute Government debts, but a need to compete internationally meaning we will be restricted by international-relative Government debts.

    No matter which party you are from you cannot escape from the reality that public sector doesn’t need cuts to it’s management it need root and branch reform. Reform is not just needed to get over the current Labour Debt Crisis, but the UK needs to reform to be able to compete for standard of living internationally in future. If we can’t or don’t compete with countries like China and India our net tax will fall and fall again over time meaning cuts will be forced on us. Luxuries like over zealous health and saftey, pie in the sky schemes, police pledges and quangos will not be affordable.

    When you can’t afford it, Universal Rights will have to contract and be replaced by a fairer measure of who is deserving. Get used to it, we can’t afford otherwise.

    Next time you are asked about cuts tell them you don’t agree with cuts, but they will be forced on you by Gordon and international pressures. Tell your interviewer you won’t cut front line services but you will reformed and restructured management to cut costs.

  8. alan jutson
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    A good list John
    Sure there are many more areas of waste which can be highlighted when you get the real figures, and are then able to do a proper forensic examination of the accounts.
    Hope DC is listening to some of your thoughts.
    Think he is now starting to get passionate, and into the role of providing a real alternative.
    Let us hope that is the case, and not a false dawn.
    As a Country we cannot afford a false dawn.

    Reply: This is David’s list – mine is much longer!

  9. backofanenvelope
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Perhaps you could add up all these economies and tell us what they would amount to, if enacted today? I have a nasty feeling that in the context of a £200 billion borrowing requirement they will not even pay the interest.

    reply: On the contrary, the civil service , consultancies and structure of governemnt ones are very big, and increase each year as you implement.

  10. Posted April 27, 2009 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    “Removal of Learning and Skills Council bureaucracy”

    The LSC has already been dissolved and will cease to exist by 2010, having been replaced by three brand new quangos plus local authorities taking on a huge bulk of extra work.

    Only Labour could create a £10-billion-a-year quango a few years ago, only to take it to pieces once it started to do its job properly.

    Reply: Yes, my comment refers to LSC and its successors about to emerge.

  11. Posted April 27, 2009 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    The spending rot started a long time ago, but like other forms takes a little time to start spreading so rapidly that it kills or destroys the function of its host. The real trouble is that the mind set and operations of so much government at all levels is conditioned to spend now on the assumption that the future somehow will take care of itself (the fiction of economic growth) and any unseen costs will not matter. Like The Reformation, it is going to entail a long and painful period of mind change.

  12. Posted April 27, 2009 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    I am a self-employed Graphic Designer ( a proper one who researches and has a work ethic that ensures no short-cuts are taken) and am often asked to do a job cheaper than the quote provided. If the Tories are suggesting the same, then I am delighted….

    I have a margin that allows me to discount jobs I want, I call it insurance, it also insures me that jobs I don’t want have a value that makes it worth while if I get it, or hopefully enough to put off clients from taking me as their designer. One can help but think that from the private sector, there’s a “bit on top for luck” culture encouraged to make the job as expensive as possible. After all its not “their” money that’s being spent!

    Without doubt, the Labour Party don’t do competitive tendering. In these austere times, it should almost be promoted as being patriotic as doing ones bit for their community/country and be bartered down on the quotes. If you can’t do the job for 10% cheaper than quoted, then you shouldn’t be in the tendering process, if what’s being asked is unreasonable, then drop out of the deal. What shouldn’t happen is the deal done on the premise that you’ll do x,y and z, only to slice off bits to maintain the profit margin. This is what the Conservatives must ensure.

  13. Donna W
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Reduce the House of Lords. We need no more than 200 voting Lords attending Parliament, claiming daily allowances and all the other freebies they benefit from.

    There should be two classes of Lord created. Those whose title is simply honorific (and this can include the hereditary peers) who are being recognised for services to the country but who cannot attend Parliament, vote or claim expenses. And secondly, ‘Parliamentary Lords’ who attend the Upper Chamber and form part of Government. Their expenses should be reviewed.

    Cameron has proposed a 10% reduction in Westminister MPs. He should go further. As we now have Devolution a reduction of 25% would seem reasonable.

  14. Jonathan Cook
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I think that cutting Regional Assemblies may be a mistake – yes, they are a vast sink for money – but politically it could look or be twisted to sounds like an English attack on Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    • GeoffH
      Posted April 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Ugh? Those three have devolved government NOT Regional Assemblies which were a sop to English Nationalists and exist ONLY in England.

      So, how can abolishing uniquely English institutions be a an “attack on Wales, Scotland Northern Ireland”?

  15. Posted April 27, 2009 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    The only ones for which figures are given are 11 & 14 totaling £5 billion. I suspect the total would come to around £10 billion which is about £20 billion more than we would expect from Labour but still only a fraction of what is needed.

    The HSE has about 200,000 employees so axing the lot would sace about £20 billion & much more importantly the cost of regulations to the economy is usually taken as 20 times the cost of employing regulators so the extra economic capacity would be £400 billion. Since each 1% of GNP saves 72,000 lives a year & the HSE claims about 200 it is obvious that abolishing it would materiallly improve health & safety.

    There are other regualtory bodies to which the same applies.

  16. backofanenvelope
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    OK, but I would still be interested in the answer to my question!

    • Posted April 27, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Who knows?
      What are the real figures anyway? Can you honestly trust Government guesstimates? Look at the Olympics for heaven’s sake!
      The government is good at thinking in hundreds of billions. Millions are just small change now. So I think there could be the most enormous savings made.
      The thing that shocks me is that the banks are still there waiting to implode.
      Just one bank can bring us to the angry and cold level of Iceland.
      (And no, I do not mean Bejam!)
      Selling them off in bits might make a very good start.

  17. michael, islington
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Ditto with backofenvelope on this one.

    Your list isn’t going to deliver the big savings. Ok, I’ll buy the id card and perhaps the NHS computer system.

    But the civil service headcount and public sector pensions? They’ve got history on their side – useless bureaucracy survives us all.

  18. John Moss
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    We also need to make the case for a culture change to drive efficiency.

    In education, we propose to give parents the funding rather than schools. This ought to create a dynamic, competitive model which, over time, will produce innovation and investment to reduce cost, or deliver more for the same money.

    Extending this to primary schools and universities ought to see a few billions removed form the planned growthin expenditure in these fields.

    There is no reason why a similar approach in housing, social care and even mainstream healthcare could not produce a similarly dynamic environment.

    In short, fund the people and let the market do the work!

  19. robert
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    A Cabinet minister needs to be appointed with a specific brief to cut the size of government. Redwood seems a good candidate! Every minister has to have his budget approved by this minister before it is considered by cabinet.

    Numerous Quangos should be demolished by introducing a sunshine clause which if not renewed regularly means they automatically lapse

    The public service needs an aggregate target to cut numbers by a minimum of 500,000 during the life of the next parliament. No bonus’ to be paid to any public servant if any department (including departments over which they have no control) fails to meet its target. That might change the culture. Any head of department who fails to meet his quota of budget cuts to have his personal base salary reduced by 40%

    All existing Public service final salary pension funds to be closed and in future replaced wjth funds dependent on actual results. The capital of the individual contributor to remain his.

    MPs to be reduced by 150 given say 400,000 to 500,000 GBP per annum each and to get no other pay, perk, pension or expense of any description whatsoever. They can spend the money on whatever they like but they have to publish a set of audited accounts annually.

    Of course one or two may be a tad difficult politically but the problem is not new.

    ” The National budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreigners must be reduced, if the nation does not want to go bankrupt. People must learn to work instead of living on public assistance”

    Cicero 55 BC.

    Reply: We have the Cabinet system to control spending. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury is meant to control it. Unfortunately Miss Cooper does not seem to know how to.

    • robert
      Posted April 28, 2009 at 12:29 am | Permalink

      I note that Miss Cooper has the responsibility for controlling expenditure but she does not have the technical skills, nor bluntly, the required stature with her fellow ministers to get the job done.

      This task is so important given Britain’s level of debt that it needs to be given to a tough, experienced heavyweight who bluntly has the ability, capacity and political capital to intimidate his cabinet colleagues.

      If done well the occupant of this position will be the most detested man in the ministry but also its key to success. And given the financial disasters of Brown it is essential that this task is carried out with the 100% support of the next PM.

  20. Roberta Denso
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    In the county where I live my local area has a County Councillor and two District Councillors in addition to their under worked MP and MEP managers. Why are there two District Councillors with annual expenses of £15K serving such a small area?

    Identity cards, these are an EU Directive requirement therefore leaving the EU will resolve this issue.

    • SJB
      Posted April 27, 2009 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      What is the EU directive called, Roberta?

      My understanding is that the UK is building a National Identity Register. The UK ID card will hold and retain far more information than those on the continent – which seems unlikely if the proposal originated from Brussels.

  21. Michael Taylor
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Should be able to get a couple of quid for the BBC too.

  22. Posted April 27, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    An excellent list. You say it’s DC’s. Does your longer one include saving on renegotiating our relationship with the EU. If not, why not? And please don’t forget massive cuts are needed in expenditure to cut carbon emissions. Global temperatures have not risen for 10 years now. Christopher Booker should be taken on as an adviser in place of Zac Goldsmith

    Reply: Yes my list includes the EU – see my Sunday Express article

  23. Posted April 27, 2009 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    The media too, might like to read the Conservative work on controlling spending, instead of parroting the new Labour lie that the Conservatives have failed to come up with any proposals.

    The MSM parroting of Labour lies has made a vast contribution to the mess we are in.

  24. DavefromLuton
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I would add to the list:-
    Reform of local/central government pensions
    Scrap Trident and the two proposed aircraft carriers
    Privatise the BBC including the biased PC nonsense that is now the BBC World Service

    • andy dan
      Posted April 27, 2009 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      I agree with your first and last proposals Dave, but I think the aircraft carriers are a good project. A lot of proper engineering companies in this country will rely on the work generated by this order. Carriers will have to be built one day, and they might as well be done now by us, rather than bought from someone else down the line, like the nuclear power stations. We shouldn’t sacrifice engineering technology in the cuts that have to be made.

  25. Posted April 27, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Pull in the reins in IT spending. The received view is that IT is supposed to help *increase* efficiency, not create an horrendous sink for public funds.

  26. Ruth
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I’m pleased to see the Learning and Skills Council on the list, though I must have missed David Cameron mentioning this.

    When I did a “proper” 9-5 job (as opposed to being self-employed) in a big firm, I was invited to sit on one of the LSC sector specific boards. I thought the LSC could be really helpful in moving forward the modernisation of our industry, but boy, was I wrong.

    In the two years or so I was involved we achieved nothing, and I do mean nothing. It took two years to come close to a definition of what our industry did, but we didn’t quite get it agreed by the time I left. It was so bad the chap employed to work on this full time gave up in disgust and went off to do a proper job. The chairman of our board was useless, clueless, didn’t understand the industry and the man above him was no better. It was dominated by people from very narrow sectors of the industry who viewed everything from their own experience and there was no leadership at the top.

    The people who turned up for the meetings spent the time and expense money of their employers (private sector) in attending and for what? If we couldn’t agree on what our industry did, what hope was there for developing new qualifications to improve the skills of our people?

    I sighed, went back to my company and just did what needed to be done in my own business. We laid the framework for skills and new qualifications in the industry – maybe one day the LSC will notice? Or then again, maybe it will get abolished, not a day too soon.

  27. A. Sedgwick
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    A dramatic simplification of the income tax system is urgently needed for individuals and business. Nigel Lawson made a start in the 1980s but the process was overwhelmed by the EU dogfights. I could go on at length, but the fewer and more straightforward the better with limited allowances apart from a sizeable personal allowance taking the low paid and many pensioners totally out of tax. Many would say that tax credits are wrong headed, and if transparency is the new mantra for politicians it is time N.I. contributions were absorbed into income tax.

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 27, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      A Segwick
      Agree entirely.

  28. Janet Child
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if another area of massive spending could be re-examined as world conditions are vastly different from the days of the cold war ie defence spending. It seems increasingly irrelevant to possess hugely expensive weaponery and defences which will never be used; specifically nuclear weapons of all kinds. Our threats nowadays appear to come from small terrorist groups not the large superpowers.

    Also huge savings could be reaped from a simplification of existing taxation and social security systems which have grown increasingly and unnecessarily complicated over the years with a correspondingly huge administration. I have believed for a number of years that this hugely inflated and non-productive state serves only to keep the unemployment figures down. A lot of the present system involves taking with one hand and giving back with the other; tax credits etc. I like the lib dems idea of taking the poorest out of the tax system altogether by increasing personal allowances to £10K. This would cut down on a lot of admin at a stroke.

    It’s time for a complete and holistic look at spending and for a complete overhaul in light of current world conditions not just tinkering at the edges.

    • Posted April 27, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Meanwhile our troops are totally humiliated in Iraq – they were actually asked to leave by the government!
      Now they are being totally humiliated in Afghanistan. They take towns which are then overrun and retaken by the Americans who are coming to despise us.
      Even my (Colonel) brother refers to “what used to be the British Army”.

      • brian kelly
        Posted April 27, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        I completely agree with you. Some months ago there was a TV program about an army unit, with a reporter embedded, going out into Helmand Province to clear villages of the enemy. It was a very interesting program. Our soldiers are magnificent and I feel very proud of them but I have never felt such growing despair and disgust at their mission in Afghanistan. The units arrive in a village – and by and large they are not wanted by the inhabitants as it just causes problems for them. For they know, after some fighting we will drive the enemy out – move on to another location – and the enemy will be back the next day. From the evidence of that program what on earth is the purpose.

  29. Mark m
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    John

    I have recently been looking at the link between ‘State Dependency’ (the number of people dependent on the state for income – calculated as unemployed plus state employed) and government expenditure. The lowest recent levels of state dependence were achieved between 1997 and 2001 (at just under 7m people), exactly the same time Labour were running a surplus following Tory spending plans.

    In your opinion then, would one aim of a Conservative government be to encourage more private enterprise and employment and thus reduce the burden on the state from nearly 8m people, as it stood at the end of 2008? If so, how would you go about this?

  30. Adam Collyer
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    A reduction in tax credits to higher earners would just make the already punitive marginal tax rates in this country even worse.

    One simple administrative cost save would be to abolish the “basic family element” of the tax credit system (that’s the amount that everybody gets unless they earn over £50,000) and give that benefit via child benefit instead. Astonishingly, more than 2 million tax credit claimants only get that basic element, so they would be taken out of the system altogether.

    Actually, the whole tax credit system is a fiasco, and has been ever since Gordon Brown created it.

  31. Mike Wilson
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    A relative of mine has worked in local government – for a local council. The council is conservative controlled. I am puzzled by all this talk now of cost cutting, getting value for money etc. Why has this not happened before?

    In the council my relative worked for, there is no culture whatsoever of attempting to provide value for money or control costs. Indeed, when trying to shop around to look for better prices for stationery, my relative was asked by his boss why he was ‘wasting his time on that’. In fact, whenever more rigorous tendering processes were suggested, or, in fact, any suggestion that involved working more efficiently or, heaven forbid, saving taxpayers’ money – there was a culture of ‘we don’t want to do that – our budget will be cut next year’.

    This culture, surely, at last – after decades of waste – must be brought to an end. Why are there no incentives in place to reduce the amount spent each year? If chief executives were paid 20k a year – plus 10k for every 500k they knocked off their budget – we’d soon see efficiency savings.

    The private sector has to do it all the time – it is high time in happened in local government. Why not start with a root and branch review of the way your local council operates?

  32. Mike Wilson
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Actually, come to think of it – if the conservatives are the party of ‘small government’ why isn’t it a simple and established fact that conservative councils deliver services for less money than labour councils?

    There is a suggestion that excessive salaries now paid in the public sector will be curbed.

    Is there a list of councils which have the highest wage bill – per role?

    Is it the case that in general, for similar or equal roles, conservative councils pay less, and have lower costs than, Labour councils?

  33. Janet Child
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    A number of people on here today have pointed out how there is no incentive to save money within departments because the following years’ budget would then be reduced.

    Under the present system the only incentive is to increase spending as much as possible and to increase the numbers employed in the department ie “empire build” as that means a justified pay rise/promotion for the department head and for those higher up the heirarchy. This leads to the ludicrous position whereby the heads of quite a few organisations (local government CEOs; quango chiefs etc)earn more than the prime minister (for less responsibility). This is the exact opposite of what is needed.

    Also in my experience with regard to working parties/charity management committees etc many of those involved do it solely as something to put on their CV and as a way to skive off from the proper job!

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted April 27, 2009 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      I agree with your observations … but something interests me … if some government really did wield the axe and, not only remove the jobs the current government have created, but also (for example) cut another million from the public sector payroll, what on earth would those 2 million people do for a living?

    • Adrian Peirson
      Posted April 27, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

      You could start Growing your own food and generating your own Power, however I’d be willing to bet money this Totalitarian Govt would introduce legislation preventing it.
      They want ABSOLUTE AND TOTAL Control, I know exactly where they are leading us.

      I also know they will fail.

  34. Posted April 27, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    At last!
    The message that there is hope is getting through.
    I have just read the thread down to here and, although there is still a lot of hate for this appallingly corrupt and inefficient, selfish government, the fact that the Conservatives are offering reform brings out the best in us.
    “Yes We Can!”
    The excellent thing is that, before the final crunch happened, it was the Conservatives that brought up the good ideas and the Labour that pinched them.
    Now this is beginning to happen again and I, for one, am getting excited.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted April 27, 2009 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      But if the Conservatives are so much better than Labour, if they believe iin small government, efficiency etc – why are conservative councils just as useless as Labour councils?

      It all sounds like talk to me. If it weren’t talk, conservative councils would shine out as a beacon of efficiency … it costs the typical conservative council £82 to manage a planning application … it costs the typical Labour council £125 to manage a planning application etc.

      But we never see or hear figures like that.

      Why not?

      • Ian Jones
        Posted April 28, 2009 at 1:48 am | Permalink

        Remove the central Govt grant and let local authorities collect all the tax money locally. This would highlight the differences between councils as the Labour ones get more Govt money so hide their inefficiency!

        • Mike Wilson
          Posted April 28, 2009 at 7:12 am | Permalink

          Yes, but if conservative councils really are more efficient … why aren’t they saying …

          ‘We’ (conservative council) have 100,000 residents – and get 30 million from central government and raise 30 million ourselves.

          ‘They’ (Labour council) have 100,000 residents – and get 40 million from central government and raise 20 million themselves.

          We are 33% more efficient than them.

          … but you never hear figures like this. I can only assume conservative councils are not more efficient. I have some knowledge of my local conservative council – efficient they are not. Imbued with the typical – we must spend all our budget philosophy – they are.

  35. Mark Williams
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Item: “Reduction in size of civil service through natural wastage”

    Why wait for people to leave? Either are too many or there aren’t. If there are too many fire the surplus.

    • Ian Jones
      Posted April 28, 2009 at 1:49 am | Permalink

      Agreed, privatise large swathes of the civil service. Real incentive to cut heads then, well if Harman’s equality bill hasn’t banned it (unless male, white and middle class of course!).

  36. Posted April 27, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Although the Conservative’s proposals are far more extensive than those of the Labour party, they will have a limited impact on the size of the deficit. Furthermore, they will not be fully achieved.

    To go beyond cutting out the unnecessary, the Conservatives need to look at getting better value for money. The massive increases in expenditure in have mostly achieved a much larger cost base (and even larger long-term commitments), with a much smaller increase in output. In other words, productivity has massively decreased. There is a ratchet effect with lots of these expenditure increases, in particular with salary increases.

    There Conservatives must therefore strive for the following
    1. Emphasize that public services exist to serve the public. Responsible stewardship of a nation’s finances means improving quality, and improving value.
    2. That fixed, monolithic, structures have always been a costly means of delivery. More importantly they are a hindrance to creative approaches that can deliver continuous improvements. Much better is for the state to become a funder of a plurality of approaches to enable the best solutions to emerge.
    3. Detailed rules are an anathema to delivering creative solutions. It is far more important for central government to provide the structure of service provision, than with detailed meddling in every aspect. The Conservatives should get away from being so mired in the detail that they cannot see the general picture; or so engulfed in the minutiae of government that they have too little time, or energy, for making the strategic decisions.

  37. backofanenvelope
    Posted April 28, 2009 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    I come back to my request for some idea of the total saving of Mr Cameron’s list – assuming they are all actually carried out. I speculated that they wouldn’t even pay the interest on the government debt. I see that “Burning Our Money” estimates £43 billion pounds interest next year – at least!

  38. STAN FRANCIS
    Posted April 28, 2009 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    “David Cameron made an excellent speech yesterday, calling for a new approach to public spending. He called for value for money across all departments.”
    He needs to tell it to Bromsgrove and Worcs County Council that gives us 4.5% increase against the 1.9% norm, he needs to tell them that we don’t like paying extra for our garden refuse to be collected at £30.00 extra…Get the council’s that you have in your port folio working for and not against the people and then, just perhaps then you may be ready for central gov’t?…succinct and to the point?

  39. D Hope
    Posted April 28, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Well sadly at looks as though the message has not got through just yet. Times comment today: “The Tory leader talks about the importance of thrift but he will not say what he would do to tackle the deficit if he were in No 10. He claims that he will be tough on public spending without specifying what he would cut. Again there is a lack of transparency.”
    Comments like this are effectively lies whether by laziness or an unwillingness to find out the truth or by a desire to put down the Conservatives. Whatever it is, it is bad journalism!

  40. Posted September 4, 2014 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Ɍeal good іnfo can bе found on weblog . “The fundamental defect of fathers is that they want their children to be a credit to them.” by Bertrand Russell.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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