Number crunching and party politics

On Saturday the predictable calls came from Labour supporting papers. Would I like to confirm that the Tories will cut 10% from budgets? Would I like to send a message to the Conservative leadership that they need to spell out more cuts? They had all the finesse and subtlety of an elephant in a living room. They might have well have asked , would I like to help Gordon Brown smear the Tories with his silly Mr 10% campaign?

It is pathetic that we are still stuck in this idiotic sound bite culture, where Mr Brown seriously believes he can frighten people from voting Conservative by continuing to fib that Tories want to sack teachers and nurses.His main reason for wanting Balls in place of Darling apparently was to have someone as Chancellor who would spend his time rubbishing the Opposition instead of tackling the serious productivity and deficit problems in the public sector.

Mr Lansley was attacked for pointing out the logic of Labour’s own spending plans – cuts of 7% in real terms overall, which would be bigger on other programmes if health and education are protected. We have seen in great detail how much money is wasted in Parliament itself in recent weeks. Now we are beginning to see how this is the tip of a big waste tip throughout the public sector, with too much money spent on needless items or wasteful ways of doing things. As readers of this site will know, the government’s wasteline has expanded, is expanding and needs to be pulled in. Evidence abounds of many things we need not spend money on, without touching a single teacher, nurse, doctor or policeman. Let the real debate begin. I have set out my list of easy targets for less spending. Let others make their contribtion.

In modern manufacturing quality control can mean as few as 100 parts per million going wrong. In the UK public sector error rates of 10,000 per million are commonplace, and in some parts of the benefit administration error rates can be several times this high level. No wonder so much money goes walk about.


  1. Freddy
    June 14, 2009

    “It is pathetic that we are still stuck in this idiotic sound bite culture, where Mr Brown seriously believes he can frighten people from voting Conservative by continuing to fib that Tories want to sack teachers and nurses.”

    Agreed. But is he right ?

  2. Robert George
    June 14, 2009

    If one set out to make a list of all the savings which could be made in government it would be a very long post. So I will suggest first rather than a specific saving an approach to the justification of expense.

    I would like to see the existence of every single government Quango or agency subject to a sunset clause which could be invoked by the responsible minister; if there is no need for it, get rid of it . There are hundreds of examples.

    The one specific saving I would like to see is the selling off and total disposal of the BBC. That might seem radical but in an internet age this monolithic broadcaster is an anachronism well past its use by date.

    Finally I think that British electors have woken up to the fact that Government has to be slimmed down and if Mr Brown thinks there are votes in scare tactics he is wrong. However you were correct at not rising to the obvious bait cast.

  3. Neil Craig
    June 14, 2009

    The Taxpayer’s alliance & many others on a smaller scale have pointed to over £100 billion that could be cut without harm (not all agreeing on which £100 billion). It shows how much the media are simply lobby fodder that they give these well thought out figures so little time.

    Since it would be wrong of you to rock the boat I think you could safely refer them to TPA & other figures, point out that government spending has gone up by £200 billion above inflation under Labour & that you cannot say definitely which particular parts of spending are useless or counterproductive until you have seen the books but that it is clear Labour we have not had that £200 billion of increased value. All of which is true. Then top it up by saying every single day Labour is in power they are borrowing £500 million, £6,000 annually from every wage packet & that if they are not going to make a 10% cut as they now appear to have promised, they intend national bankruptcy.

  4. Jonathan
    June 14, 2009

    What I don’t understand is why the Tories want to continue throwing vast sums of money at the NHS.

    The NHS is the fourth largest employer in the world. The output from these staff is nowhere near the fourth largest in the world.

    I’m sure if these doctors and nurses spent less time on form filling duties, and more on providing treatments to patients, we could use a lot less of them. That is to say nothing of the vast army of bureaucrats employed on non-productive tasks.

  5. Brian E.
    June 14, 2009

    The trouble is that there are so many Labour supporting non-tax payers that they don’t care if tax needs to rise to pay off the country’s debts. And a lot of the rest seem to think the extra tax will come from taxing someone else.
    The Tories need to make it clear to the non-thinking classes that there will either be cuts to unnecessary government services and inefficiency, whilst leaving the NHS and military untouched, or massive tax increases, which will effect everybody, under Labour.
    So far the Tories seem to be letting Labour make all the running.
    What about a list of Qangos and projects that could be ditched?

  6. Cliff.
    June 14, 2009

    I think we need to be more honest with the electorate!! Of course there will have to be cuts or of course, tax increases.
    The problem as I see it, is that public bodies always see their budgets as last year’s budget plus a percentage, here in the real world, business looks at their current budget and looks at ways to save money; The public sector must, at the very least, do the same. I cannot believe that, within such large organisations as the the NHS, local government, the justice system etc there cannot be efficiency savings made.

    Here’s something else for you to consider; If I went to my bank manager up to my neck in debt with minimal income and asked for a substantial loan to give away to charity, I am sure, despite being one of the new “government owned” banks, he would say no and send me away with a lecture about prudence and cutting my cloat according to my cloth. Why has Mr Cameron decided to match Labour’s foreign aid spending, given that Mr Brown has behaved like a crazed Aunt at a wedding with a big box of confetti in relation to handing out our money abroad?

    1. jean baker
      June 15, 2009

      David Cameron’s view of localized management and accountability in respect of all public services is basic economic sense.

  7. Stuart Fairney
    June 14, 2009

    It is truly amazing that the wider media let them get away with the nonsense of good Ol’ Labour benificent public spending, whilst completely ignoring our collosal debts. (You won’t hear the word sustainable in this debate).

    A restructuring of the public finance is inevitable whoever takes office in 12 months. To pretend otherwise is to lie.

  8. Lola
    June 14, 2009

    If I make ONE error in thousands of transactions – even if it is corrected and results in loss to anybody – a state bureaucrat turns up and fines me. Judge, jury and executioner. Deal with this!

    1. Lola
      June 15, 2009

      Opps – Corrceted version:–

      If I make ONE error in thousands of transactions – even if it is corrected and results in NO loss to anybody – a state bureaucrat turns up and fines me. Judge, jury and executioner. Deal with this!

      What a difference a word makes!

      Excuse – Flu.

  9. Mike Stallard
    June 14, 2009

    Comrade, I don’t think you understand modern economics.
    Allow me.
    Please repeat after me:

    “I negotiate efficiency savings in order to invest.

    “You cut, cut, cut so that you can remain a fat cat Tory in the Buller.

    “He, she or it are placed in a Commission to Look Into Possible “Expenditure Reforms under a Chair on a decent salary because we “want the best person possible.”

    1. Adrian Peirson
      June 15, 2009

      Eh ?

      1. Mike Stallard
        June 15, 2009

        Just read Boris Johnson in the Telegraph today!

  10. oldrightie
    June 14, 2009

    As ever, excellent. Still, now Lord of All is in charge, expect a long prison sentence, ere long, John?

  11. alan jutson
    June 14, 2009

    The sooner the Conservatives and the media nail this Labour “investment in the future” lie the better.

    The population need to be made aware, if they are not already, that this so called investment is more borrowing and more debt.

    The longer the delay in action to correct the overspending, the larger and more difficult the debt will be, to pay off.

    EG: Take some pain now, or more later, that is the real choice.

  12. marksany
    June 14, 2009

    John, it sounds like you are a fan of John Seddon, is this true? If not can I suggest you read “Systems thinking in the public sector” by Jon Seddon. Billions of potential savings with better service.

    What’s not to like?

    June 14, 2009

    Britain will be done a great service if the debate can be focused on government waste and spending rather than ‘cuts’ and ‘investment’.

    We’ve lost count of the times we have screamed at the tv screen when a minister boasts about the huge amount of OUR money he’s going to spend – or an opposition spokesman wriggles when confronted with Labour’s old chestnut of ‘Toty Cuts’.

    Why don’t they retort…”IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SPEND IT’S THE WAY THAT YOU SPEND IT” !!

    We all know that the way Labour spends our money is not the way any sensible businessman or housekeeper would budget and use hard-earned resources.


    June 14, 2009

    Oops – forget the Totty above (Gordon’s had quite enough of that in his cabinet!) and sub Tory…it’s been a long weekend!

  15. ManicBeancounter
    June 14, 2009

    Please do not be too upset about this Mr Redwood. The Labour Goverment is merely preparing itself for long period in opposition. Whenever, a member of the cabinet considers the Tory position before explaining their own, they should be congratulated on their corageous acceptance of the hopelessness of Labour’s current predicament. All that is needed is for someone to give the directions to the Prime Minister’s Chauffeur from No.10 to Buckingham Palace, as the poor Mr Brown seems incapable of giving direction.

  16. Adrian Peirson
    June 15, 2009

    They are statists, the believe that the state should control everything, the real problem with this is that it can, albeit propped up by massive soviet style inneficiency, corruption ate, but only at the point of a gun which is where we are moving to.

    The One worlders are going for Broke, they have to really, the game is up.

    Architects and Engineers
    Nanothermite, the Final Scientific nail in the Coffin.

  17. Mark M
    June 15, 2009

    Cameron may be Mr 10%, but Gordon Brown is Mr 12% – 12% of GDP budget deficits that is.

    However, Labour are going to bang on about public spending cuts. You need to be frank with them. Retort that you believe it is better for people to spend their money for themselves rather than the government confiscating it then spending it for them.

    Also point out that if governments really were better at deciding what to spend money on than private citizens are, then we would have lost the Cold War and we would be having this argument in Russia (hat-tip Dan Hannan for this last part).

  18. Magelec
    June 15, 2009

    Come the General Election the Tories should take a leaf out of New Labour’s book and say that they will keep to Labour’s spending plans for the first two years. That should keep Labour’s politicians quiet.

  19. ManicBeancounter
    June 15, 2009

    This post is excellent in that is highlights the potential savings that can be made from eliminating waste, improving productivity and reducing error. However, there is another area you might also consider – of spending priorities. Much money could be saved by eliminating or reducing in those areas that do not serve the public well, or which are not cost effective. Labour seem unable to make the important descisions about the priorities, and have run out of random ideas to fill the papers, so instead have turned their spinning skills to the guerilla tactics of an opposition party.

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