Things government should not do – Part 1

George Osborne has called for a debate on the limits to what the state should do. I hope he will be inundated with people’s views on all the needless interventions, meddlesome actions and over the top spending which has characterised national and some local government in recent years. It is difficult to know where to begin.

Today I propose a new approach to business. Government should stop the cash and cut the interference.

The last government in its final years went back to the 1970s, intervening , subsidising and trying to pick winners or stop losers on a grand scale. On its own underestimates it spent £120 billion on clumsy support for banks. It subsidised car manufacture. It spawned a whole host of small schemes to offer consultancy, advice and guidance and to reward certain types of technology or “new” undertakings. The result of all this was the worst recession we have lived through since the 1930s, and no evidence of a robust recovery led by the winners of the future that Labour so craved to create. Its regional policy was no more successful either. The more it spent in the poorer regions, the more they fell behind.

The new government has to sort out the dreadful banking inheritance. I argued at the time against nationalisation of the banks in difficulty. Labour stupidly replied that I wanted them to go under, refusing to see the true alternative – offering short term loans and guarantees for collateral and forcing major restructuring of banks at risk to reduce their liabilities and bring in new private sector capital. We now have to undertake that review of the nationalised banking estate, and get it into a shape which can lead to early sale of the assets and a better structure of banking in the UK.

The business consultancy, guidance and related schemes should be offered to the private market. If the work the quangos and civil servants do in these areas is valued, then let it be done in the private sector by them using private money to finance it. If it is not valued, then let’s close it down.

Let’s shut the RDAs, as we have often argued together on this site. In return for cutting cash to business, let’s cut costs for business at the same time. That means a substantial programme of deregulation using Nick Clegg’s Bill as the early legislative vehicle. I put in my letter to Mr Clegg some of the measures I would repeal which would cut business costs. Whitehall should set itself the target of cutting business costs of responding to regulation by say, £5 billion a year, which is as good as a tax cut. It would make a direct contribution to improving UK competitiveness and therefore creating more jobs. Start by scrapping the ludicrous Money laundering procedures which seem to be based on the belief that money launderers do not have utility bills and passports. Move on to the working time or anti overtime regulations.

Over to you for more ideas.

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133 Comments

  1. Neil Thorneycroft
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    John,

    Have you come across the book “Lean Thinking. Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation” by Womack and Jones.

    I think it could have great implications for British Industry and charity sector.

    I always enjoy your interventions,

    Regards Neil Thorneycroft

  2. Rollo Clifford
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Could not agree more re money laundering – if visitors to this site had a fiver for each time we've sent pport and ubill it would be gold plated!

    • BillyB
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      Entirely agree… and where is the evidence that all this extra workload has achieved ANYTHING? has it stopped any crime, recovered shedloads of money? It has certainly pushed huge costs onto businesses and inconvenience on to everyone.

      get rid.

  3. Nick
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Scrap the Lords. They are just a quango.

    It costs us 2,000 pounds a minute, 2,000 pounds when a lord turns up (which is frequent). They make very few amendments.

    Total savings over the next five years of getting on for 700 million.

    (115 million a year, of borrowed money)

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      I do think we need a bi-cameral legislature, some of the more intelligent points in recent years have been made in the Lords, such as the defeats to the various efforts to extend pre-trial detention.

      • Nick
        Posted June 8, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        At what cost?

        They only made 2,000 amendments in a huge swathe of legislation. Of those 2,000 the vast majority was the government correcting its own cock ups.

        When you are paying a house for a couple of senteces, its time to cut and run.

        Lots of other countries have single chamber governments without an issue.

        We don't need new legislation. More laws good? I think not. Most of it is European.

        Then there is the fraud. They haven't done a thing about expenses bar an inquiry that was made a state secret. Why?

        Lets axe it. Let MPs do a proper scrutiny role in the HoC.

        Ideally lets have referenda by proxy as the replacement. At a cost of 20 million a year, it saves money and gives the public a vote on the issues, not a vote on the next fraudster.

        Nick

        • APL
          Posted June 9, 2010 at 9:05 am | Permalink

          Nick: "They only made 2,000 amendments in a huge swathe of legislation. Of those 2,000 the vast majority was the government correcting its own cock ups."

          Your solution is to those 2000 amendments is to let the legislation get on to the statute book without further scrutiny in its original crappy drafting?

          You are also talking about the Blair incarnation of the second chamber. That by itself was radically different from the pre Blair Lords.

          In any case it is agreed, it cannot go on like this. My objection is that in it's current form it is another means for politicians to (influence in questionable ways-ed) the political process.

          We need a second chamber and it ought in my opinion to operate on a different electoral cycle to the existing HoC.

        • APL
          Posted June 9, 2010 at 9:08 am | Permalink

          Nick: "Ideally lets have referenda by proxy as the replacement."

          That is exactly what the HoC is. What it the point of a ref. by proxy?

    • APL
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      Yes please, a bicameral Parliament.

      But increasingly the abuse of stuffing the Lords with politicians ex politico chums, is turning the place into a rotten bourough.

      The whole think needs to be purged.

      Look who has been elevated to the Lords recently:

      Kinnock ( a failure at anything but (working in-ed) the EU for the benefit of his family)

      Michael Martin ( a failure at anything but (claiming-ed) Parliamentary expenses and failing to oversee expenses of other members )

      and now to add insult to injury there is talk that John Prescott might be elevated to the Lords too.

      An elected second chamber with a ten year term is my suggestion.

  4. George
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Dear John

    I m a life long Tory, but in the past did not warm to your public persona. I hope you don't find it too inappropriate to say that having read your blog for a while I have been really impressed with your intellectual and measured commentary.

    I sincerely hope you continue to raise the level of debate and that you can find a place and a voice in the new coalition.

    Your new fan
    George

    • Johnny Norfolk
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:47 am | Permalink

      I have always been a supporter of JR. and have abhored the way the BBC has just poked fun at him over the years. What his blog has done has removed the image that the BBC created and allowed him to speak for himself. Most people that read his blog have the greatest respect for his thoughts and ideas. Long may he continue and i just hope the new government gives him a leading part in the drive to cut cost and waste.

      The BBC did the same to Portillo.

  5. PHM
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    RDAs are make-work programmes for white collar friends of the government. they should be abolished with much else.

    Nobody needs government consultancy on business – i mean how ridiculous is that; esp when government is typically the worst and least critical buyer of consultancy services themselves.

    where the government can help is infrastructure: education; rail; roads; as in australia – regional / national broadband. these are the things that help businesses; that help regeneration in the regions; that can allow people to create and to grow their business.

    • A. T.
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      I've founded and run a high-tech start-up. I agree with you 100%.

  6. alan jutson
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    A good start John.

    How about having just one Department that deals with ALL types of Benefit claims, tax credits, etc, and at the same time put an absolute limit on the amount of Benefit any one family or person could receive.

    The amount:
    No more than the average wage.

    At the moment we have a situation where many different Government Departments and the Local Authorities get involved with all sorts of complicated calculations, paperwork and the like just to redistribute and circulate money at enormous cost.

    Many people do not understand the current system, many Benefits depend upon receipt of some other form of subsidy, claim or payment. Many Benefits are negated or not allowed due to other claims of other Benefits elsewhere in the system.

    Result, a system that is hugely costly to administer, is unfair in many ways, paying some people too much (then in some cases asking for clawbacks) paying many too little, and for some too complicated to even claim what is justifiably theirs.

    Clearly the nonesense of the system that DC highlighted in his speech yesterday of paying a family £93,000 per year in housing allowance simply has to stop, who the hell is going to go to work to save to purchase a property, or rent at normal rates, when this sort of subsidy is being paid, probably along with other benefits. Many cases have been highlighted in the Press over the years.

    With Benefits being paid tax free, the incentive to work for some is absolutely NIL.

    The Tax system is too complicated and needs a reform and simplification.
    National Insurance should be merged with income tax, as it is a tax based on earnings.
    The Benefits system is too complicated and needs a reform and simplification.

    Tax take (personal allowance) should start at a higher level of earnings (suggest half the average national wage), and be indexed each year to that average wage.

    • Janet
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      hear hear

    • IJ
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Well said on the max. benefits. I fail to see why anyone gets more than the basic amount, how come some single mothers in London receive 100K+ in benefits.

  7. Norman
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    A churlish answer, but I believe the government should protect our borders and maintain law and order (I'd include child protection services in this category too).

    Anything else, in my opinion, we can manage perfectly well ourselves without interference from you and your colleagues.

    I realise we're waaaaay too far down the road of socialism now for anything like small government to happen in my lifetime but I can dream.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      If enough of us vote for a party offering small government, we can have it. The major parties rely on despair and inertia.

  8. Stuart Fairney
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Can we introduce tax competition between local authorities by making them solely and exclusively responsible for their own revenue collection and spending (i.e. keep the UBR) and statutory obligations so they can do as much or as little as they choose. Many people imagine this to be the case at the moment anyway, so it could be politically easy.

    Hence when the good citizens of Basingstoke come to their senses and appoint me leader of the council (!) I can then set UBR at zero and end local involuntary unemployment.

    • A. T.
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Useful point. Responsibility for any item should be at the same level at which the tax is raised to fund that item. It's then democratically accountable. Taxation vs. representation, and all that.

    • nonny mouse
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      I used to be a good citizen of Tadley. Does that come under Basingstoke?

      Sadly I dont live there anymore so I cant help.

  9. Jim Pearson
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Europe

    Just one word, but the route of much of our ills.

    • APL
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      Jim Pearson: [Europe] the route of much of our ills.

      In principle Jim I agree. I would just say that I think you mean the European Union the political construct, rather than Europe the geographical entity.

    • James Clover
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      Root? EU is cause, presumaby, rather than the direction of our "ills"?
      Anyway, I don't agree. It's a waste of money, but the cause of our problems is an over-ambitious Welfare State.

      • Jim Pearson
        Posted June 9, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        I agree that welfare reform is urgently overdue, but it is the strange need for gold-plating of EU laws that is most unnecessary. This is the route the country has been on, and unless we stop, I feel we'll be over-burdened. Directives and Laws from Brussels or Strasbourg just over complicate our lives and are often detrimental to British business.

  10. Sally C.
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    As you say, where to start. Completely agree about the RDA's. Labour governments think that everyone loves lots of layers of government as much as they do. Most people are too busy getting on with their own lives to bother about yet another layer of government. RDA's are a waste of time, space and money.

    If the police can afford a fleet of Jaguar XFs they are receiving too much money.

    Re that sacred cow, the NHS – hospitals should be able to set their own salary levels for staff and not have their hands tied by the rigid grade system. If they could set their own salary levels, some salaries might well come down. GIven that doctors in Eastern Europe are paid a pittance by comparison with the grade pay levels here, we will not be suffering a shortage of doctors any time soon.

    Also, any public sector staff earning more than say £50,000 a year should have to organise their own private pension schemes and any publicly funded pension schemes should have expected income levels capped.

    • Peter Turner
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      The last time the Tories were in power they introduced the concept of the Hospital Trust where such hospitals more or less ran themselves, determined salary levels as opposed to Whitley Council Scales and provided a breath of fresh air/freedom into the working environment. The Tories also went along with the introduction of Fund Holding General Practice, another idea which seemed to catch on. Unfortunately, all these radical attempts at changing the NHS and its culture were abandoned where Labour got into power. I think they should be reconsidered and possibly be taken further.

    • simon
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Sally ,

      I think you are making the classic mistake with regards to public sector pensions .

      It is contriibutions levels not income levels which should be capped .

      Public sector pensions must become defined contribution .

      Any modified defined benefits scheme is a kludge , don't you think ?

    • Newton Aycliffe
      Posted June 10, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      Eastern European Doctors are not the answer – why not import Chinese Doctors or African Politicians?

      Nurses salaries are also pretty generous and often higher than medics for same experience in NHS.

  11. David J
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I thought the money laundering checks were required by EU directives. How are you going to get round that? Oh, leave the EU – yes I'll support that.

    • Martin
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      I suspect you are half right here. There are EU laws but we usually go way over the top with paperwork and enforcement. A visit to other EU countries often reveals a more sensible approach.

      Last winter a lot of our schools were closed allegedly because of snow and EU health & safety rules. However schools in Denmark, Sweden, Finland (all EU members) were not closed a the first sight of a snow flake!

  12. oldtimer
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Cut out subsidies for wind farms.

    • BillyB
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      and make the Nuclear operators pay their own decommissioning costs!

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      And thus cut out wind farms ~ well said.

    • Tedgo
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      I agree, then we will see whether they are really economically viable, I am sure they are not.

      Equally operators of wind farms should also contribute each year to a central fund to cover the cost of decommissioning when they fall into disrepair. Someone will have to remove these eyesores and it should not be at the taxpayers expense.

      • Andy
        Posted June 9, 2010 at 7:21 am | Permalink

        Wind farms are not eyesores, they are beautiful. I would much rather have a view of a wind farm than a traditional power station.

  13. Alan Wheatley
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Within the Department for Transport, scrap the THINK CAMPAIGN, responsible for littering our roads with posters that are at best useless and at worst counter-productive to road safety.

    Their objective is to help cut road deaths by 2010; well time is up, and I bet they can not show one jot of success.

    • BillyB
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Actually I think the Uk is doing quite well on reducing road deaths
      http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=12

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        But there is no evidence that the Think campaign makes any contribution.

      • Mark
        Posted June 10, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

        The previous government had the target of making Britain's roads the safest in the world – a quite ridiculous aim given our topography and population density that quite ignored the idea that even at the level of saving lives there is a long way further to go in the NHS than there is in road accidents. Moreover, such levels of safety on the roads are now contributing to deaths because of delays to emergency services that exceed the deaths saved by the road safety measures (humps, low speed limits etc.) . That is before we even begin to consider the economic costs of the measures for implementation, as well as other economic consequences of slowing down traffic, increasing pollution due to lower traffic speeds and diverted journeys.

    • simon
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      The number of motorcyclists killed by car drivers lack of observation went down .

      This was credited to the "Think Bike" campaign wasn't it ?

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

        Was it? By whom and on the basis of what evidence?

  14. Richard
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    For goodness sake get rid of vehicle road tax. Put 5p or so on a litre of fuel, to raise the same money more equitably, or charge road tax on new vehicles, and on old ones when they change hands, as in France.
    This would be cheaper to administrate, and also do away with the papermill of renewing tax or SORN every year, which I'm sure the public would welcome.
    DVLA sends out a letter advising tax or SORN is due, and another acknowledging receipt, every year, for every vehicle in the country, plus maintaining a database for this make-work activity, a website dedicated to it, and connecting with issuing offices.
    It is true that proof of MOT and insurance is required to get a tax disc, but these can expire well before the disc does, making that exercise something of a joke.
    It would be far more logical to have a valid insurance company slip and test certificate sticker on the windscreen, again as in France. That should involve a very minor cost, if any, to MOT stations and insurers.
    Shouldn't take much legislation, either!

    • DennisA
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      In Wales we get two documents for everything official, one in welsh and one in english. The Welsh Language Board is sacrosanct and has a CEO on around £120 grand. We get constant adverts promoting the welsh language, but on S4C the adverts are in english, without sub-titles!

    • alan jutson
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Agreed

      Those that use the roads most, pay the most, and those who use it little, pay little.

      Many of us have suggested this system for years.

      Unless you syphon petrol, it also eliminates those who at the moment do not pay anything, and escape their fair share of the cost.

      So simple a soluition, it will never catch on.

    • Mark Parker
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      Good idea! But in fact there's no need to even display proof of insurance, the police have license plate readers (ANPR) that look up insurance status in real time.

      Also, why not go the Australian route and abolish the requirement to have insurance, put another 5p on a litre and provide a police operated statutory compensation scheme – a sort of absolute minimum insurance, not even cover for fire or theft, just 3rd party liability. If people want to insure against theft of their vehicle they can do so on a voluntary basis.

      There would be massive savings in the criminal justice system if the offenses of driving without tax or insurance were abolished.

      • BillyB
        Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

        wow – thats a neat idea… think the unthinkable! (now where have I heard that before?)

      • Richard
        Posted June 9, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        Why have the expense of licence plate readers and the associated database readers? Get rid of APNR as well!
        And all the other high-tech proposals like GPS logging of distances travelled.
        I am reminded me of an old saying about a French engineering rule – "Why make something simple when you can make it complicated?"
        It is much cheaper and easier for the police to simply look for a windscreen sticker!!!
        Remember, the idea is to save money and SIMPLIFY! 🙂

    • TimC
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      While we are on 'things they do better in France'- the TV licence 'redevance audiovisuel' (sp?) is collected along with the local property tax. If you have no TV you make a declaration. This must cost hundreds of thousands less than the whole performance of reminders, certificates, inspectors, court cases that we have.

    • gac
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      A major problem is that car owners cancel the insurance direct debit when the tax disc is received and the MOT passed.

      Having to pay annually would get around this else a new '1 month only' insurance slip would have to be issued each month.

      I think that in the USA car tax has to be paid for the full year in advance to obviate these problems.

      • gac
        Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        In the last para read car insurance for car tax. Sorry!

      • nonny mouse
        Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

        >>I think that in the USA car tax has to be paid for the full year in advance to obviate these problems.

        Not in California. I buy car insurance in six month increments and then pay monthly.

    • Ron Fallows
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Richard Agree wholeheartedly. I have three vehicles and dealing with DVLA paperwork annually is a pain. Incidentally the system in Jersey is similar to France ie having to display valid insurance on the windscreen

    • Andy
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      Totally agree. I have written to John about this in the past, it makes so much sense to abolish road tax and put up petrol prices. How can this not be implemented? John – how about getting us an answer to this question?

    • Richard
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Looks like the idea has quite a lot of support and there are already several good suggestions to improve and justify the scheme.
      My wife just pointed out that a few pence on petrol would also generate income from visitors to UK, although commercial vehicles would probably fill up their huge tanks before arriving – maybe limit the fuel brought in?
      This has apparently been proposed by Norman Baker, Lib Dem, but there are problems, as usual, with EU regulations, which have a limit of 600 litres in the normal taks – no extra tanks.
      However, I have read that althogh there are now no limits imposed on importing tobacco and alcohol products from one EU country to another, France limits imports of cigarettes from Spain to 5 cartons per vehicle, and has similar low limits on alcohol, with confiscation and fines for exceeding them.
      If it's OK for France to ignore these – and many other EU rules, I don't think UK should consider them a problem.
      Most Eurozone countries have broken the far more important rules for the EMU.

      Mark Parker's statutory insurance certainly has advantages, not least to avoid the uninsured driver menace, and would simplify the whole licencing process even more.

      As TimC says, adding TV licences to local taxes would eliminate policing of these, along with associated court and other costs. This scheme only came into force in France a few years ago, and I never heard any objection to it.

      I sympathise with Ron Fallows, I also have more than one car.

  15. waramess
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    More right wing policies can only be a good thing after such a long period of lefty nonsense. politicians and civil servants clearly have no capacity to successfully direct markets or individual sectors and should desist from trying to do so but, is that what we are going to get?

    As for the banks, when the quality of their asssets is such that they do not cover their liabilities then they must be allowed to go into liquidation like any other company, Propping them up with loans and trying to restructure them will simply not do. What we need is a comprehensive act to accommodate a smooth transition into the liquidation of assets and bankruptcy for those failing banks, and we need it now.

    Having the state monetise assets and extending loans to failing institutions is an insult to the electorate and will result in a crippling liability for generations of children to come

    • StevenL
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      You're right. I mean, imagine the Dutch, in response to the tulip bubble bursting had printed money to swap for gvt debt, then printed gvt debt to swap for bad tulip loans, then reduced stamp duty on tulip bulbs!

      We'd look back and think they'd gone even madder.

  16. backofanenvelope
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Last night on the BBC, their economics editor said that the government would be aiming to cut public expenditure by £60 billion per year. The first thing to do would be to stop the civil service pretending that cuts are being made by:

    1. Postponing or reducing planned increases.
    2. Raising taxes.
    3. Recycling money produced by "efficiencies" back into budgets.

    None of these are CUTS.

    The only way to cut the deficit is to STOP doing things.

  17. Nick
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    agree on the VED. People will still register to get ownership of their cars, but that is an infrequent event.

    You just go to 7 oil refineries, once a month and get a cheque.

    Unfortunately, jobs go at the DVLA. However, the country is more efficient as a result.

    That just leaves the awkward squad who use biofuel.

  18. Javelin
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I understand from several people that in the public sector budgets last the whole year and if the budget is not spent by the end of the year then the budget is reduced the next year – so managers spend their budget on waste.

    I knew somebody who worked at MAF – 3 monts before the ned of the year they sucked in a load of consultants to build IT Help systems – that nobody used just to use up the budget.

    I would like to see this practice stopped.

    For example next years budget needs to be projected on the middle (or even lowest) 2 quarters – so that managers can't just spend budget.

    • nonny mouse
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      So we need to incentivise them into saving rather than spending.

      Reward the civil service for not using all their allocated funds. Put 10% into a bonus scheme and 90% back into general funds.

      • APL
        Posted June 9, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

        No bonus schemes for civil servants.

  19. Javelin
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    OK so what about housing benefit?

    There is a completely bonkers assumption that if somebody loses their job then their life should not be disrupted. The assumption is that they should not move house and should not move area.

    What a load of tosh.

    In each borough there needs to be a standard (very low) level of housing benefit. You should receive housing benefit it for 3-6 months to cover your housing costs. Then after 3-6 months you should go onto the reduced rates. Money should be paid directly to the mortgage bank and the bank will know that this money will be cut after 3-6 months so will put the house up for sale if no new job is found.

  20. Sebastian Weetabix
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    The European Union's REACH directive. It is quite stupendously onerous and adds lots of cost to any company involved in the production or use of raw materials, be they metal or chemical, natural or synthetic, brand new or around for hundreds of years. Due to its complexity it also makes the barrier to entry into these markets very high; this is great if you are a huge business (say, a Dow Chemical or Ineos) but very tricky if you are a small company. And it does nothing to improve public safety over previous measures.

    But of course we can't do anything about it unless we are out of the EU. Which would be the biggest saving of all.

    • StevenL
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      Yes, end the EU war on harmless chemicals!

  21. Acorn
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    As we have a Minister for Decentralisation in DCLG, I hope he is the man who is going to sort out our local government geography in England particularly.

    England has about fourteen different geographies. From health; electoral; statistical; European at one end, to national parks; local education authorities and learning and skills councils at the other.

    Can we please make them all conterminous with recognisable boundaries under "unitised" local democratic control. Call them Counties or Districts, what ever. I am sure the guys at the ONS Geography Unit, could come up with a plan in a couple of days. Oh; can we make them basically self financing with local VAT and LVT as well please. We could get some competition going then. Imagine Hampshire making a takeover bid for the Isle of White; again!
    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/geography/beginners_

  22. English Pensioner
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    The problem isn't so much what the government should do or not as most activities start out with good intent.
    The problem is the idiot jobsworths who continuously manage to expand their role into areas which were never intended.
    The Child Protection Act is typical; I just wonder how long it will be before I have to be cleared before I can come home on the 4pm bus from our local shopping centre because there are a lot of school children on it coming home from school? Look at the case of the two police women who worked part time and looked after each other's children when they were at home; apparently this is illegal!
    Apparently according to the C of E Oxford Diocese, all our church bell ringers will need to be cleared before we can teach a youngster, hence we have no youngsters (or no bell ringers). Are we all jointly going to gang up to do something to the youngster? Its total madness!

  23. Javelin
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Here's a good one that you wouldn't normally think of. Bear with me on this.

    The Government currently manages relationships – in the form of marriage.

    So what's wrong with that.

    The problem is they do it so implicitly that it costs hundreds of millions in lawyers fees every year to get out of it. This may not seem like a tax – but it's really worse than that because members of the public are forced to spend money getting out of a contract with the state. This is money that should go to children.

    So I would say that the vast majority of cases fall under a few simple rules. These rules should be published and fines put in place if you breach them. Simple – would save the economy hundreds of millions every year.

    • nonny mouse
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

      I thought a mariage was a contract between a man and a woman. Throw god in there somewhere if you are religious. Allow same sex pairings if you want. The only involvement of the state is to register the fact.

      Divorce is a civil thing. It involves the courts, but only to oversee it. Again, the only role of the state is to register the fact.

      Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

      • Javelin
        Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:44 am | Permalink

        No marriage is an unwritten contract with the state.

        • nonny mouse
          Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

          I've never been married, but I have attended a registry office wedding. Both parties to the mariage are made to sign a mariage certificate at a government office in front of a government official.

          The government then use the fact that you signed that piece of paper to change your tax and benefits. Beyond that it doesnt really care what you get up to as long as you are not violent to each other.

          Is your point that divorce is expensive and involves legal burdens to get out of? Are those legal burdens imposed by the state? I think I may see your point.

          The problem is not so much that the state over manages the relationship but that divorce is over complicated. Joining two people to become one couple is easy. Splitting them apart so that all parties are handled fairly, especially if there are children involved, is not. The only fair way is to involved a neutral arbitrator which is the court.

          >>So I would say that the vast majority of cases fall under a few simple rules. These rules should be published and fines put in place if you breach them. Simple – would save the economy hundreds of millions every year.

          Do you want it to be easier to get divorced or just cheaper to go through the divorce?

          Can you give us examples for the rules?

          How would the fines work? Surely the rules cover both parties so either one side is breaking them or the other. Either way they are hurting each other not the state, so why should there be fines?

      • waramess
        Posted June 9, 2010 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        You’re right

  24. Frank Salmon
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    John
    Please set up a petition along the lines you mention. I think small business representation has been lily-livered over the Labour years. We need you. Bang your fist on the table and make sure the government understands what is in store if it doesn't deliver. More than ever we need this crisis to be the springboard for small business and the curtailing of big government and big business. The real chink of light in all this is that we could have a competitive and prosperous society if we do this, and we never repeat the mistakes of our corporatist past.

  25. Robert Eve
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I couldn't agree more over the ridiculous money laundering rules.

  26. Jonathan Woolf
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood

    Without question, you should be Chancellor. I hope Mr Osborne is at least reading your column, as I fear he probably does not seek your advice in person very often (would be bad PR, no doubt).

    I think it is no co-incidence that the British state is about the most centralized, and least democratic, in the Western world, and is running one of the highest structural deficits. Within their restricted ambits, many local authorities are already doing a far better job of modernizing services whilst cutting costs. If they were largely self-financing, as they used to be, then they would have more power to deliver more value to taxpayers. Crucially, they would also be incentivised to encourage development within their area. At the moment, increased population and business are effectively a negative for local government, as the pressure on their services grows but their tax base in large part does not.

    To address this, I would suggest devolving all direct taxes, principally corporation and business tax, to local authorities (or Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland if they would prefer). I suspect it would not be long before counties and boroughs began to cut tax rates to attract jobs and businesses to their areas. Benign tax competition would benefit the whole country. Local authorities would also be far more inclined to support new housing development to grow their own tax bases, revolutionizing the current bias against new housing and ending the misery of the young and unpropertied who cannot afford places to live. Entrench enterprise-friendly policies at local level, and a national government could do far less damage when Labour-led. Under this model, national government could also contribute by cutting regulations and semi-detaching us from the corrupt corporatism and socialism of Brussels, all of which operates as invisible taxes on Britain.

    Deliver this, and with all its other natural advantages of time zone, culture, history and language, the UK would become the multinationals' HQ of choice, with lots of high value-add jobs to follow. Fail to deliver this, and in 30 years time we will live in the second world, marvelling with envy at the riches and living standards of India, China, Brazil and the US.

    Easy!

    • Richard
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Returning more tax money and responsibilty to a local level seems to work in other places, even when it is collected centrally, even in France.
      We have a house in a small village in France. The population is below 500, and a large proportion is at or near retirement age, but the village has its own primary school, Post Office, and a couple of shops.
      In France, when an offer has been accepted for the sale of a property, the Mayor can exercise the community's right to purchase it at the same price.
      This is not often done, but our local Mayor has recently purchased at least two parcels of building land.
      Roads were built, services installed, and the land divided into small plots suitable for first-time buyers.
      One parcel is already fully built, several plots are sold and building started on the other.
      When the plots are sold the village recoups the costs, plus a profit for the community's finances, and hopefully more young couples move into the village and pay taxes there.
      In the past few years, under this Mayor, the village has grown, the number of pupils in the school has increased, a new village shop has opened (with rent assistance from the community), water and sewer piping have been renewed, a new, evironmentally friendly, sewage plant has been built, and the Post Office is still (just) operating, in contrast to many other small villages.
      All done without much tax burden at all on the population.

  27. TimC
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    And another thing. Building regulations approval. Scrap it, make it the responsibility of insurance companies to satisfy themselves that buildings are safe. They can charge if they like, or employ their own inspectors or get private (ex HIP! blokes) to do it.The whole panoply of environmental regulations- double glazed approved windows except in listed buildings blah blah blah can similarly be caught up by requiring a certificate of compliance when you sell your house.

    • Tedgo
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      I don't agree with that, it is difficult enough to get builders to build things properly and do a good job. It would simple lead to jerry built houses and over development of properties.

      Once something is built it is very difficult to get the builder to pull it down and rebuild at his cost.

    • alan jutson
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      Tedgo

      You can already employ your own private Building inspector without the Council being involved should you wish to, under present rules.

      Your own inspector can inspect (during construction), and sign off the building on completion, just like the local Council building control officer. System has been in place for a few years now.

      Problem with this system is many do not trust an inspector whom the builder has control over and pays.

      Your local Authority inspector is supposed to be neutral and under no influence of anyone.

  28. Equality 7-2521
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    A small idea but forcing Companies House to review the number and complexity of the forms they have introduced following the coming into force of the Companies Act 2006 would save business a significant amount of time and cost, and also reduce the number of staff needed in Cardiff. These new forms are incredibly complex and I (as a solicitor) now spend hours at my rate of £350 summarising information from documents which require filing in any event into forms (you are not permitted to cross-refer). I dread to think how any businessman attempting to take advantage of the "simplified" procedures would cope in making changes to his company without (expensive and frankly wasteful) legal advice.

    • Javelin
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:49 am | Permalink

      Agreed. It took me 6 months to take a director off my company. I rang up several times. They were very friendly. I did what they asked but every time the form came back explaining that I hadn't ticked yet another box. Really frustrating.

  29. FaustiesBlog
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    The NHS has far too many QUANGOs, many of which were created to try to tame the QUANGOs that already existed, as the system became ever more centralised.

    The result is a profusion of spaghetti-like control systems, comprised of QUANGOs, many of which have overlapping responsibilities, and accountability falls through the cracks.

    CFH has to be the most inefficient of them all.

    Take a look at the entity-relationship diagram of NHS QUANGOs to see what I mean. (I'll try to obtain a copy).

    I realise that a cull is already being made, but that cull should be the tip of the iceberg.

  30. APL
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    JR: "Things government should not do "

    The government should not be in the broadcasting business.

    Let the BBC stand on its own two feet.

  31. Janet
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Just a thought but why is defence never put forward for cuts? The amount spent must be mind boggling by now with all the new technology gizmos. We shouldn't be fighting wars anyway and must learn to stop interfering in other countries such as Afghanistan.

    • BillyB
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      Agree – are we due a Defence Review? all options should be open for cuts including Trident replacement… how many nukes do we NEED? how many can we afford?

  32. rose
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    As Bertrand Russell says in his alternative Ten Commandmants: Don't use power to change opinions, they will only come back at you.

    Or as Queen Elizabeth I put it more elegantly: I have no wish to make windows into men's souls.

    I should like HMG and the police to have no more to do with the cult of thought crime, hate crime, etc. and forcing people to "celebrate" what they don't like. There are laws against bad actions and these should be enforced regardless of who is doing them and to whom. No group should be favoured by the law as victims, any more than as perpetrators.

    But leave people's inner minds alone, and let them make their own judgements about how to run their businesses and institutions according to their own ethos. The most inclusive ones will probably thrive the best, but allow the eccentric ones to go their own way.

    • James Clover
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      I agree, but I don't see this saving money.

      • rose
        Posted June 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        Because the whole apparatus of checking up on people's attitudes and opinions, and inculcating others, is hugely costly, nationally and locally, to businesses and charities alike. Someone could no doubt audit it, and you might be surprised by the results. Eli Kedourie used to say, "The poor are a goldmine." Now "Equalities" are a goldmine.

  33. S Matthews
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Cancel just about every subsidy or grant to 'green' projects. The experience of Spain was that for every 'green' job created, 2.2 other jobs were lost.
    If a project, such as off-shore windfarms, is cost effective then it will go-ahead anyway. This is no time to distort the market and throw huge amounts of tax payers money at white elephants. Labour did that in the '70's and more recently. With obvious results.

  34. A. T.
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Get rid of registration under the data protection act. It's meaningless – almost every business uses IT. A typical "niggle taxes" – killing businesses by 1,000 cuts. Define what constitutes abuse and prosecute the guilty.

    But, there are 1,000 s of items like this – who can list them all ? So, while I know many disapprove of public sector bonuses, I'd say incentivise civil servants to implement deregulation. ( Watch them like hawks, of course, otherwise just the headline number will go down, using consolidation )

    For something more radical, put a % of state pensions in the FTSE 100. Say, a nominal 10% for those at the coalface, rising to 50% at the very top of the civil service. Politicians included. Create a culture change by focusing minds – every time you do something that f's up British industry, your retirement suffers. After all " we're all in it together", eh?

  35. Martin
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I think the true cost of underfunded public sector pensions needs to be exposed and sorted out. Public sector workers should get the average of private sector workers.

    • BillyB
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:42 am | Permalink

      Either make NICs proper contributions to a non-means-tested pension or admit its just tax and merge it with Income Tax.

  36. Richard1
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Privatise public sector pensions – close final salary schemes and give all public sector employees money purchase schemes. Invite/persuade existing members of final salary schemes to convert. Cap contributions at the private sector lifetime allowance. Invite highly paid public sector employees to convert voluntarily – name & shame those who refuse. Benefits will include: defining and capping the liability to the taxpayer; reduced admin costs; introducing a mechanism for public sector workers to take a close interest in the markets.

  37. NickD
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    I understand my local council takes it upon itself to ferry able-bodied children to school by taxi "where there is no bus route". This means they pay £6000 per child per year to go 5 miles along perfectly cyclable routes. If parents can't get their kids to school they should move so they can. Responsibility at least must mean not expecting the taxpayer to transport your children as well as educate and look after their health!

    • James Clover
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      Children are now gods and everything must be done to ensure they have not the slightest discomfort.
      Actually, schools waste enormous amounts of money. True education, the development of knowledge and judgement, has very little connection with money, but an awful lot to do with intelligence, application and humility.
      I worked in a school where each department had a budget which had to be spent- it couldn't run over to the next academic year. The result was a scramble to spend- on anything- before the end of the year. If you didn't spend your full amount, your departmental budget was cut the next year.

  38. john east
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Can I echo the above sentiment. The only areas that government must control are national defence, law and order, and regulation. Anything else should be up for debate with the default position being – butt out and leave us to run our own lives.

    As for social services and benefits, yes we need these too, but what was wrong with those provided in the 1950's for I guess a quarter of the cost in inflation corrected terms compared to the cost today. I don't remember any more people starving to death in those days than starve to death today, and societal happiness, stability and contentment was far higher then.

  39. forthurst
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Substantial savings could be made in both the public and private sector by repealing all laws and initiatives premised on 'diversity' or 'enrichment'. The costs both direct and indirect of recuiting and employing people on any other than that of ability is substantial. Not only that but the Conservatives need to understand that generaly speaking, the only people who vote for them are the English, not the Celtic fringe whereever resident, not other ethnic minorities and the only consequence of unfairly giving the jobs of qualified English people to others on the basis of quotas or the 'need' to 'enrich' East Anglia is to drive even more of the English to emigrate taking their training and skills with them.

    With regard to Alan Jutson's point about the costs of some social housing: I believe this problem is a direct consequence of two absurdities in current practice. Firstly that local authorities inevitably should be responsible for 'homelessness' in their boroughs: the concept that the only people to live in Westminster are the very rich and the homeless is preposterous. Second, the concept that subsidised accomodation should be allocated on the basis of the number of children rather than on the number of sexes is unnecessary and unaffordable.

    Generally speaking we should prioritise getting rid of what is socially damaging before focussing on what is simply a waste of money.

  40. MartinW
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    As well concentrating on the major areas for saving, we should also turn our attention to smaller but highly indicative areas such as 'Sport'. First, there should be an end to montrous spending on the Olympics, including great reductions in the salaries paid to officials (hundreds of thousands in some cases) and the cancellation of overblown Kim Il Sung-style opening and closing ceremonies. An end to this utter waste would give the right signal.
    Secondly, the BBC must not be shielded against cuts. They regard themselves as untouchable: I say, this state of affairs must end. One billion off their budget and 30% reduction in the licence fee would also show that cuts are indeed to be borne by everyone.

    • BillyB
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:27 am | Permalink

      cancel the olympics? mmmm

    • nonny mouse
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 2:39 am | Permalink

      If you are going to reduce the license fee then go the whole way and scrap it.

      I support the BBC but there are better ways of funding it.

  41. Robbo
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Yes let us indeed scrap the regional development advisers and all the talking shops and opportunities for people to make a living without doing something other people want to pay for.

    On those things which remain in the scope of government, first give clarity of goals. If you look at any of our Health Service organisations, you will see they don't have missions like "treat the sick, and help them stay well". Instead it is stuff like "reducing health inequalities across the community". This inevitably means money wasted on people talking about 'what is inequality', 'what is the community' 'how do we measure it','what should the target be', instead of getting on with treating the people in front of them.

    Second, when there is clarity of goals, allow / encourage service managers to use proven methods to deliver those service goals efficiently. There are people out there like John Seddon who has been helping public services transform themselves, in the face of steadfast indifference / opposition from the gvnt. Just allow such people to get on with making a difference.

  42. Katharine
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Scrap the health in pregnancy grant, plus free dental care and prescriptions to all pregnant ladies for up to 12 months after the birth.

    The health in pregnancy grant is £190 tax free to all ladies who are 25 weeks pregnant. With almost 800,000 births each year in the UK this costs £150m plus administration.

    To support ladies with low income, supplement sure start maternity grants which are means tested and offer free dental care and prescriptions to these people. Benefits should be for those in need, not universal handouts.

  43. no one
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    So the government wants the public to nominate spending cuts?

    1 Top of the list is the half billion quid a year we borrow to give to India as "aid", we should not be wasting this money we cannot afford it, if the poor of India need money I suggest India stops funding its nuclear weapons programme, our own poor need the money

    2 No free education to the kids of parents here on work visas from outside of Europe, we don't get free education for our kids if we work in their countries

    3 No free NHS for foreign nationals and their families here on a work visa from outside of Europe, they can pay full whack medical insurance like we have to when we work in their countries

    And tax increases?

    Top of the list has got to be foreign nationals here on work visas:

    1 stop the tax dispensations that allow folk here for 3 years of less on a UK payroll to pay minimal tax, tax them the same as Brits

    2 any part working of a tax year by foreign nationals here on a work visa should only get pro rata tax allowance, we shouldn't be giving a full years tax allowance to someone only in the country working for 6 months, or intentionally working 12 months spanning across two tax years to maximise tax allowances

    3 Stop large companies here employing thousands of staff from being registered in places like Mauritius as part of a complicated tax (arrangement-ed), large companies operating substantially in the UK should be registered here and paying tax here, and stop companies registered in Mauritius, and similar, from being able to sponsor work visas for the UK

    Do me a favour and submit these suggestions for me and tell me honestly they will be seriously considered?

    • nonny mouse
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 2:36 am | Permalink

      >>2 No free education to the kids of parents here on work visas from outside of Europe, we don’t get free education for our kids if we work in their countries

      Is this true?

      I was under the impression that most countries will educate children of temporary immigrant workers paid out of the taxation that those workers pay, just like everybody else. I believe that is how it works here in California, but I dont have kids so I'm not 100% sure.

      Note: this is for children, i.e. 18 years and below. Higher Education should be paid for in full.

      The general principle should be that if you pay the taxes you can get the service.

      >>1 stop the tax dispensations that allow folk here for 3 years of less on a UK payroll to pay minimal tax, tax them the same as Brits

      >>3 Stop large companies here employing thousands of staff from being registered in places like Mauritius as part of a complicated tax (arrangement-ed), large companies operating substantially in the UK should be registered here and paying tax here, and stop companies registered in Mauritius, and similar, from being able to sponsor work visas for the UK

      Got any details on these? They seem like common sense so we should be doing so already.

    • alan jutson
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      No one

      But if you stopped them being registered in Mauritius, where would they go for their board meetings a couple of times a year if they could not hold them at their head office location !

  44. Tedgo
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I would get rid of universal child benefit. I certainly do not see why family's on three quarters of average earning and above should get any child related benefits.

    If you want or have children then you should not expect other people to support them.

    Ultimately we need to reduce taxation and leave it in peoples pockets.

    • nonny mouse
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 2:26 am | Permalink

      I agree. We have forgotten why we have a welfare state in this country.

      The welfare state exists as a safety net so that when times are tough the state is there to help you.

      The welfare state does not exist for social engineering or giving hand outs to the middle classes to buy votes.

    • Andy
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      The problem with your suggestion is after paying into the tax system for a total of 30 years which will will have paid for child benifit for many others, my wife I will be very annoyed if, now we have our first child, this one and only "Middle Class" perk is taken away. I assume we would not be alone in this position.

      A lesson all governments need to learn, regardless of the state of economy, is don't (mess-ed) with the middle classes (Or middle earners if you like). We are the ones who pay to keep this country running, not the unemployable and low paid or the properly rich, and we are already (annoyed about-ed) the amount of cash that gets picked from our pockets to support others.

  45. ManicBeancounter
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    A small contribution and (personal sacrifice) would be on family tax credits. For those families with incomes of between £28,000 and £75,000 a year, with two children, get £547.50 a year.
    The principle should be to help the needy, whilst keeping the marginal tax rate / benefit loss at well below 100%. However, to have such a wide flat-rate band serves no purpose.

    The other change could be to roll child benefits into family tax credits, with a high income cut-off. But if you take this up please don’t tell the Mrs!

  46. ManicBeancounter
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the Government should look to abolish the funded BBC. It is a regressive tax. From the point of view of affordability, many reliant of state benefits manage to afford it AND the much higher fees for a Sky subscription.

    • MartinW
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      No! Anyone with experience of non-State-supported TV broadcasting elsewhere, will know what dire fare they provide. A BBC supported by a licence fee is the better option.
      However, it must be cut down to size, and forced again to be an impartial broadcaster rather than the campaigning and propaganda machine that it has become. It comes to a pretty pass when Al-Jezeera provides a more balanced news service.

  47. Monty
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Quangos:

    Freeze their payments now, and give them 12 months notice of withdrawal of all government funding. That will give them a year to make a sound business case for their own existance.

  48. Andrew Gately
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    How about returning Northern Rock to its former shareholders.

  49. John Duck
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    One I spotted in the news recently……… Food Standards Agency issued some nanny state advice to football fans about eating / drinking while watching world cup matches. Bloke from the Tax Payer's Alliance didn't sound too amused about it either, neither did Richard Littlejohn http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7806http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1284811

    Their annual £135million budget is obviously too much if they're coming out with drivel like this………… so either slash it to £65million a year and tell them to concentrate on ensuring food producers don't give people Salmonella, etc……. or abolish them completely and leave the food safety task to County/Borough councils to sort out.

  50. david b
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    My idea. A system like the criminal injuries panel for NHS negligence claims. Lawyers should not be making money out of the health service.

  51. nonny mouse
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Can we cancel Browns golden handshake? That would save £109K/year.

  52. backofanenvelope
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Lots of good ideas as usual. But would posters quantify their suggestions? How much would their idea save? Given that the BBC suggests we need to cut public spending by £60 billion per year.

    I'll make a couple of suggestions.

    Close down the DfID and stop government-to-government aid – £7 billion a year.

    Pull out of Afghanistan and give up on the overseas expeditionary stuff – 25% reduction in the defence budget – about £8 billion.

    That leaves £45 billion a year to be found.

  53. Simon
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I work in a Whitehall Department – in Technology.

    I can assure you there is much money that can be saved – and I have spent the bulk of my career in similar roles in private sector companies both big and small.

    In the last 15 years business has been transformed by moving many of it's data processing operations onto the Internet and World Wide Web but not in Government where it is deemed 'insecure'

    Billions have been wasted on building huge private so called secure networks which are complete White Elephants that either do not work at all or are so limited in their reach that they are essentially useless.

    This goes on as I write; armies if consultants, all that.

    this is a double win you start to leverage the incredible flexibility and reach at the internet provides, you can unravel numerous ridiculous operational practices that are inefficient, stupid and cost a fortune and you can save on the consultants as well many earning eye watering sums of money to build these white elephants.

    i know of many operations that could save really huge sums of money if they simply purchased affordable sophisticated web applications from British technology companies and restructured their operations around them.

    Replicate this across Whitehall and the savings would be significant, certainly material to the defect and debt reductions that we have to make.

    In addition it would engender a culture of being smart, using cheap technology and getting clever about what we do with it and what manual processes we place around the technology.

    I spend my working day seething with frustration at this bone headed refusal to use the tools available to cut our costs and deliver a better operational outcome.

    What can I do? how can people like me influence this?

    Reply: You are right. It is as suffocating as it is expensive. The aim of the new government is to liberate officials to do more for less and to be more flexible. I will talk to Francis Maude and Oliver Letwin about your points.

    • Tony
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Well said Simon. I recently retired from the National Probation Service which has to use the .gsi network. The restrictions on this network and what you can/cannot do or use are just mindblowing. And then there's the whole business of how the contracts are set up with a complex set of subcontractors. We had a problem with the main line into the office I worked in and it took hours before the problem reached the BT engineer who could actually fix the problem — via the main contractor's help desk to the network subcontractor to BT. No value being added at any stage.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted June 9, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        Part of the problem is the "security" experts at all levels of government IT and their suppliers

        For one they invent their own "standards" and then become the arbiters of when they can be broken (security is never a black and white thing, there always needs to be balanced decision making, and at the moment that is delegated to such "experts")

        Mostly this bunch all know each other, many came from the same branches of the forces (lots of ex forces helicopter pilots for instance) and the square root of none of them studied computer science at college

        So it's a self-selecting priest hood, which holds veto over much of govt IT

        Even in the most sensitive defence systems the security looked at impartially is usually rubbish, too expensive, and vulnerable with obvious weaknesses

        So much of the added expense of the "security" in govt IT needs a good shake up

        In defence there are also interesting cultural differences between how the UK and other NATO countries do IT security and we are not the best by a long long way

  54. Simon
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Thanks…

    i can provide good specific examples of what I mean and also ideas how this may be relocated across Government.

    an additional benefit of course is that we work with dynamic export oriented British technology companies!!

    At the risk of seeming pompous you can contact me via my email address…

    Simon

  55. Nick
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    1. What problem is the HoL intended to solve?
    2. What are you prepared to pay to solve that problem?

    Unless you have answers to both questions, the HoL should go.

    So far we have

    Problems

    1. A retirement home for political favourites.
    2. A means of getting Mandleson into government
    3. Revising legistlation
    4. Fixing other political problems.
    Patronage?
    As a voter being disinfranchised from voting on issues
    Rotten boroughs
    Lack of a constitution
    Corrupt politicians.
    5. Controlling costs
    6. Control over the commons
    7. Proportional representation

    The House of Lords succeeds on 1 at a huge cost. It fails on the rest.

    For example, revising legistlation. Why can't the commons do this? Strengthen committees for a start. Allocate enough time.

    Are there other solutions to the other problems? Of course there are, and they are cheaper.

    What's going on is that politicians want to keep their little club and patronage.

    Offer people a choice between A and B, and they won't think of C. Lesson 1 from the con man's handbook

    Nick

  56. Citizen Responsible
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I propose the BBC’s license fee should not be increased for the life of this government.

  57. John Duck
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    IT costs again…………

    Cost of openSUSE Linux Operating system = free
    Just download an .iso image (around 650-700MB) from http://www.opensuse.org/en/ , burn it onto a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM, and install it on as many computers as you like.

    .

    OpenOffice: free, just as good, not quite as pretty interface as Office2007, simpler interface…… 128MB download from http://www.openoffice.org/

    (Government uses expensive IT arrangements-ed)
    Jobcentre's: Before 2004 searching for a job there was a simple & easy affair… just look at the job cards on the wall, jot down the reference number, take it to someone at the desks, and they'd give you all the further information & application forms you needed.
    Since 2004 the "cards on a wall" have been replaced with a handful of touchscreen jobpoint terminals that burn electricity all day, and have a poor sense of direction – gives you a handful of jobs in your own area (when you search to look for jobs in "Local Area")…. skips straight on to jobs as far afield as Peterborough, Barnsley, London, Leeds, Cardiff (completely bypassing the next nearest towns to your local area). Then on the off-chance you do manage to find a job on them, they expect you to mess on trying to get through to a centralised call centre staffed by people who (from what I've heard from other sources) don't know their arse from their elbow + don't communicate properly with local jobcentre staff.

    Moving away from IT, and onto other ideas…

    Speed up civil service job cuts: in addition to shedding through "natural wastage", speed things up with a program of sacking those who are either:
    1) Plain useless at the job
    2) Are rude / vindictive towards the tax payers who pay their wages
    3) Don't do anything except churn out pages of politically correct drivel
    4) Are surplus to requirements – follow up on this article from last January to make sure it's been remedied since this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1108774/H

    Average Civil service salary apparently = £28,622 a year
    One year's JSA at current rate of £65.45 a week = £3,403.40

    Hold a 3 month "Amnesty" for people claiming disability benefits under dubious circumstances to come clean (on condition they immediately sign-up for a back to work scheme)……. if they haven't come clean after they've had their chance, come down on them like a ton of bricks (and make it clear that's what'll happen if/when the amnesty was announced).

    Prisoners: less playing PlayStation or XBOX, more work…… e.g. Prison farms, Prison factories, Chaingangs to make them earn their keep. Maybe put them to work building more prisons (at the least digging the foundations + laying bricks, etc).
    (words left out)
    The EU (someone was bound to bring it up): There's gotta be a good few billion to be found here by telling them to go shove it on certain things that cost us money.

  58. Mark
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Motorcycle deaths are disproportionately (60%) among those aged under 21. A falling trend might be easily explained by fewer under 21s riding.

  59. no one
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    scrap NHS direct

    its a pointless waste of time having a number to ring which only ever says go see your GP or go to A & E

    scrap NHS "walk in" centres staffed by nurses with no doctors on site which 99% of the time in my experience simply tell you that you need to see a doctor and its a shame they have none on site

  60. Christina D-Brown
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    I am convinced of the importance of a second chamber. If we cannot return to what worked perfectly well before 1997 perhaps the House of Lords could be made up of retired captains of industry, heads of national revered charities, the 27 Bishops as before and other respected informed people who would be asked as an honour to give five years of retirement to helping shape legislation for the nation. If the pay was very low – say £100 a day – it would preclude anyone going into the House for the money and reduce the cost to the nation.

  61. no one
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Re "deaths saved by the road safety measures (humps, low speed limits" dont believe the psuedo science humps cause as many deaths as they save and add massively to the number of back injuries amongst the living, stupidly low limits out of line with whats sensible for the road also do more harm than good

    have a read of abd.org.uk

  62. no one
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Re "2 No free education to the kids of parents here on work visas from outside of Europe, we don’t get free education for our kids if we work in their countries
    Is this true?"
    Yes absolutely. Take the Indian outsourcers for instance, they have many (words left out) staff in the UK on intra company transfer visas, other work visas, and indefinite leave to remain. Many bring their partner and kids in, and the kids all get free places at a UK school. Compare and contrast to a Brit working in India and how much the Brit would have to pay to get his kids educated. The value of the free education to the Indian worker from being here is often a significant part of their motivation for being here.
    They (can sometimes-ed) bring sick family members in to take advantage of the NHS, if you were an Indian national with a seriously ill wife you would do the same, but its not good for the UK to be free heath provider of last resort(words left out).
    Re "I was under the impression that most countries will educate children of temporary immigrant workers paid out of the taxation that those workers pay, just like everybody else. I believe that is how it works here in California, but I dont have kids so I’m not 100% sure.
    Note: this is for children, i.e. 18 years and below. Higher Education should be paid for in full.
    The general principle should be that if you pay the taxes you can get the service. "
    The workers of the Indian outsourcers get significant tax and national insurance concessions if they are here 3 years or less. So they don't pay the tax and they do get the free education for their kids. And of course the way these outsourcers ( could -ed) set it up they pair the workers up, so when one swaps back to India for a while the other half of the pair comes to the UK and vice versa, (words left out) (Some-ed) do 3 years go to another 1st world country for a few years come back here and so on, hardly ever returning to India.
    Re ">>1 stop the tax dispensations that allow folk here for 3 years of less on a UK payroll to pay minimal tax, tax them the same as Brits
    >>3 Stop large companies here employing thousands of staff from being registered in places like Mauritius as part of a complicated tax (arrangement-ed), large companies operating substantially in the UK should be registered here and paying tax here, and stop companies registered in Mauritius, and similar, from being able to sponsor work visas for the UK
    Got any details on these? They seem like common sense so we should be doing so already."
    You would have thought we were doing this but we are not. Look in detail at the way the Indian outsourcing movement operates its all there to be seen.

  63. David in Kent
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Great to see that so many of your commenters have realised, as you do, that the only way to lower government expenditure is for the Govt to cease doing some things entirely. 'Economising' alone will not do the trick.
    Some further suggestions for abolition:
    Sheep wool marketing board and all the other 1940s boards which force farmers to sell at low prices.
    Building Regulations. If people want some guarantee that their house has been built to a good standard then a private organisation can provide it.

  64. mark C
    Posted June 14, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Introduce a basic income for all UK citizens – for illustration £150 per week – abolish state pension; all benefits (except some disabled living additions for individuals with severe disabilities) including WFTC, maternity pay, income support, JSA, council tax benefit, housing benefit

    This would provide an increase for women who are pregnant (since basic income would be higher than SMP; assist in entrepreneurship; move to getting rid of pensioner poverty

    This would simply the benefit system

    It would remove disincentives to work since there would no longer be a benefit trap

    The myriad of different benefits would be gone and costs of managing the current system would be removed

    The basic income could be removed (say at the 40% tax band level) or tapered from this point

    The tax system could be reformed so that personal allowances are abolished; the lower rate is set so that it could be paid for (say 25%)

  65. christina sarginson
    Posted June 15, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I found this blog very interesting and do encourage the cuts for the waste in the public sector if it is necessary. One of the issues in my experience is however, to ensure that these so called quangos are not replaced by other ones which are equally as cumbersome and difficult to work with. I do worry also about getting rid of government departments by making general statements for all of them. Surely it would be more sensible to ensure a major review is carried out to ensure their outputs where not useful. I know that time is of the essence but in my experience to shoot from the hip is not always useful.

  66. John Graham
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    It's time we put a stop to the scandal of allowing police officers to take a final salary pension at 50 (or before), often retiring through "ill health" and then going off to find paid work elsewhere. It's simply unfair that we tax payers have to fund this, they should retire at the same age as the rest of us.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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