Spending priorities


          The Coalition is right to want to bring the budget deficit down, and right that to do so it needs to cut Labour’s spending plans. The surprise has been that it has failed to cut some of the most obvious items that many people would like to see cut.

           Top of the list is the wish to see us out of Afghanistan. Many people are uneasy about our presence there, and wonder if we should ask our troops to make yet more heroic sacrifices. We are there to allow the Afghans time to train and prepare to take over policing responsibilities. Aren’t they ready yet, is the most common question I have to answer.

           Next comes the wish to cut out overseas aid payments to the more successful emerging nations like China and India. Many well intentioned voters think it would be good to spend more in the poorest countries in due course, but in the short term why not cut the obvious candidates and save the money so we borrow less?

        Next comes a strong desire to spend less to the EU. Mr Cameron has responded to that mood and is seeking to negotiate a freeze on spending, but other member states still want the budget to rise. At least the government’s stance will stop some of the more ridiculous increases they were proposing.

           Numerous contributors here and correspondents would like us to spend less on banks. It is high time we started to get our money back. Why  not require repayment of more of the special liquidity, if the banks now have cash available for bonuses?  Why not get the asset disposal programme underway where the state owns the equity?

          My own view is we should not be spending on refinancing and propping up the European Central Bank. That should be the responsibility of the Euro zone. Much of the Irish loan was to refinance advances made by the ECB to Irish banks, which the ECB should have carried on doing. There is then the additional Euro 700 million of subscribed capital which is contingent risk for the UK, and the £10 billion swap from the  Bank of England. It is most important that the UK government says it will not be spending any more on support for this body, directly or indirectly. It should make clear that ECB advances to say Spain are the responsibility of the Eurozone and we will not be involved in any refinancing of those.

            Some would also like to see the government spend less on renewables and go for cheaper relatively clean technologies based on gas for our power generation. Cancelling or deferring HS2, the new train track through the Chilterns, would also be popular with many in that part of the world.

            More reductions like these could be popular. That would leave more money for priorities in healthcare, for the disabled, and to put keep some planes on the aircraft carriers, whilst also reducing the borrowing more quickly. What more if anything would you like done on spending? Which of these ideas appeals to you?

           If we had bigger savings, we could think of lowering taxes more on saving and earning. We could also afford to keep the Harriers and buy some more snow clearing for our highways.  Why not offer payments to farmers and other owners of heavy duty vehicles to go out and clear more of the roads?


  1. lifelogic
    December 21, 2010

    I agree with all the above spending priorities but would add:

    Stop all the vast government spending on propaganda, particularly on the mad green renewable agenda. I would stop all payment to the Met office who are active in this area hence much much of the snow chaos now. The new Birmingham High Speed train is plainly nonsense on all levels.

    Scrap the happiness index, NHS alternative medicine, most cosmetic surgery and virginity restoration and similar nonsense.

    I would reduce the “subsidised” part of the BBC to radio 4 and radio 3 and get rid of their huge bias towards left wing, pro EU, pro big state agenda and big pushers of the AGW and the green religion in general.

    I would however increase investment in better more efficient roads and expand the HMRC business support scheme, which does at least help businesses stay afloat, unlike the banks at the moment.
    I would get rid of free buses for the elderly and give them the money to spend on what they actually want.
    I would charge £20 for doctors appointments and give the money back as a tax reduction.
    I would stop recycling as a religion and do it only when it makes sense.
    Also stop about the 50% of university courses that are pointless or worse (Oxford PPE perhaps given the quality of some of their product)

    Also stop state support for religious schools which often serve to incubate big troubles for the future.

    1. Mick Anderson
      December 21, 2010

      Perhaps we should call them “savings priorities” instead.

      Just think – if the Government cared to implement the long wish-list that’s going to appear on this thread, it could really be called both Progressive and Conservative.

      I wish….

    2. lifelogic
      December 21, 2010

      Also simplify and get rid of most liability and employment litigation/tribunals which do nothing for anyone other than lawyers.

      Reduce most support for non vocational education courses.

      Get rid of nearly all government support for “the Arts” so as to improve its quality.

      Get rid of most equality legislation and its associated parasitic industry.

      Get rid of most charity tax relief except for a few tiny areas and where administrative costs are less than 10% or spending.

    3. norman
      December 21, 2010

      All of the above, although a lot of these, such as NHS alternative medicine, may be portrayed as ‘nasty’ cuts so they couldn’t possibly happen.

      I’d also like to see the EU budget frozen in cash terms, not limited to rising in line with inflation (and so still rising faster than our own spending here in the UK) which is what Mr Cameron is trying to acheive.

      I’d also like to see Eric Pickles moved to Chancellor in the upcoming reshuffle. Whilst I’m playing fantasy politics he could take John Redwood along as Chief Secretary, or vice versa.

      He seems to be the only cabinet member doing a focused job – leaving aside the fact that Vince Cable is focused on winning left wing concessions under threat of bringing down the government.

    4. James
      December 21, 2010

      Virginity restoration – where do you even pick up these ideas? I doubt that such a thing exists on the NHS and if it does, it will be such a miniscule cost that it would be irrelevant to dealing with deficit.

      Some commentators live in cloud cuckoo land.

      1. lifelogic
        December 21, 2010

        116 ops on the NHS in the past 5 years I understand perhaps not much expense but doubtless thousands of other similar nonsense too and it all adds up.

    5. lifelogic
      December 21, 2010

      Also (in effect a saving as it reduces net state sector pension costs) a special tax on state sector/BBC and the like pensions of say 100% on all pots of value more than the £1.5M that everyone else is limited to. Perhaps by special extension to Fred Goodwin and one or two other private sector people too. Perhaps just 70% for the ones below £1.5M. A good tax as impossible to avoid and most have not earned it anyway and it redresses the state private sector imbalance after Browns mugging

      After all why should second rate people at the BBC get pension pots of £10M+ just for dripping the country in the usual endless left wing drivel.

    6. Simon
      December 21, 2010

      I agree with much of what you say Lifelogic but there is a danger of throwing the baby with the bathwater .

      Micro generation of electricity from rooftops would cause people to become better acquainted with the energy they are using and encourage them to use less . Also a distributed system can reduce load on the grid in comparison with one which relys only on large centralised generators .

      Wouldn’t you like a small degree of independence from the energy cartel ?

      The technology to produce solar panels which operate efficiently for hundreds of years with minimal maintenance and only cost a few pounds per square metre will arrive if it is not here already .
      By the time it sees the light of day no doubt it will be downgraded so efficiency drops off and they have to be replaced or another way is found to generate a continuous revenue steam beyond the initial sale .

      The potential for energy saving in our domestic lives is huge .
      People have an aversion to putting a couple of jumpers on and turning their heating down a couple of degrees .

      Regarding recycling it would of course be better not to generate so much unneccessary packaging in the first place but we need to seperate our rubbish for no other reason than having almost run out of landfill sites .

      The regulator could do a lot more to stop us being stiffed by the foreign owned energy cartel who pass price rises onto us but never reductions .
      Is this intended as a back door subsidy to persuade them to invest in infrastructure ?

      We need more protection from the financial services industry so that they exact less of a tribute on us all with obscene saving/lending rate margins and high charges on poorly performing pensions . Without this the country will never prepare for old age .

      I’m not optimistic though . The best option for anyone young enough and fit enough is to emigrate .

      Two of my friends have lost their jobs in the last 2 months and I can see unemployment topping 4 million as early as Dec 2012 , almost all of that hit being taken by the private sector .

      1. lifelogic
        December 21, 2010

        I agree with extra jumpers and vests and even not heating all the house in winter perhaps (though not my wife ).

        I agree with being frugal and not wasting things and recycling when it makes sense just not as a religion (some is good some is pointless).

        But current solar panels in the cloudy UK will not generate enough to pay for them to be cleaned of moss and maintained let alone to justify their installation and depreciation costs.

        Even with the absurd government enforced subsidy we all have to pay for through our bills they are still usually a nonsense.

        1. Simon
          December 21, 2010

          Solar panels would at least be cleaned by British Citizens so the money spent should actually circulate in our own economy .

          I agree that feed in tariffs are too good to be true and cannot last at current levels .

          Depreciation implies that either the efficiency of the panel drops off (in future they may not) or retail energy prices fall which does not look likely .

          Installation cost is higher in the UK than in other countries of Europe . Much of it must be regulatory costs . There is scope for it to drop .

          I’ve seen figures which suggest that if the entire roof of an average 3 bed semi was covered it should be able to generate an average of over 20 kilowatt hours per day over the course of a year and if they are true then it’s worth having .

          Retail energy prices are likely to rise and PV costs to drop to a point which makes implementation of PV viable . That point may be reached sooner than we think .

          Can’t see us being able to afford to import the amount of energy we do now for many more decades .

          1. lifelogic
            December 26, 2010

            I have not objection to the technology if and when it becomes cost effective. The 20KWH is for a cloudless sunny summer day at a true non subsidised value perhaps £1-£2 worth. Over winter cloudy days and the whole year perhaps as little £80 PA. Cost to install perhaps £15,000. Plus cleaning maintenance.

            To push these onto the public is virtually complete fraud they will not thank the government when they realise. They are expensive white elephants. Or rather expensive, I am green and cannot do sums, advertisements.

    7. Stuart Fairney
      December 21, 2010

      Yes, NHS alternative medicine for sure; I am truly amazed that we pay quacks to prescribe (in the case of homeopathy) unproven water, purely for the placebo effect.

      If you want this nonsense, do it on your own money

    8. lifelogic
      December 21, 2010

      One more:

      Limit redundancy payments to £2,000 maximum so that the state sector can be halved in size so much more cheaply and the employees are thus released to do something more useful.

  2. Mick Anderson
    December 21, 2010

    Apart from all the worthy changes you list, there are other simple efficiencies that could make everybodies life a little better.

    Ignoring whether the BBC should exist as a body, abolish the TV licence and have Mr Osborne simply send money from the Treasury. There’s enough correlation between those who pay general tax and those who pay the TV licence for the change to largely balance out. It means that all the expensive and wasteful framework to collect from almost every household in the UK could be abolished, along with all the associated laws and those singularly annoying “reminder adverts” on the BBC.

    Abolish Vehicle Excise Duty and put £0.05 on to each litre of fuel. Somebody driving a car that does average mileage and average fuel consumption (12000 miles, 35mpg) would effectively pay the same over the year. Again, it saves the cost of collection and abolishes a lot of niggling laws. It’s also completely “green” – the more you pollute (either by poor fuel consumption or great distance) the more you pay. However, if you own and look after a classic car that only comes out on high days and holidays, you are not fleeced.

    I still don’t understand why Mr Hunts department exists – abolish the whole thing. Any freebies given out to support the Arts can be done by the Treasury within the existing tax framework, and most of the population couldn’t care less about the Olympics. Scotland and Wales have their own devolved talking shops administration, so both of those Parliamentary offices could be deleted.

    We don’t need high speed rail at all – it’s a vanity project. The proposals will burn vast sums money, annoy a lot of people near the route, and have no benefit for the vast majority of the population. If there is that sort of spare money sloshing about (and we all know that there isn’t) do something for the future. Install a glass fibre link to every house instead of waiting for BT to condecend to do it. That would make proper high-speed internet a reality, instead of another promise broken in the small-print.

    1. Alan Wheatley
      December 21, 2010

      As to High Speed Rail and fibre optics, you are absolutely right!

  3. JimF
    December 21, 2010

    Some good points here but you forget the NHS.
    The overall impression is of a free-for-all for anyone who has the time and inclination to hustle and bustle, whilst the people who spend 99pc of their lives working and paying for the organisation get short shrift.
    Until would be patients get charged even in a token way for missing appointments and for self-inflicted wounds I’d say it’s not working optimally.
    That’s before even starting on the administration and organisation, which again always strikes one as very inefficient in the way appointments are made/changed/cancelled, still by post and phone rather than offering any e-mail based systems.

  4. Jose
    December 21, 2010

    I believe the coalition has some good ideas, welfare and education being 2. I am disappointed in the lack of ‘real’ action in reducing the government budget. The company I worked for simply passed instructions down with the annual budget reviews to reduce by a percentage. This was possible as long as you had managers prepared to work with you as opposed to wanting to retain their feifdoms which I believe is the case with certain government ministers.
    The government must reduce its size and consequently cost to the taxpayer. Simply, it just needs to stop ALL recruitment for one year and see how ‘bad’ things are!
    Next become very difficult towards the EU, not just for British public perception but also to let our neighbours know that we will no longer be a pushover; Cameron needs to get some backbone from Margaret Thatcher!

  5. Colin D.
    December 21, 2010

    (1)Get rid of the stupid target for half of school leavers to go to university. This would enable all those universities we have never heard of the be shut down. Some could be converted back to Polytechnics which would be much cheaper and provide people with the skills we really need
    (2) Reduce the number of echelons of management in the NHS. Integrate/streamline the multiplicity of NHS organisations. Slash the funding for NHS administration and sack anyone who justifies cuts in front line services on these admin cuts
    (3) Get rid of the idea that pumping more money into schools raises standards. An excellent teacher backed up with strong discipline can achieve excellent results without computers, whiteboards, trendy architecture and all these costly government initiatives.
    And best of all…
    (4) Leave the EU

  6. Nick
    December 21, 2010

    Cancel Cross rail.

    It’s just another Boris’s bikes for commuters.

    Boris’s bikes cost 13,500 each. (Total cost / number of bikes)

    Cross rail is the same.

    1. lifelogic
      December 21, 2010


      Boris Bikes have nothing to do with transport and everything to do with PR just a way of saying vote for Boris at pubic expense. Still Boris is much better than Livingstone but he should really be setting a good example!

  7. Javelin
    December 21, 2010

    I fear the civil servants are “fiscal junkies”. They are undisciplined.

    Time for the auditors and management accountants to poke their noses into every crook and cranny.

    1. Mark
      December 21, 2010

      I would be interested if you have any observations to add to my comments on DTCC data here:


      Reply: You are right that net positions are much smaller than the gross ones. They are constantly changing, and no-one can ever know for sure how “safe” these netted positions might be, as they depend on the volatility of at least two instruments that may not complement each other as well as planned. The one safe conclusion is all gearing can increase risk, even if you think you are reducing risk by it.

  8. Phil Kean
    December 21, 2010

    I agree with much of that

    However, I would leave the banks alone. I would also make it clear that banks would in future not be receiving state assistance, and I would regulate with a light, gradual, non-intrusive touch, to all-but eliminate the risk to the UK economy from any future irresponsible bank practise.

    Where I am poles apart from you is on the EU, where – it appears to me – you seem to accept that this government’s actions have been taken reluctantly?

    However, there are competencies conceded by this government which were NOT mandated or forced upon them – which has served to further empower and enable the Socialist EU bloc – has initiated the EU’s supposed need for higher revenues – and which could, if resisted, have part-fulfilled this Tory Party’s manifesto pledges NOT to cede further Sovereignty without referring to UK voters.

    I add to this the fact that Cameron’s government has made some dangerous, illogical and counter-productive defence cuts, which – in my opinion – can ONLY make sense if one assumes they were made in preparation for Britain’s future inclusion into an EU armed forces.

    John, an honest question. As Miliband taunted Cameron during yesterday’s EU Commons statement – when Miliband implied that Cameron was successfully tricking & placating his so called ‘Euro-sceptics’ by, well, being a double-agent – have you EVER seen Cameron’s face go so instantaneously red? Look at the replay, the shade of red is striking. What does that say?

    I put it to you that, whilst decent, honourable, democratic MPs, such as yourself, abide by Queensberry Rules – your committed, pro Federal EU opponents will – at any opportunity – brazenly deceive, calculate, trick and manufacture their way to manoeuvring Britain into an irreversible inclusion into a Federal EU. And it is my firm belief that this includes taking Britain into the Euro early in the next Parliament.

    In who’s interest that the Euro-zone is successful?

  9. Richard
    December 21, 2010

    I find myself agreeing with nearly everything proposed so far.

    Especially the idea of promotion for Mr Redwood and Mr Pickles.

    I would go further with the BBC and turn it into a PLC by issuing shares to the public with the Government perhaps keeping a certain percentage, like we did years ago with BP.

    The EU needs to be told we will not increase our contributions until we are running a budget surplus.

    And I would like to see levels of top pay in Quangos and Local Govt limited to a max of £150k.

    I sense the Goverment’s much trumpeted “bonfire of the quangos” has already run out of steam, a rich source of savings, if only they would be brave enough to actually do it.

  10. Geoff not Hoon
    December 21, 2010

    Mr. Redwood, One item I would add to your list is still the issue of wasted spending whether in revenue or capital terms across the whole spectrum of government departments, local authority, NHS, MOD etc. To my mind and because the problem is both huge and across all sectors of where our tax take goes there is still noone really championing cutting waste. Like many who contribute here I suspect I could list actual spends in area’s that would make even your hair curl. The nearest I guess we get to such a person is either Eric Pickles or Vince Cable but neither seem to have the clout when it comes to the big issues. I discount Phillip Green’s recent (very) short work as a publicity stunt. David Cameron once touched on the talent and experience now ‘sitting’ in retirement and how we should be using that more instead of such things as billion pound quango’s, consultancies etc. As a director of a large charity I see daily the depth of experience and knowledge laid to waste in retirement , yet this same talent has the ability to make a major contribution to some of our current ill’s at a fraction of the cost. Dare I use the Blair reference to the third way. (private, public and third way–not politics!!!)

  11. English Pensioner
    December 21, 2010

    Even where it is correct for the government to spend money, they seem to spend enormous sums on administration in the process, making the costs even higher. Whether or not pensioners should get a winter fuel allowance is arguable, but why so much administration? My wife and I each get separate letters telling us we are to get it, and then two separate payments are made into our bank account. Why not simply stick a couple of ponds on our weekly pension throughout the year? Or if they consider pensioners are so feckless, why not have a summer and a winter pension rate? And as for the £10 Christmas bonus, is it really worth all the trouble?
    Our local Council wrote to us both telling us that our pensioners bus passes are about to expire, and asking if we wanted then renewed. If so to fill in and return the attached form. What did the form want to know? Our address! Both my bank and credit card company send out new cards when necessary without asking first, why does the council find it necessary?
    It is the myriad of small items like this which anger many people, not enormous sums in the scheme of things, but they seem to have forgotten the old adage “Look after the pennies ………”

    1. Sean O'Hare
      December 21, 2010

      Our local Council wrote to us both telling us that our pensioners bus passes are about to expire, and asking if we wanted then renewed. If so to fill in and return the attached form.

      As a fellow pensioner even I can work this out. They simply want to know that you are still alive.

      1. English Pensioner
        December 21, 2010

        1. A few weeks previously, the same district council had sent me an electoral registration form, which had already been returned,so the information was available somewhere within the building.
        2. My wife has a “spare” credit card, which hadn’t been used for several years as unlike her present one it doesn’t offer any points or rewards. Last month she received a replacement – I would have thought it more important for the credit card company to know she was still alive than the District Council.

    December 21, 2010

    You and Lifelogic in particular are very much on the right lines whilst Jose sums up the root perception problem highlighted in the research of Essex Voters Voice (to which our colleagues referred recently at the 6 month stage of this government):
    “Cameron needs to get some backbone from Margaret Thatcher”
    The PM is rather more Blair than Thatcher at present voters of all parties believe by and large and this should concern him more than somewhat.

    It’s difficult to convince the public of the mess in which Labour left the public finances without the follow through we were promised. The most obvious are the EU and immigration cap messes and the ensuing costs to the nation. NOW is such an obvious time to throw down the gauntlet and show we are truly serious but we fear that opportunity is passing fast.

    As we have often said here it is important that the government measure and inform us all of the financial progress being made – or is that the problem…despite all the tough words we’re not really making much?

  13. Bill
    December 21, 2010

    Well put,

    Afghanistan – how long does it take to train an army? My granddad had a few weeks training in Hartlepool , then it was straight out to the trenches.

    Review and reduce the aid budget. India has a space programme and can find the resources to build and maintain missile launch nuclear warheads.
    Increasing contributions to the EU must be nonsense – it’s all very well, other member states being comfortable with increases (but they may be net beneficiaries, receiving more grants – we aren’t in that position)

  14. alan jutson
    December 21, 2010

    Take an axe to Health and Safety Laws, Environmental Health issues, and re-define commonsense with some commonsense (if there is anyone left in Government with some) and accept that accidents will happen.

    Scrap the huge number of recently introduced (Last 20 years) Criminal Laws and revert to the old rather more general definition, and give judges the flexibility to determine sentence according to the percieved level of the crime within a more general definition.
    Eg: Drunk and disorderly, assault, theft, criminal damage etc.

    Agree with Mick Anderson. Scrap car tax and put £0.05 pence on a litre of petrol, diesel. You can then scrap a whole Government Department and eliminate tax dodgers, and at the same time its pay as you use the roads.

    1. alan jutson
      December 21, 2010

      With regard to snow.


      Exactly same comments as last year.

      If we have plenty of salt and grit, get out of work builders with lorries and pick ups, to clear footpaths and side roads where gritters cannot go for parked cars, farmers and the like to help clear roads with their machinery.

      Alt get fit unemployed to help.

      Back in the 1960’s not many football matches were cancelled, as clubs put out sign boards “help clear snow and watch the game for free”. Thousands of supporters used to turn up with shovels to clear the pitch (no under soil heating), the terraces (not covered then) and surrounding streets so that game could proceed.

      I guess Health and Safety would not allow this now on the grounds that people were not instructed fully, did not complete a Risk Assessment and Method Statement and as such the temporary Employer would not be insured.

      Interesting interview on Radio yesterday with the manager of a Sweedish Airport, who ARE open. They can clear the runway, aprons and taxiways in 7 mins, they think we are a joke.

      What did we do in the 2nd World War?
      Did it snow in the 5 years duration, if so, did we have servicable runways or did we ask our enemy to hold off for a while until we got ready.

  15. TC
    December 21, 2010

    Winter Fuel Payments – how are they not means tested? Bonkers

    1. eddyh
      December 21, 2010

      I’m glad they aren’t. My wifes and mine go straight to charities.

  16. Brian Tomkinson
    December 21, 2010

    Today’s record public spending borrowing figures confirm that, for all their talk, this government is singularly failing to get a grip of government spending. Perhaps not surprising with people like Cable at the centre of power. The pity is that you don’t seem to have any influence over your colleagues. Do you think if you threatened ‘the nuclear option’ to join the LibDems they might listen to you?!

    1. Geoff not Hoon
      December 21, 2010

      Mr. Tomkinson, I know your comment was probably said in jest but do you really want to see him move to a party that wont exist for nine tenths of the electorate after the next election??

      1. Brian Tomkinson
        December 21, 2010

        Of course my final comment was an attempt at irony. However, what is so frustrating is that John Redwood has so little influence and yet an overrated, disloyal, braggart like Cable can apparently keep a senior cabinet job despite his behaviour showing beyond doubt that he is unworthy of such a position.

  17. Neil Craig
    December 21, 2010

    If we are goping to do foreihn aid I would actually tend to limit iot to the succesful countries not the failing ones. Reinforcing failure is a lot of the reason governments het away with it. However the best things we could do for the 3rd world woyuld be getting out from the EU tariff system & getting into space where we could build larger telecommunication satellites – the really rather impressive growth in Africa recently has been because the people can make deals on mobil;e phones without government intervention.

    I have, many times, said I would cut the H&S mafia & let us have cheap nuclear electricity.

    Lets also cut the planning bureaucracy who are responsible for 75% of all housing costs & have a civil service hiring ban, allowing redjuction through natural wastage, until the budget balances.

    I would al;so happily end all the government TV advertising about catastrophic global warming, passive smoking etc etc. & eliminate any quango s[penmding our money on it.

  18. Eoin Clarke
    December 21, 2010

    Excellent list of priorities, especially Afghan, Europe, China and India….

    A plastic bag tax, and a utilities profits tax of c.£1.5bn p.a. would also help alleviate some of our need for cuts. [As a Red I would prefer tax rises].

    I think we should turn prisons into fully fledged businesses. Royal Mail sorting offices or meat processing plants [abotoires for example?] We would be doing these people a favour to keep them employed throughout their visit to prison.

    I think we should means test anything that moves. Child benefit, Housing Benefit, Winter fuel etc… I agree with Osborne that c.£40k is a nice leveller…. If in addition we introduced the living wage c.£15k, we could abolish housing benefit for anyone who works full time. If ordinary hardworking folk have to make do by downsizing or living in an affordable area, well then so should they. I estimate this would save us £40bn over the life time of the parliament. I would use this to bring corporation tax even lower so tha we could attract more inward investment. The growth generated from this would pay off the debt quicker.

    I would consider means testing the state pension to exclude people who already are well catered for in their later years… I would consider privatising the BBC but simultaneously introducing a truth law that obliges private TV companies to report accurately.. perhaps an obectivity watchdog for our television news programmes.

    That’s just a starter, i could probably write a book on the mad notions swirling round in my head.

    1. eddyh
      December 21, 2010

      Please don’t!

  19. Paul B
    December 21, 2010

    From the ONS (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/psf1210.pdf):

    Provisional estimates of the public finances show that the public sector had:
    * a current budget deficit excluding the temporary effects of financial interventions of £19.9 billion in November 2010 (a deficit of £19.4 billion including interventions)
    * net borrowing excluding the temporary effects of financial interventions of £23.3 billion in November 2010 (£22.8 billion including interventions)

    Those are big numbers for one month.

    You’ve got your work cut out!

  20. Steve Cox
    December 21, 2010

    Stop wasting vast amounts of our money on renewable energy and start preparing for The Dawn of a New Ice Age

    Seriously, I spent most of my working life building and using extremely complex numerical forecasting models in the oil industry (where we call them reservoir simulators), just like the models that the weather and climate change forecasters use. If the models miss out an important part of the physics, such as the influence of solar activity, then their predictions will be nonsense. Note that the author is not denying the existence of AGW, in fact, it may save us Europeans in the end as it overtakes the cooling influence of reduced solar activity. And the simple fact is that we do not have adequate physical and mathematical understanding of the influence of the sun on our climate. So instead of building pointless windmills that work less than 30% of the time, we really need to be beefing up our generating capacity in terms of nuclear, coal, gas and oil, plus beefing up the grid, to prepare for the possible – or is that probably – increasingly cold winters ahead.

    1. Simon
      December 21, 2010

      I take your point that there are too many variables to enable the way in which the climate might change to be predicted .

      Even if the climate does not change significantly , unless a new source of energy is found the game is up for the UK .

      Why would the rest of the World want to sell us energy in 20 or 30 years time ?

      We don’t have the military force to go and take it anymore or anything left to sell that they would want .

      In the long term , our salvation would appear to depend on reducing our per capita consumption and population to a level consistent with a country of our size and natural resources .

  21. Steve Cox
    December 21, 2010

    Sorry, I forgot the link to the article in the previous reply – maybe you can merge them? Thanks.


  22. Iain Gill
    December 21, 2010

    Good Post

    Re “go for cheaper relatively clean technologies based on gas for our power generation” the most obvious real “green” investment would be to increse the loft insulation in the homes up and down the land, would also drop the future fuel bills significantly, and increase the amount needed in new builds. Not sexy, not big lobby organisations for it. But prudent common sense. Would also soak up some folk from the ranks of unemployment for the national good. Compared to ADDING several hundred to everyones fuel bill to pay for windmills it is a bargain!

    Also you missed the most obvious cut to the the tax dispensations, first year national insurance free, free state schools for their children, and free NHS for their families for the non EC nationals here on work visas, exceptions only where their home country provices these for Brits working there! And only dispensations when its equally easy for a Brit to get a work visa in their home country as it is for them here.

  23. Jamess
    December 21, 2010

    Give everyone who opts out of (non-A&E) NHS treatment and state education for children a tax break worth 50% of the average cost of these services. This can be sold as a justice issue (why should they pay twice for services) and cut overall spending on these services (since more people will opt out)

    If the left is correct, and these services offer great value for money, no-one will opt out and there will be no change (and therefore they can’t whinge at the changes). If the right is right then the poor value of government run services will be exposed and an alternative will develope.

  24. Ross J Warren
    December 21, 2010

    The more I read you John the greater my respect for you becomes. Getting out of Afghanistan, would not only save us a packet, but also put us in a position to start rebuilding our reputation in the Arab world. Its not as if the Government we have propped up is worth the sacrifice of young lives and treasure.

    Its very difficult to know if this an last winter are likely to be repeated and so very hard to judge how much money we should invest in new snow clearing machinery.
    I used to work for Bunch Ashbury lmt, the inventors of the steel snow plough and a great example of a British success story. This remarkable company even managed to sell Snow ploughs to middle east nations adapted to clear sand. It is companies like Bunces quietly going about their business that are the backbone of our economy.

    The sooner we can lower tax’s, especially those taxes that hinder employment the sooner our economy will turn around. It seems rather strange to me that we have a Conservative chancellor raising VAT when our recovery is still so tenuous. Gardeners know better than to prune back to hard, and certainly do not do so at the first sign of fresh growth.

    1. VIVID
      December 21, 2010

      On the question of snow management equipment, could we not share the cost with a country on the other side of the world and share as the season dictates. Should we not be globally co-operating ( Helping one another with realistic simple ideas ) ?

  25. A.Sedgwick
    December 21, 2010

    Yes, all of these, out of Afghanistan, privatise overseas aid (no more government to government aid), stop being the nice guys in the EU – the Germans are clearly thinking the same, send Huhne to Antarctica(lots of wind down there). Zero tolerance policing, crime costs billions and wrecks our society(Cameron and his big society is another example of his wrongheadedness) and then there is the NHS, the third biggest employer in the world.
    I do not recognise what the coalition has done as cuts, simple mantra cut expenditure, cut taxes, give business and the workers a break.

  26. oldtimer
    December 21, 2010

    Government subsidies of its misguided green agenda should be eliminated; this includes the money spent on backhanders to the numerous organisations that then spend it on AGW propaganda. Even more insidious are the legislated costs (not counted as government spending) that are imposed on businesses and consumers to subsidise energy companies to invest in the absurdities of wind farms, solar energy and the like and the extensions of the national grid needed to connect these wasteful ventures to the existing grid.

    When looking at these various measures, many the consequence of the Climate Change Act, I have come to think we live not in a democracy but in an idiocy.

  27. Steve Tierney
    December 21, 2010

    Scrap HS2 forever, leave the EU completely, cancel ALL foreign aid until we are back in the black as a nation, dump the worthless windfarms and other red herrings and invest in nuclear, clean coal and gas, leave Afghanistan within 1 year. After those easy things are done we can start getting properly radical. : )

  28. Mark
    December 21, 2010

    The latest PSBR data imply that we need some more urgency: the deficit moved upward sharply in November to £20.4bn for the month – some £3.8bn higher than November, 2009. The main reasons for the increase were higher general spending (+£3bn) and higher debt interest (+£1.5bn) offset by a £1bn increase in receipts.

    It is therefore disappointing to see that we are still going to be paying for 10,000 extra university places because no attempt has been made to tackle the real problems of higher education; that the excellent plan to cap housing benefit has been deferred and watered down; that inadequate control over ICT visas will mean jobs going to foreigners that could have cut UK dole queues; that the energy plans have become even more unrealistic (I would argue we should keep coal fired stations rather than increasing reliance on gas too far, which reduces diversity of supply sources and increases price risk by depending on just one commodity – and if push really comes to shove, we could mine and burn our own coal).

    1. Simon
      December 21, 2010

      Using gas and oil to generate electricity is about as responsible as wearing out an antique hunting shot gun on clays .

      What a legacy we are bequeathing to our offspring .

      The worsening figures you quote and rising unemployment are going to make a nonsense of the assumptions the coalition used when deciding budgets . The aim appeared to be to break even , a surefire route to making a loss .

  29. Alan Wheatley
    December 21, 2010

    First scrap HS2, a vanity project with lots of pain for no gain: it is not GREEN; it is not going to deliver a net economic benefit, and the already marginal (at best) case has got worse with the inevitable cost increases following the route change.

    Agreed all EU points. Why support the rocky road to disaster.?

    As to Afghanistan, this is a more difficult case to balance. On one side is the continuing cost, which is clear. On the other side is the cost of not being there, which is much more difficult to weigh, but never the less real. What is the “cost” of pulling out too soon such that the terrorists re-take control and from that base inflict further damage upon us? And what is the cost to our international credibility: who will wish to ally themselves to the UK if we are seen to be only a fair-weather friend? There is a potential material cost here too.

  30. Bob Frost
    December 21, 2010


    ‘Why not offer payments to farmers and other owners of heavy duty vehicles to go out and clear more of the roads?’

    Possibly an apocryphal tale but farmers certainly used to do this. I am lead to believe that the reason they don’t is that they run their tractors on ‘red diesel’ and HM Customs would prosecute if non tax paid fuel was used for snow clearing.

    Reply: I am told the new government has picked up on that one and intends to legalise this use for red diesel. (Needs checking as I have not seen that written down yet)

    1. alan jutson
      December 21, 2010

      Red Diesel being used.

      Have we really got so low in commonsense, that we are worried about Customs and Excise (a Government Department) prosecuting people using red diesel in vehicles, for clearing our roads if asked to do so.

      Next it will be, are they insured when working under Government/local Authority directive.

      The UK must be (one of the only places) the only place where you could not make this up as an excuse.

      Guarantee we may still be awaiting an answer in June.

      1. norman
        December 21, 2010

        Alan, you haven’t considered a lot of points.

        Will the tractor drivers have the requisite license to allow them to clear the roads?

        Will they have performed all the risk assessments beforehand?

        There may be children on the roads, or in cars they are helping – have they a valid (ludicrous) paedophile check?

        Have they attended the 4 day training course ‘How to drive a tractor in the snow’ ran by some jobsworth who wouldn’t know a tractor from a combine harvester?

        I’m sure there are plenty more obstacles bureaucrats can dream up to place in their way.

        What we really need is a new quango ‘Winter and Snow Treatment Equipment (WASTE)’ to monitor these dangerous maverick snow clearers.

  31. DiscoveredJoys
    December 21, 2010

    Perhaps not as popular, but how about reducing the number of drug addicts going to prison? Legalisation or decriminalisation of drug use, done properly, would reduce the amount of crime committed to feed the habit(s) and free up prison places for more violent criminals. The cost of the War on Drugs is money poorly spent.

    I’d also crack down (no pun intended) on drug use within prisons. Start by making part of each prison drug free – shorten the sentences of those that stay clean and imprison prison staff and visitors who smuggle drugs in.

  32. Ken
    December 21, 2010

    I agree with your suggestions, but we could also make large savings in welfare payments here in the UK.

    We should recognise that there is a world of difference between man in his 40’s who has just lost his job and has a family to support and mortgage to pay and an out of work 21 year old who is living with their parents.

    In my experience EMA payments prevented youths from growing as it drip fed them (not all of them, but a lot of them) with sufficient pocket money to stifle moves to self-improvement. Job seekers pay outs to young people are an extension to this and they mean that a 21 year old is till acting like a 17 year old. We are in danger of having middle aged 17 year olds in the future.

    People need to grow and prosper and cannot or will not do this while they are being drip fed.

    I also think the government is being too shy and defensive over spending cuts. The BBC reports the effect of cuts and can always find worthy examples of those who will be affected. However there is no symmetry. Where was the BBC when our money was all being spent as well as our children’s money? Even more reason in my view for the government not to be defensive but rather to constantly point out why we are cutting.

  33. Alte Fritz
    December 22, 2010

    Now I know why so many contributors opt for anonymity.

  34. Boudicca
    December 22, 2010

    We should stop all funding to the EU. The whole operation is riven with fraud, which is why their accounts haven’t been signed off for 16 years. British taxpayers are funding non-existent olive groves; Mafia-run enterprises in Italy and various scams in the former eastern European countries. We are subsidising an unelected cabal of political elites and bureaucrats who flaunt their powers and prestige at our expense using our money. Why are we subsidising French farmers through the CAP when France has the 8th largest economy in the world, 2 places behind the UK. The simple answer is, we shouldn’t be.

    We should simply refuse any more payments and let Brussels thrown a hissy fit.

    Then, we should turn attention to the UK Parliament/s. We are either a United Kingdom or we’re not. If we are, we should close down the devolved assemblies and run the UK from Westminster. If we’re not, we should become a properly Federal Union with devolved Parliaments, including one for England which can use the House of Commons, with a small Federal Government to deal with union-wide matters (like the USA system).

    However, on the basis that that won’t ever happen, the number of Westminster MPs and Lords should be reduced to 400 respectively, with the bulk of the reductions coming from the devolved regions.

  35. Bazman
    December 24, 2010

    Here’s a corker! Make large companies and individuals pay their share of the tax like everyone else and stop subsidising banks and allowing them cheap money to lend, that’s if they do, a rip off rates. In short a crack down, and if they don’t like it call their bluff as we hold all the cards anyway.

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