Where does the money go?

 

The bruising rows about whether individual budgets should be ring fenced have always struck me as an odd way to build a budget. Whitehall public spending debates are all set up for the parade of the bleeding stumps, as departments claim that if they are going to face a “cut” they will have to discontinue something sensitive or popular. The system is designed to protect the paperclips and the new computers, the travel budgets and the recruitment of more staff or consultants.

I asked recently how much departments spent on  travel  for officials and Ministers in 2012-13.  The Foreign Office, Health and Environment Departments did not bother to reply. The Treasury said £1.5m,  Business £2.9 m, with International development coming up with an eye popping £11.25m. I accept they need to visit the places they are giving money to, but Business needs to visit places we are selling goods to.

I asked how many new computers and tablets each Department had bought over the last two years.Education said 2624, Health 3090 and International development 4027. Only the Home Office bought more, at 7766. The Treasury kept their buying spree down to just 2. Once again the Foreign Office did not stoop to  a reply.

All this shows several trends. Firstly, government does not treat Parliamentary questions as seriously as they used to. Secondly, if you give a department a large increase in its budget, as with International development, they spend much more on  themselves on items like new computers and travel. Thirdly these two simple questions, even allowing for under recording and non answers in some cases, seem to show that departments are still spending on things that could be cut.

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91 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Once again John we have human nature at work here.

    Give someone a large budget of somone else’s money, and suggest that it all can be spent over a fixed period of time, and sure as eggs are eggs, it will all go in that time frame.

    Thus the above so called expenditure/budget then becomes the starting/benchmark figure for future years.

    The simple solution, start from zero each year and make the departments account for all proposed expenditure in advance, with reasons as to why this should be. Trouble is with this scheme you need to have someone at the top who is prepared to be unpopular, not a trait of many Mp’s, who all seem to want to be everyones friend with continuing and increasing give aways.

    By the way, anything happened yet with the suggested possible savings outlined by Philip Green, who was asked to report on Government waste a couple of years ago ?.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    No one surely, who has worked in or has much knowledge of the state sector, can be very surprised. They are all run almost entirely for the benefit of staff. The activities staff like such as playing with computers, travel, entertaining, choosing new names and logos, team building/training exercises, advertising/propaganda, choosing new offices and furniture, employing new staff and friends are given priority.

    The public are just an inconvenience, to be ignored usually, as much as possible. I personally have been waiting several months for a reply to a simple question to HMRC on a stamp duty issue and for a response from the Civil Aviation Authority. It gets to the point where you have to get your solicitor or MP to write before you even get so much as an acknowledgement, let alone a reply. Even then the reply usually fails to address the issue you raised. Too much trouble for them to bother to read your letter in 3 months one assumes. When you ring they usually have the letter on file though but they have just ignored it.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 6:03 am | Permalink

      I missed off two of their main activities – thinking of new justifications for a large increase in the budget next year and exaggerating the complexity of the work needed to address the problems they are supposed to be addressing. Or thinking of ways of licencing or fining the public to generate direct income.

      I do not imagine any department has ever said to government – “we have now solved the problem that you set us up to address. We should now be closed down as we are clearly no longer needed.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted May 1, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

        lifelogic–On the important matter of your Yankee spellcheckerisation, let it be recorded that it should be licensing (with an s) in British English (only a c if it’s a noun).

        • lifelogic
          Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

          I just need another secretary to proof read all my output.

          • forthurst
            Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

            only one?

          • zorro
            Posted May 1, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

            It’s a full time job with your ‘looses’ and ‘soles’……. 🙂

            zorro

          • lifelogic
            Posted May 2, 2013 at 4:11 am | Permalink

            Spelling anyway should evolve and improve, as it always used to, before it was fixed in aspic by arbitrary dictionaries and now worse often US spell checkers.

            There really is no great advantage in having homonyms such as to, two and too, their, they’re and there, soul and sole, seas, sees and seize. Let spelling evolve as it should and it always used to – just as pronunciation/accent naturally evolves. With computers and pronunciation dictionaries, perhaps that will become fixed in aspic too?

            It is clearly top down socialism to decree one “right” way especially one so irrational and arbitrary.

    • Roger Farmer
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      The top echelons of HMRC, by repute, have little knowledge of taxation. Who needs to know such petty detail when you are there to manage and inspire leadership usually by hiring very expensive consultants who are seen to be much better at disseminating bullshit. As for the CAA they were known as the Committee Against Aviation.

      • zorro
        Posted May 1, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        They have Lin Homer as their CEO……What could go wrong?…….appointment blessed by Gideon and Cast Elastic

        zorro

    • Bob
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      @lifelogic
      “Even then the reply usually fails to address the issue you raised. Too much trouble for them to bother to read your letter in 3 months one assumes. When you ring they usually have the letter on file though but they have just ignored it.”

      The equality driven public sector recruitment process may have something to do with it. They don’t necessarily appoint people based on their ability.

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 1, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        Indeed – Ability, intelligence, politeness, numeracy, nor even a basic command of English seem to be very high on their requirement list. In the civil service the majority are now female and over 25% work part time. They take more sick leave, have better working conditions, are paid with pension about 50% more. And soon, thanks to socialist Cameron the state sector union man Ed Miliband will be in number 10.

        The overall impression one gets is many do not give a dam ***** about the public they are supposed to be serving. Loads of part time/job share/maternity/paternity/sick/team building/training exercise/ working at home/conferences. Thus they are never there when you ring and no one else in the office can help as they “don’t know anything about it”.

        Mind you with HMRC many of the calls just keep you waiting on 0845 numbers, then often tell you they are busy and to get lost then just hang up. Not even taking a message from you – for them to ignore later.
        Is this not a criminal offence of taking money under false pretenses one wonders?

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Some money also seems to go on prosecuting people for calling someone an English Cow and fining them £50 or a lover of sheep.

      One assume it is OK to call people English if they are English or even if not? Also to call them a Cow as it clearly has no racist element and is just plain rude.

      It seems the problem is you have to do it in different sentences with a suitable gap else it might cost £50 plus all the court costs and police time.

      Meanwhile violent + GBH offenders get off with no prosecution often it seems – if the victim accepts an apology.

      Who on earth runs the legal department and the home office? Oh yes the Coalition does.

      • uanime5
        Posted May 1, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

        Meanwhile violent + GBH offenders get off with no prosecution often it seems – if the victim accepts an apology.

        That’s not how the law works. Usually the police won’t prosecute for GBH if they lack the evidence to get a conviction.

        • Hope
          Posted May 1, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

          You nearly wrote a factually accurate blog-well done. The CPS makes the decision to prosecute not the police. The sentiment is correct. No point having “localism” either when the straight jacket of regulation and laws are determined at the centre. Cameron, Clegg and Millpede are still disingenuous about localism- just another layer bureaucracy like the police commissioners.

        • lifelogic
          Posted May 1, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink
          • uanime5
            Posted May 2, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

            Under English law picking someone with a pin is GBH if it results in bleeding. Without knowing the level of violence involved it’s impossible to say whether these “community resolutions” were used inappropriately.

            Also “community resolutions” can only be used if the victim agrees to it.

      • zorro
        Posted May 1, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

        Don’t forget life logic, if they are foreign, they will be able to get off with a ‘conditional caution’ if they promise to leave the UK. Somehow, I doubt that this option will be open to GBR nationals charged with the same offence……As English, we need to accept our roles in life which is to be vilified as essentially evil conniving routers who oppress people. If you need to refresh yourself about this, watch a Mel Gibson film like ‘The Patriot’ or ‘Braveheart’……

        zorro

        • zorro
          Posted May 1, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

          Rotters even……..

    • uanime5
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      I personally have been waiting several months for a reply to a simple question to HMRC on a stamp duty issue and for a response from the Civil Aviation Authority.

      Maybe they took your advice and fired half their staff to somehow improve their efficiency.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    I suspect you will find the computers bought are not tools to do the job basic laptops which can be bought in bulk for £100 but trendy higher spec toys for the staff to play with, shop with, organise their photos on etc.

    It would be interesting to see what they spent per laptop, computer or tablet and who made the decisions and on what basis. Staff will be staff after all if you let them. Justine Greening an accountant and current minister is surely to blame. Does she ever look at the accounts and ask questions? Does she set a direction? I suspect not.

    • zorro
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      They are often stuck in poorly negotiated IT contracts with big companies who are having a laugh. They come in with a ‘loow’ provision figure and then charge exorbitant amounts for any extras…..

      If only the IT was useful it might help, but my understanding is that government computers are so locked down that they cannot take proper advantage of the internet capability, because they restrict programs which can be used on them.

      zorro

    • Hope
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      You ought to remember the quantity of computers MPs claimed for at the height of the expense scandal. Extraordinary. It left me with the distinct impression they were buying them for relatives, I cannot imagine why so many computers broke down as well as all the other feeble excuses. Standards commissioner did nothing about it. IPSA still a waste of space. JR forgets MP s being part of the public sector unnecessary/scandalous spending though.£92 million wasted reasons.

  4. lifelogic
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    We see a typical example of run for the benefit of staff – with the Salford prison van ambush and the two escaped prisoners on their way to be sentenced. Why on earth is this sentencing not done at a prison/court complex – far more cheaply and without the drivers, vans and all the risk and dangers. One assumes just because the court staff prefer working where the courts are. Perhaps they are nearer to good restaurants, shopping, clubs and more pleasant surroundings?

    • Mark
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Sentencing and hearing of cases is supposed to be done in public, but we seem to be drifting to secret kangaroo courts where this is no longer true. That is an unwelcome development from many points of view. We no longer get to hear of the crimes committed; it becomes easy for the state to pursue trumped up charges; justice is no longer seen to be done.

      The most dangerous criminals can be dealt with at Woolwich Crown Court and Belmarsh Prison, which adjoin each other. Of course, you still have to get them there in the first place, and perhaps we need other similar complexes.

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 1, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        Indeed it should be public their are too many scandals in the secret family courts already – but surely it can be done in a room attached or very close to the prison or build the court rooms next door. It might have a good deterrent effect too.

        • uanime5
          Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

          All issues involving the civil courts are private issue, so there’s no reason to hold them in public. Especially when children are involved.

      • uanime5
        Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

        Sentencing and hearing of cases are done in public, though evidence involving national security may be heard by the judge in private. However the public is still informed which crime the person is being accused of.

    • zorro
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      I suspect that the prisoner transfer operation is run by a private company so you might not be able to blame nationalised provision there. Like IT contracts, a lot of these private companies which feed off state business find ways to justify their fees, and as can be seen may not even provide a secure service.

      zorro

    • uanime5
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      Your comments about transporting prisoners shows a lack of understanding of the criminal justice system.

      Firstly as criminal trials are open to the public the sentencing has to be done in public, so a prison would be inappropriate because it’s less open to the public and lacks all the official facilities needed to record the sentence.

      Secondly sentencing in a prison would require a judge to leave the court after a case ends, travel to the prison, then travel back to the court for another case. So it would cause unnecessary delays to other trials.

  5. Steve Cox
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Well the Treasury’s clearly got the right message, perhaps not surprisingly. Since they control the purse strings why are they unable to force other departments to behave more responsibly? I seem to recall that under Gordon Brown the various departments pretty much did as they were told by the Chancellor. Is this change because Mr Osborne is spending too much of his time playing political strategy games related to the 2015 election rather than focusing on his day job as Chancellor? That may well explain why he has failed so hopelessly to cut public spending. Perhaps it’s time that Mr. Cameron appointed a Chancellor who is actually interested in doing the job on a full-time basis, because Mr. Osborne clearly is either not interested or else is not able to do it. My suspicion here is also supported by the news item this morning saying that Mr Osborne has given the Bank a new remit to pursue short term growth rather than financial stability. That reeks of laziness and hopelessness to me, a pathetic attempt to garner a few votes at the next election regardless of the long term cost to the economy. Somebody should remind Mr Osborne of the disastrous legacy of another hopeless Chancellor, Anthony Barber. Does he really wish to be remembered by posterity for the same mistakes and hubris?

    Reply IT is the job of the Chief Secretary, Mr Alexander, to control spending.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      “It is the job of the Chief Secretary, Mr Alexander, to control spending” – then he clearly is not doing his job. Is it not therefore the job of Cameron to sack him? Mr Alexander is far to nice (albeit wrong on most issues as Libdems always are) to be able to do such a job competently.

  6. Ben Kelly
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Interesting figures Mr Redwood – many of those computers and laptops will no doubt be required for staff working from home.

    Milton Friedman “taxed money, at it’s very bottom, is a philosophy of violence and coercion. It’s against freedom, because I have to use force to get the money……… very few people spend other people’s money as carefully as they spend their own”

    and

    “The first and most common way in the private sector is people spending their own money on themselves. In this case, the buyer is interested in both quality (the best product or service that he can afford) and value (getting it at the best price) because he is both the producer of the wealth being spent and the consumer of the good or service being procured.

    The second way is when people spend their own money on others (such as gifts). Here they are still concerned about value (it’s their money), but less concerned about service quality as they are not the consumer.

    The third way is spending other people’s money on yourself. Think of the rich man’s girlfriend who buys herself the nicest dresses in the store on his credit card without even looking at the tag. She wants quality, but value is irrelevant since she sacrifices nothing.

    The fourth way is when people spend other people’s money on other people. In this case, the buyer has no rational interest in either value or quality. Government always and necessarily spends money in this fourth way. This guarantees inefficient public spending because the spenders have no vested interest in efficiently allocating those funds.”

    All parties should be mandated in their manifestos to limit the percentage of GDP they will spend. Increases (or indeed significant decreases) in this figure should require a plebicite. That is the only way to control government’s promises and the civil service.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      “Working at home” more likely playing and browsing at home. We tax people under threat of imprisonment to buy ipads for the state sector to shop and play on, windfarms/pv that do not work, quack medicines in the NHS, HS2 and countless other totally absurd nonsenses.

      • zorro
        Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        They will be buying the iPads at over the odds as well from a private contractor…..

        zorro

        • zorro
          Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

          with some spurious ‘security’ requirement bumping up the price….

          zorro

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Milton Friedman “taxed money, at it’s very bottom, is a philosophy of violence and coercion. It’s against freedom, because I have to use force to get the money……… very few people spend other people’s money as carefully as they spend their own”.

      Quite right.

      You money spent on yourself – quite efficient.

      Your money spent on presents for others – less efficient but not too bad at least they try to buy something nice.

      Others tax payer money spent of something they think others want (or pushed to their mates, or to buy votes) is very, very inefficient. Perhaps 90% is wasted on the journey from tax payer to recipient of any useful services.

    • uanime5
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

      Given how many useless items people buy for themselves it seems that they’re not good at assessing the quality or value of these items.

      • Ben Kelly
        Posted May 2, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        True – maybe the quote needs to be updated for the consumer generation.

        However those spending others’ contributions do owe a duty of care, I am sure you will agree.

  7. Andyvan
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Departments are not just spending on things that need to be cut, the whole department could be cut. What kind of lunatic system sets up a department to give money stolen in taxes to foreign governments so that they can build up their own bureaucracy in order to rob their own people.? Close International Development.
    Why do we need a government department to help business sell abroad? Get off the backs of business and they can manage perfectly well on their own. Close the Business Department.
    The Foreign Office is notorious for working against the interests of the UK. Cut their budget by 50%, and yes that might mean a few less embassies and a few less embassy parties too.
    Education is a ridiculous department too. Why do we need bureaucrats in Whitehall running schools? Simply give the job to a proper manager in each school and dispense with 90% of the bureaucracy.
    The Ministry of Defence should either have it’s name changed to it’s more honest title from years ago, War Department, or have it’s wings clipped so that it is tasked with defending the British Isles only, not waging wars on behalf of America in places that pose no threat to us whatsoever.
    That should save a few quid. Probably far more than George’s pitiful efforts so far.

    • uanime5
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

      Your plan for education won’t save much money since very little of the cost of running schools is due to Government bureaucracy.

      • Edward2
        Posted May 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        Oh I didn’t realise the Department of Education and all the Local Education Authorities cost nothing to run Uni.

  8. Nick
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    On treating question seriously, and campaign promises too.

    How is it going on how much you owe for the state pensions?

    We’ve not had an answer from you as to where the numbers are?

    If the civil service should answer to you, shouldn’t you answer the electorate?

    Reply I did set out future liabilities.It is a pay as you go scheme and always has been.

    • Bob
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      “Reply I did set out future liabilities.It is a pay as you go scheme and always has been.”

      How does it differ from a Ponzi scheme?

      • Mark
        Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        I have a PAYG phone. In fact, I pay most bills as I go along from month to month out of my income. Some larger ones get paid out of savings. The very largest – buying a home – required that I borrow at least part of the bill and pay back later. None of those transactions is a Ponzi scheme.

        Were I to spend way beyond my means, relying on borrowing, I would become bankrupt. Even in bankruptcy, I would be allowed the money to feed and house myself, although luxuries would be pruned out entirely. So with government budgets. Do you think that state pensions are luxuries, or are there some other areas of spending that might be considered less essential when financial discipline is finally imposed on the state?

  9. Alex
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Agreed.
    The government has also already spent over £400 million on the Data Communications Bill. And that was just planning for a piece of legislation.
    Over £400 million on something dangerous, widely derided and hopefully now defunct, at a time when services are being cut. Appalling waste.

  10. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    More confirmation that government departments don’t care where our money goes. Most of them seem happy to build their own empires with little regard for the taxpayer or the public they are meant to serve. If they are extending their contempt to you MPs then perhaps you will activate yourselves to get things changed instead of talking about them but then meakly accepting that your party is more important than the country.

  11. Leslie Singleton
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Fine-tuning or paring down some of these departments is useless: they should be closed down and now not in five years’ time.

  12. Roger Farmer
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Why should the civil service pay much attention to Parliament, a body which has handed over most of it’s powers to Brussels. Most of the 650 MPs have sat on their hands and let it happen against the wishes of the people they are supposed to represent. As for the civil service serving the people, get real, they have their own agenda both political and self aggrandizing. MPs have become a flea on the back of this state within a state.

  13. Alan Hill
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Time to close the Foreign Office down ?

    • zorro
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Who will represent foreigners then….?…. 😉

      zorro

    • Vanessa
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Cathy Ashton is now our Foreign Minister/Secretary – do keep up !

  14. wab
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    These numbers are meaningless taken out of context, and in particular there is no indication of why these new computers were purchased.

    Computers have vastly improved productivity over the last few decades, and the real issue is whether these specific computers are improving the productivity of government. If so they are probably worth every penny paid for them.

    That Treasury allegedly has only purchased two computers in two years does not pass the smell test. Or maybe they are still using the abacus down there.

    The real question is not about computers, or even about travel, but whether the government is doing things inefficiently, whether the government is doing things it should not be doing, and whether government is impeding others from doing useful and productive things. Unfortunately the answer to all three questions is “yes”.

  15. georgina dean
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I bet when they purchased new computers that they did not get a bulk deal but paid top dollar. This all ways seems to be the problem with the civil servants no business back ground. Its not their money so why not spend it.

    • Bob
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      A lot of IT equipment suppliers offer “cash back” deals.

  16. Anthem
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Whenever I see items such as this, I am always reminded of an incident experienced by an acquaintance of mine some years ago. He was self-employed and a local council asked him to do some work for them – they were to pay him £20k for this work.

    My friend could hardly believe his ears – this was far in excess of what he would normally have charged for such work.

    Turns out that it was coming to the end of the financial year and the department had not used up all of its budget so, because they feared that if they did not use it, the budget would be cut the following year, they had to come up with something to spend it on.

    It must be difficult but everyone in public service should be made acutely aware of where the money is coming from.

    If the average person earns (say) £10 per hour and you are about to buy something that costs even as little as £2.50 then be aware that someone, somewhere has had to work a whole hour for that.

    When we’re talking expenses running into many millions then that is swathes of people working all year round, or to look at it another way, a lot of people working all their lives just to provide you with one year’s expenses.

    Businesses are required to submit detailed accounts to the Inland Revenue and, if the IR suspects that the business is claiming too much by way of expenses then they will challenge the business.

    Who scrutinises the scrutinisers?

    • Bob
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      @Anthem
      “When we’re talking expenses running into many millions then that is swathes of people working all year round, or to look at it another way, a lot of people working all their lives just to provide you with one year’s expenses.”

      The public sector wasters know all this already.
      They just don’t care.

  17. Andy Baxter
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I have a question:

    Why do you never engage with your commentators Mr Redwood?
    Lord Tebbit does, admittedly not all but he acknolwedges comments and valid points and argues against others on his own blog. Why do you not do the same?

    Reply: I do occasionally, or more often deal with a whole series of criticisms or issues when I write another blog. I do not have time to answer each one each day.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      I am amazed you find the time at all given all your activities.

      Just a shame the coalition does not start doing as you suggest for a change.

    • Anthem
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      To be fair, I was going to add to my post earlier that Mr Redwood should be praised for writing such thought-provoking articles each day – it isn’t an easy thing to do – you should try it.

      By posting his thoughts on these issues, he IS engaging.

      We are actually living in a very good time when we can engage with politicians and them with us via the internet.

    • Mark W
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      I agree with Lifelogic and anthem. I think JRs output on this blog is quite remarkable. Then he has to read every comment, and does add some replies too. Some comments are close in meaning so a reply to both pointless. JR couldn’t be expected to “here here” all he agrees with in part as that could be misleading or repetitive.

  18. Acorn
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Table 5.1 in PESA 12, shows which COFOG function of government, the money spent by government departments, affects. Getting a ring fenced department to pay for something currently spent by a non ringfenced, and squeezed, department is a good trick if you can pull it off. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/179568/pesa_2012_tables_chapter5.xlsx.xlsx .

    Likewise, Table 8 in Public Spending Statistics April 2013. You can see that “social protection” spending by all departments of government, sums to £240 billion plus.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/193115/Public_spending_statistics_April_2013.pdf .

    Thought for the Day.

    “We are playing a very dangerous game. Or rather, our plutocrats and politicians are playing it on our behalf. The result of a highly successful, generation-long campaign to demonize government-in-the-abstract has left us with a real government which, in many very important respects, simply can’t do its job anymore.

    It is critical that we understanding the necessary role Big Government plays in a modern, stable capitalist economy. Government has to be big enough to protect capitalism from its own inherent excesses. Capitalism can be, and often is, quite mindlessly destructive. Waving this off with a quip about “creative” destruction or an airy “look it up in Schumpeter” is a pretty insulting stance for a neo-clacissist to take. Especially when we contemplate the blasted, ruined economic landscape this attitude has landed us all in since 2008.” (Dale Pierce at NEP) [The moral being, don’t end up a collective of very big banks with a small country attached.]

    • forthurst
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      “It is critical that we understanding the necessary role Big Government plays in a modern, stable capitalist economy.” etc

      The only role that ‘Big Government’ has played with regard to the criminal excesses of the banksters leading up to the 2008 crash is to have told the police to back off from investigationing the crimes that largely brought it about. If you consider that a justification for the existence of ‘Big Government’, then I would disagree.

  19. Peter Davies
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    The main difference is that business is held to account by its balance sheet so often has to justify spend or go without. Public sector sees a cash cow so know how much they are going to get in advance without having to anticipate peaks and troughs in the economy – so its human nature they will spend and look after themselves first.

    The only way around this is Zero level budgeting so all areas of expenditure are backed up by proper justification regardless of the budget size. I have see it personally where money is spent near the end of a FY for fear of having their next FY budget cut back – says it all.

  20. Colin E
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    No worry a load of them are at the Cash Converters (left in pubs/trains etc). I’ll see if I can get one or two as a return on my tax..maybe? Idiots abound !!

  21. Winston Smith
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    As with all these issues, John, what are you going to do about it? You have an excellent blog, where readers are free to comment and you are informing readers of the facts. However, nothing is changing and nobody in the political elite nor their buddies in the media are listening. You state, yourself, that those in Govt are failing to even reply to your attempts to make them accountable.

    Me? I don’t believe in just sitting there whinging and accepting the status-quo. I saw that driving change in the Conservative Party was impossible, so I left. I joined UKIP and believe their challenge to the political elite will grow – allbeit slowly – and ultimately they will provoke change. So I am doing my bit.

    I’ll ask readers of this blog: what are you doing about it?

    Reply I am pressing for a range of policy changes, building on the break through we achieved with Mr Cameron’s EU speech and referendum pldge.I know some of my readers live in a parallel country where UKIP has a majority and are busily taking us out of the EU, but twenty years on this still has not happened in the real world.

    • Roger Farmer
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      John, Cameron’s EU speech was no breakthrough nor was his pledge of a referendum. It was a smoke and mirrors exercise to keep the right of his party quiet. It is fanciful to think he is going to be in a position to offer anything after the next election. From dissention, abstention, and UKIP he will be very lucky to be personally returned to opposition. When in excess of 50% of the voting public want a referendum before the next election what right have the 650 sitting MPs to deny this. It calls into question the sort of warped democracy we suffer. I appreciate your effort but the wheel is loaded against you.

      Reply I and like minded Eurosceptic Conservatives are your only hope of getting a referendum, as it needs a vote in Parliament.

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 1, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        You are the only hope but the Tories are not to be trusted and Cameron certainly not to be trusted.

  22. Mark
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I’m still waiting for any answer from the Treasury to my questions concerning QE and the BEAPFF, so you have better luck than me with them, even if you can’t get anything out of FCO.

    I draw the conclusion that a department doesn’t answer when to do so would be embarrassing.

    • zorro
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      John, you should write a letter to William Hague and see what response you get……

      zorro

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      “when to do so would be embarrassing” or they just can’t be bothered because they are on a team building exercise, on maternity, sick, a racism awareness course, conference ………….

  23. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Will you please tell your colleagues to stop peddling the myth that you have frozen council tax for 3 years. It is simply untrue. I received an e-mail today from your Chairman Mr Shapps in which he stated : “We’ve helped freeze council tax for the third year in a row. Under this government, council tax has fallen in real terms by 9.7%.” I have replied to him, but doubt he will read it, saying: “Will you please stop peddling the myth that you have frozen council tax for three years. It is simply untrue.
    Why should I believe a word of what you say when you tell such blatant untruths?”
    I hope you aren’t so slavishly following the party line to partake in such a deceit.

    • uanime5
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

      Interesting while council tax is meant to be frozen it can be raised if the private companies that councillors hire put up their rates.

  24. Pleb
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Never did a consultant report that all was fine and nothing needed to be done.

  25. Bert Young
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    It was also true that departments , when nearing the end of their budget period – and , if “underspent” , would make sure they performed to their target and “bought” up . I always considered this habit irresponsible and criticised the civil service bosses for allowing this to happen . I am appalled at some of the figures you have quoted ; I don’t think things have changed very much !

  26. Graham Hamblin
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Having used open source software for over 20 years, never Windows, the question I would like asked is how much the public purse pays Microsoft when the same or better software can be obtained without payment?

    I have paid Windows software because I was forced to to get the computer I wanted only to discard it and never use it.

    Think the EU may be more aware of Bill Gates’ practices and the way he makes money than the UK government?

    And then a must read is “Drugs for Life” by Joseph Dumit, How Pharmaceutical Companies Define our Health.

    Seventy three years, no bus pass, no to prescription drugs and no Windows !

  27. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    The rule of thumb is that computers are obsolescent after 3 years but only obsolete after 6 years. To stretch to 6 years years, you sometimes have to turn down software upgrades that increase the disk space needed. In tough times, there are ways to contain these costs.

    There used to be a saying that travel broadens the mind, which is good. But that was before Edward Heath came along.

    Your bloggers should know that there is a tension between what Aid Authorities want and what National Governments want. Aid Authorities want the ‘best project’ in accordance with cost benefit procedures that they devise, as assessed by well paid international consultants, and they have strong rules about ‘poverty alleviation’. National Governments want the aid to be spent on projects that they select, plus a little extra for ‘sticky fingers’. The Asian Development Bank instigated a Safeguarding policy in 2009, elevating the status and role of Resettlement Experts, implementing a rule that illegal squatters have the same rights as residents with legal title. That goes down with National Governments and businesses like a lead balloon. How do I know these sorts of thing – by working intermittently as a consultant’s Team Leader on foreign aid projects, that’s how.

    Believe me, it wouldn’t be difficult to operate a sensible foreign aid policy with 20% less money.

    Anyone wanting to develop a full critique of foreign aid would do well to unearth articles by Enoch Powell and Professor PT Bauer from the 1960s or to read the book ‘Lords of Poverty’ written by ex World Bank insider Graham Hancock.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      I will.

  28. Derek W
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Well JR, you may have realised that you are a lone voice in the wilderness of Westminster and its sychophants.Keep plugging.

  29. muddyman
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    You can tell none of them have ever developed or run a business – and none of them have any idea as to where the money comes from.

  30. forthurst
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    “The bruising rows about whether individual budgets should be ring fenced have always struck me as an odd way to build a budget.”

    The ring fencing of Education and Health was a pre-election pledge to take the wind out of Labour/Lidem sails in respect of claims that ‘Tory cuts’ would ‘decimate’ ‘essential’ services. Firstly, the ring fencing of ‘essential’ services does not need to involve the ring fencing of budgets; in the spendrift left’s lexicon, spending and provision are equivalent, but of course that is not true. Second, nothing is essential, only of a higher priority and what is of higher priority to the warped minds of the left should not necessarily influence what a responsible government should itself prioritise. For example, educational spending on children eligible for free school meals is much higher than on children from homes where more income is declared. It is not at all clear why schools which mainly teach the children of immigrants who more often qualify for free school meals should be prioritised over those that mainly teach English children, especially those of higher abilty; nor is there any necessary equivalence between the need for free school meals and IQ. So a situation exists in which bright children from immigrant backgrounds are given better educational resources than their English equivalent and the schools teaching mainly English children where some are in receipt of free school meals are being castigated for ‘failing’ children who may simply not be very bright. The education system is failing, through the misallocation of resources, bright English children from modest homes.

    The DoE is not fit for purpose and should be abolished then they would not need any new computers. Private schools succeed because they are not part of a spurious and meddlesome hierarchy, consequently they can decide how best to allocate available resources and how best to develop their charges’ varied talents.

  31. Kenneth
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    1. All large commercial organisations carry out regular pruning. The public sector must learn this art quickly.

    2. The annual budget should not be aspirational as it is now. It should be based, not on hoped-for growth, but realistic expectations of receipts for 1 year

    3. If the budget is under-spent, each person should receive a rebate with full credit given to the politicians and political parties in office at the time.

    4. If the budget is overspent, each person should receive an invoice for their share of the overspend, itemised according to the overspend allocation, with politicians and the political parties in office at the time named and shamed accordingly.

    5. Each new proposed law and regulation should be costed and a cost/benefit case built for it before it passes into law. Same for departmental budgets.

    Intangibles, you may ask? Let’s put a cost to a life (we do it already); let’s measure happiness and put a price on that too. Let us tie down budgets once and for all and pin the blame or the credit on the right people.

    • uanime5
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

      2. The annual budget should not be aspirational as it is now. It should be based, not on hoped-for growth, but realistic expectations of receipts for 1 year

      Annual budgets are based on how much it costs to provide all the services the state provides such as hospitals, schools, police, courts, etc. It is never based on predicted growth.

      3. If the budget is under-spent, each person should receive a rebate with full credit given to the politicians and political parties in office at the time.

      Let’s say that the Minister in charge of healthcare decides to ensure NHS spending is under-budget by restricting operations, firing staff, and closing hospitals. I doubt the public would approve of him and his party keep all the extra money they were meant to be spending on healthcare.

      4. If the budget is overspent, each person should receive an invoice for their share of the overspend, itemised according to the overspend allocation, with politicians and the political parties in office at the time named and shamed accordingly.

      Gove overspent on his academy programme by £1 billion. Just how are you planning to invoice him for this amount?

      5. Each new proposed law and regulation should be costed and a cost/benefit case built for it before it passes into law.

      How do you determine the cost/benefit of a new criminal law? Should you not criminalise something if it will be too difficult to prosecute?

  32. Normandee
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    (submits a piece of UKIP election material – I do draw the line at that! – there is no Conservative election material on this site-ed)

    No comment required from me.

    • Normandee
      Posted May 1, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      It was not a UKIP notice it was a copy from Westminster that the promise made by Cameron has been broken already, the motion for the promised referendum after the next general election has lapsed and will proceed no further through the House. That is not election material it is further proof that Cameron is lying to all of us including you.

  33. uanime5
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Secondly, if you give a department a large increase in its budget, as with International development, they spend much more on themselves on items like new computers and travel.

    Without examining how all of the extra budget was spent it’s not possible to determine what percentage the department spent on themselves (extra computers would be needed if extra staff were hired). It’s also not possible to determine how beneficial this spending was regarding what the department had to accomplish (especially if they were given extra work along with a larger budget).

    In other news the Government is planning to privatise parts of the Civil Service. Given how privatising the rail, water, and energy industries went I expect this will lead to these services costing more money.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-great-civil-service-selloff-dozens-of-services-and-75000-staff-set-to-be-transferred-to-private-sector-8598188.html

  34. Barbara
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Well the foreign aid budget appears the most expensive, and should stop. We are in dire times, well that’s what we keep hearing yet all this money is being spent on travel and aid its almost farcial. We owe these countries no committment at all, and why is it that politicians have imposed this upon this nation without our consent? South Africa is shouting loud now its aid is to cease, yet its wealth is far better than ours; they’ve become so used to it they think they have a right to it.
    Like I said we owe them nothing, and MPs should first put this nation first, and its people. We have people begging in food banks, which are so busy they now have to ration who has this food. What does that say about this nation? No government should give money away while we have need of it here, I don’t care one jot what these countries need, it is not our responsiblity, and MPs should not impose that responsiblity upon us so they can pontificate to the world. I’m ashamed to see our own begging, and I’m annoyed to see this government not doing nothing to lesson the incoming new inflow of immigrants either; which will add to the problem. We have no homes for them, no jobs, but they will infringe upon our welfare like hospitals and schools. When will MPs and PMs learn to say NO, enough is enough.

  35. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    And what about this, on the eve of polling day?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/10031011/David-Cameron-may-support-EU-referendum-laws-before-2015.html

    “David Cameron may support EU referendum laws before 2015”

    “The Tories could bring forward laws promising a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union before 2015, David Cameron has suggested.”

    “However, sources confirmed Mr Cameron is looking at whether the Conservatives could still bring forward new laws from the backbenches.”

    Without any mention at all of John Baron’s Bill for that very purpose which he introduced on February 6th, but which was allowed to die the death when Parliament was prorogued on April 25th:

    http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/unitedkingdommembershipoftheeuropeanunionreferendum.html

    “United Kingdom Membership of the European Union (Referendum) Bill”

  36. forthurst
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    “Once again the Foreign Office did not stoop to a reply.”

    If the ‘Foreign Office’ would include embassies and legations, they might not know if local procurement were normal. In general, it would be interesting to have a breakdown by reason, such as for upgrade (on what basis, if not on that of no longer being fit for defined purpose), replacement of lost, stolen or strayed, or for additional staff or as an additional facility (toy) to supplement an office desktop.

  37. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    It’s called competition. They all argue their own case of who will be allowed such and such for this and that project or the continuance of a poorly performing dept. The best case maker or the one who knows someone influential will get the most money. The money then of course can be redirected.

  38. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 2, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Is there any particular reason why my comment about (Tory-UKIP dispute in a seat-ed) is still in moderation?

    Reply This site does not have clearance to campaign in particular seats and intervene in the electoral process under Electoral Law. You may have noticed I do not put out notices pro particlar candidates or the Conservative party for the Council elections. To do so you need the permission of the relevant election agents and need to make an expenses return.

  • 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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