Why can’t the public sector offer incentives, cash back and encouragement, instead of relying on fines, penalties and prosecutions?

 

 If you buy something from the private sector, you benefit from the mantra that the customer is always right. If you are forced to buy something from the public sector, you are usually under the mantra that the supplier is always right.

         If you buy a planning permission you are put under threat to get everything right and follow the rules. If you park in a Council car park you have to study the rules and end up with a fine or a wheel clamp if you make a mistake.When you have to pay your taxes you are expected to be master of the infinite complexity of modern tax laws, or else face a penalty payment.

        Wouldn’t it be better if the public sector used encouragement more and enforcement less? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to offer people money back if they do not need to use certain public services? If , for example, you went the last year without borrowing a library book, shouldn’t you get a rebate on your Council tax for libraries? If you do not use the local Council’s leisure facilities, isn’t that worth a thank you in the form of a discount on your next tax bill? If you are a regular user of a Council car park which is not normally full shouldn’t you get a bulk discount on the daily tariff?

        The public sector is not good at managing demand. That’s why it resorts to queues, inconvenience for users, high charges and poor estimates of what is and what is not needed by communities. Do you have good local examples of services that are not needed, or services which are wrongly priced?

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69 Comments

  1. L Edwards
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    We have a mobile library that every visit sits there completely empty with no one using it. Then word got round that the council wanted to scrap it, so everyone was urged to use it to show support – which a few people did for a few weeks until the audit had happened. Then they stopped using it, because they never really needed it they just like the idea that it exists. So now every time it visits it just sits there with nobody using it again.

    If we could get a rebate on our taxes for unused services, either as individuals or as a community, then people would be less sentimental and more practical about what they actually need. As it is, as a small rural community we get practically nothing for our taxes and thus feel strongly we should keep what little we do get – even if it is something we aren’t using, like a mobile library.

  2. Narrow shoulders
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    As I have advocated in your last two posts the solution to this dilema lies in pay as you use charging witb the price band one pays determined by one’s income.

    Useful, well delivered and used services will survi e and grow others will improve or wither

    • Hope
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      The biggest service we could do without is the ‘deep liberal’ socialist BBC. If you do not pay your licence fee you will receive a prison sentence that is beyond most other crimes- unbelievable. Check your local news paper if you are in any doubt. What has Cameron done about it? What Royal Charter will it take to make the BBC act as an independent impartial broadcaster as it is mandated to do?

      I see the European arrest warrant is being rushed through next week, so British people can be arrested in the UK for offences that do not exist here. This was a choice made by Cameron, and he still expects us to believe he will renegotiate powers back when this example clearly shows he does not have to accept it!

      • Hope
        Posted July 11, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        I could also do without my MP who does little for the community and when it suites he does not reply. 10 Percent pay rise for a part time job. As JR has stated many times MPs have second jobs, Gordon Brown hardly attends parliament, receives a PM allowance, MP pay and expenses- for what? He is no differnet to the bankers he should have his pension and PM allowance taken away. Disgraceful.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    “Do you have good local examples of services that are not needed, or services which are wrongly priced?”

    Most are not “services” at all they are back fines, taxes, licencing, mad bus lanes, over regulation & back door tax/money generators or worse buying votes or indoctrination (like the BBC). In the 45 years I lived in the UK I was delivered in a state hospital, used state schools, two universities, casualty four times and the doctors about 10 times, I was given a few inoculations, used the roads, the libraries and I reported four thefts to the police (all rather pointlessly). The cost of providing all this to me was perhaps at most £120,000, yet I have paid taxes nearer to twenty times this figure (so far). I have further been hugely inconveniences by absurd regulations everywhere, over complex tax laws, employment laws and the governments failure to regulate the banks, run an efficient state sector and a sound economy. I suppose they paid for several pointless wars too and the recovery of the Falklands (which they rightly had to do). So I left and have taken most of the taxes with me. I can use them far more efficiently than they would.

    I am very glad I did as, had I stayed, I would would have had to paid them several more millions just to watch Osborne and Cameron waste it at every turn. Hopefully Mandelson has, at least, pulled the rug from under HS2 which is self evidently an absurd waste of money.

    Get rid of all the government subsidies and market distortions, the complex tax rules and the half of the state sector that does nothing useful or worse and cut taxes.

    • Nash Point
      Posted July 11, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      I love it! Please, get your own blog going. I don’t even read JR’s article anymore, but just go to your comments.

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 12, 2013 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

        Thanks.

  4. matthu
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    The “dump”.

    Penalty notices everywhere you look. Frequent long queues. Poor design so cars are forced to reverse park at multiple different points. Waste needing to be collected out the front again instead of being pushed out the back. Threats of the police being called if you deliver an items on foot rather than by vehicle. Gates being closed gate for 20 minutes or more several times a day (even on the hottest summer’s day) while they “tidy up”, causing queues to stretch back quarter of a mile or more. Blank refusal to advise you whether your van is likely to squeeze under the barrier. Blank refusal to help you lift a fridge out of the back even though there are several hunky men standing around ‘directing traffic’.

    The only trick they have missed out on is an exit charge.

    • DrJohnGalan
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      At my local dump, the guy in charge is friendly and helpful. He works for the village mayor; he is paid out of public funds. He has a real pride in what he does and the place is immaculate.

      Contrast that with where I used to live in Camberley, Surrey. Several “operatives” sitting in salvaged armchairs, sniggering as you struggle up the steps with some heavy item to put the thing in the skip. OK, Camberley is whole lot bigger than the village where I now live, but the disconnect between the people working at the dump and its customers could not be more pronounced.

      Here, people vote for the mayor who is responsible for his team. If the team does not perform, the mayor does not get re-elected. In Camberley the few people who can be bothered vote for their local councillor. He has as much interest and/or influence on how the local dump works as they do themselves, i.e. none.

      There is no consequence for poor public service in the UK: it is simply expected and accepted.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      @matthu: Indeed but most of these sorts of ‘council’ local amenity tips are actually run by private companies now days, ho-hum…

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 11, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        No doubt operated under incompetent contracts arranged by the council. It is clearly the council who is responsible to find a good operator and arrange the contract terms. If they have mucked up they need to revise the contract or find a new operator.

        • uanime5
          Posted July 11, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

          Lifelogic I thought you said the private sector was always better than the public sector. So by your logic any private sector operator should be an improvement.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 12, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

            @U5: Indeed, it is not the contracts that are the problem but the contractors. I suppose what LL means is that the LA should have written into the contract an east get-out clause to enable the contracts to these problematic contractors to be terminated, but if they had done so the dogmatic “Free Market” pushers would complain that one can’t have a proper free market if the public sector can take-back the contracts so easily…

          • lifelogic
            Posted July 12, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

            It the the buyer who need to ensure they get a good service from the state sector and agree a solid contract they can get out of if needed. Incompetent state sector again.

  5. MickC
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    The answer to your headline question is “because that is the nature of the state”.

    Regrettably it is increasingly the nature of the UK itself-bullying and peremptory because there is the power to do so, without any responsibility or loss for the abuse of that power.

    It is also the case that the private sector is using similar tactics, with the pleasantries vanishing as soon as the customer is “signed up”. Indeed, once signed up, the customer is treated merely as the milch cow-to be used and ignored.

    Whilst not a supporter of interference with freedom of contract, there certainly needs to be a standard form of contract for the provision of services such as water, gas, telephone etc. with the supplier having to highlight to the customer where its own contract differs.

    Business should not routinely be done by “mis-selling”, fraud to you and I, which is currently the case.

  6. Anthem
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Laudible stuff, Mr Redwood but fines and such are there to bolster the funds in the kitty, it is the only option left to a system which is already squeezing folk until the pips squeak. They WANT you to misread the rules in the car-park, they WANT you to mess up your tax return (why do you think the thing is so complicated?) etc.

    There’s nothing in it for the authorities to actually give a rebate so it’s a complete non-starter.

    A better idea would be for government and local councils to simply remove themselves from certain areas and let the private sector take over, if there is sufficient demand. The private sector has an incentive to reward loyal customers.

    An even better idea would be for governments and councils to remember that they are here to serve the people of the country, not punish them at every opportunity.

    Come the general election, I will be voting for the party who wants to drastically cut back on state interference, if such a party exists.

    • exactly
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Exactly, the system is clearly designed to entrap you and fine or licence you anyway they can. You all those gold plated pensions to pay for the entrapment specialists they employ.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Tax returns are complex because companies and the wealthy all want their own tax exemptions.

      Your calls for the private sector to take over are naive. The private sector won’t run libraries because there’s no profit to be made so all your plan will do is replace public sector services with no services.

      • A different Simon
        Posted July 11, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

        I think the plan is to redeploy library sites into express-supermarkets offering ready meals to aspiring yuppies or flog them off to property developers .

        A scorched earth policy to ensure the site can never be used as a public amenity again .

        It would be naive to think otherwise .

      • Nash Point
        Posted July 11, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        You underestimate philanthropy

      • Anthem
        Posted July 11, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        “Companies and the wealthy want their own tax exemptions”

        Quite right, too. Let us never forget whose money it actually is.

        “The private sector won’t run libraries because there’s no profit to be made”.

        Meaning that we’re paying for something that few, if any, people actually want or need.

        It is more naive to believe that we can all continue to pay for this nonsense when the country and most of the people in it are skint.

  7. Andyvan
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Why try reforming the unreformable? The public sector is completely unable to be responsive and respectful to it’s customers because it lacks the essential mechanism of the profit and loss signal that tells private business when they are doing a good job. This lack of signal means it will never give good service or value for money, how can it when it has no means of measuring customer satisfaction? All the well meaning policies and initiatives in the world will not change that. Just don’t bother trying, it’s a waste of time and resources. Give it to the private sector, not a giant pseudo private monopoly like Networkrail or the big banks, real, smallish companies that make money by servicing customer needs and go bust if they don’t. No bailouts, no subsidies just competing companies fighting for market share. Then you will see innovation and genuine progress not the dull, ever worsening, centrally planned nightmares we have now.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Care to explain why the water, electricity, and rail industries are unable to be responsive and respectful to their customers even though they are effected by profit and loss. Could it be something to do with how difficult it is to have competition when providing a service.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted July 11, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps you would care to summarise how good the old nationalised monopolies, CEGB and British Gas, were at handling customer complaints. Actually, did they have any idea of what a customer was?

    • libertarian
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      Spot on

  8. Roy Grainger
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    “If , for example, you went the last year without borrowing a library book, shouldn’t you get a rebate on your Council tax for libraries?”

    I am happy to pay part of my Council tax for the benefit of others who wish to use a library because on the whole I expect they are people who could not afford the alternatives and I judge libraries to be “a good thing”. The first step in reducing Council tax is not via these cash-back ideas but rather through the elimination of waste – I live in Hammersmith and have seen it in action, something like a 3% reduction in Council tax every year for 5 years or so with NO reduction in services at all as far as I can see.

    However, I too have thought of this option in another context – I’d like a tick box on my tax return asking me if I’d like to pay a higher rate to fund foreign aid – the budget of that department would then be set based on whatever HMRC managed to collect.

    • A different Simon
      Posted July 11, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      Roy ,

      Hammersmith and Fulham’s savings are not due just to cutting out waste but flogging off publicly owned assets to their mates .

      Do the workers servicing the borough’s needs benefit out of this at all or has their remuneration not kept up with inflation so that the cost savings end up having to be subsidised by benefits ?

      What about the open space with the running track which was donated for the benefit of the local community in perpetuity which was suddenly closed off to the young of the borough and sold off ?

  9. Alte Fritz
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Really good points. The whole tenor of public service contact with the public is now hectoring. “Do this on time, or pay that or else..” But it just reflects the reality that we exist to serve “them”.

  10. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Don’t blame the state when a framework cannot work by itself. The problem is that many of the council workers, become ‘power mad’. Put the parking attendants in a uniform after their cleaners job (which is certainly more useful) and they become dictators and drool for a kill. The traffic controllers talk amongst themselves and let their ‘good buddies’ through and go for someone who is not like them in they either speak in a different accent, don’t smoke or have got a large house or good job. I had 4 points on my license going to work on an empty motorway at 6.0am on a Sunday morning to a hospital shift. I travelled at 58 mph, and went through a section that was sometimes coned off for repairs and sometimes not. This particular morning the instructions were at :- at the beginning of the stretch of motorway . “Cameras not in use, usual motorway restrictions” The cameras were on and I travelled at 58 mph and was caught speeding . The fault was theirs yet I picked up 4 points and £250.00 fine. I had many invites to challenge and get solicitors,…ah! what a farce!
    These are the little men and women trying to screw the system , not the system itself.

  11. A.Sedgwick
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Nice thought but such a system would result in high percentage rebates for too many.
    The solution is more complicated and requires local government to be self financing and largely self governing with local elections having some meaning and consequence, the complete opposite of the direction of Brussels centralisation and EU bureaucracy and dictatorship.

  12. Mike Wilson
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    As always one has to question if Mr. Redwood is in the right political party.

    I saw Andrew Neil interview a conservative politician recently and he read out a manifesto commitment to simplify the tax system. When the coalition took power in 2010 the ‘tax code’ apparently ran to ‘13,000 pages’. Now, apparently, it is ‘18,000’ pages.

    It’s a funny old world. The people who work in the public sector are supposed to be public SERVANTS. They are supposed to SERVE us with SERVICES. I must admit every time I read a ‘notice’ from ‘the authorities’ – it makes me mildly angry.

    Here’s a form for you to fill in. If you do it wrong, we can take your liberty from you.

    Here’s a car park. If you don’t pay us the right amount of money – if you stay a minute longer than you pay for – we will fine you a ludicrously high sum of money which, if you don’t pay, means we can take your liberty from you and lock you in a prison cell.

    How we ever got from people centuries ago agreeing to club together to provide things they all needed – like roads, drainage systems, power systems etc. – to the people given power to do the necessary taking the power to imprison you for failing to comply with any one of a million rules and regulations always baffles me.

    This whole ‘how can we serve better’ proposition is a smoke screen, of course. I am very happy to chip in for a local library I never use because I think literacy is important. I am happy to chip in for a leisure centre I never use because I think keeping fit and enjoying life is important and a leisure centre is a valuable community resource.

    I am not happy to pay for an Arts and Communities Officer costing us all 30k a year to employ. I am not happy to pay for a Diversity Officer etc. I am not happy that senior people in the public sector have very high salaries and massive pension promises.

    I’ll say it again. Publish a list of the 5000 jobs at the Borough Council. Job title, brief job description and cost to employ.

    Grade the jobs from 1 to 5.

    1 being ‘no-one would notice or care if this role did not exist’ to 5 being ‘essential service’.

    Make the Grade 1 employees redundant immediately.

    Implement a policy of no replacement when Grade 2 people leave.

    Cut salaries above 50k by 20%.
    Cut salaries above 80k by 30%.
    Cut salaries above 100k by 40%.

    Move all public sector employees – immediately – to a contributions based pension with no final salary commitment.

    Tell existing public sector pensioners – ‘sorry, we don’t have the money to make good on the unfunded promises you were made. We cannot keep borrowing 120 thousand million pounds a year that our children and grandchildren will have to pay back just so we can pay you 60% of your final salary, index linked, for 25 years.’

    Have to say I am glad at least one politician realises how wrong it is to be constantly threatened by the people supposed to be serving you. Planning permission is a good example. Full of draconian threats.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 11, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      About the right numbers why on earth should people with no pensions at all have to pay for gold plated ones to state sector and BBC staff often of values well above £2M?

  13. Acorn
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I haven’t used our MP for years, and nobody I know has, can I get money back on him? Better still, can all MPs be combined with their local councils customer services department,which in our case is quite good at fixing problems. It would save a fortune in stamps if they were co-located as well. Even better, we could reduce the number of MPs to one per District / Borough / Unitary (Billing) Council. That’s a bit over 400. We could get “cash-back” next time we vote. 😉 .

  14. A different Simon
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    “Wouldn’t it be a good idea to offer people money back if they do not need to use certain public services? If , for example, you went the last year without borrowing a library book, shouldn’t you get a rebate on your Council tax for libraries?”

    No .

    Out of respect to those soldiers who came back after the second world war and those who died out there and had the courage to come back and demand something better , services like Libraries should not become pay for use .

    Perhaps I should get £100 off my council tax because my house didn’t burn down . Services have to be maintained so they are there when you do need them .

    What do you Conservatives have against public libraries anyway ?

    You will end up bracketing yourselves with the book burners of history if you aren’t careful .

    Do you want to discourage reading or only by those who can’t afford to buy books outright ?

  15. Richard1
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    It would be better but it won’t happen whilst the public sector provides monopoly services. We need a system where people can contract out of provision against tax breaks. All public services should be provided – where possible – by private providers contracted in and paid based on performance. Its choice and competition that provide good service. Monopolies are (almost) always bad.

  16. Str0ngh0ldBarricades
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    So why, if a contractor works for a public authority can the payment not be made as a credit towards tax paid (NI, VAT, Corporation, Income or Business Rates)? Over payments can be claimed back at the end of the year from HMRC

    Why does the public authority have to pay the contractor, so that the money goes into those accounts, so that the contractor then has to pay taxes? Seems like a money go round to me for no particular reason as each point requires more staff to administer.

  17. JimS
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I think it is in the DNA and it starts with the politicians, “we must legislate”, and propagates downwards.

    Everywhere one looks the ‘reward’ is to be bad, to ‘comply’ is to suffer.

    A simple example: Fly tipping is bad in so many ways, it costs a lot to clean up and causes uncontrolled environmental damage but it is quick, free and easy! Do the ‘right’ thing and it is inconvenient and possibly costly. Yet consider that just about every item that is ‘tipped’ has been subject to VAT. Why not consider that, in part, a ‘deposit’, some of which could be refunded at disposal time? Instead we have fines and taxes because of across-the-board EU ‘landfill taxes’ regardless of whether an individual state has a landfill problem or not. Yet another reason to get out of the ‘club’.

  18. Martin
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    As I don’t get a public sector pension can I just have a cheaper rate of tax etc?

  19. waramess
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    The trouble is the public sector is not very good at anything it does.

    Why not,, at each general election, for example, give people the option of chosing which services they wish the government to support in the coming five years. They should have to nominate 100 percent of the options given in percentages of their choice and the government should be required to be tied to the agggregate.

    Too complicated? Then why not on your own theme give people the option of a discount on their taxes for not wanting to support for Culture and Sport or Overseas aid? Why not give a discount to people without children or those with a lower than average number of children?

    I think it might well put paid to a few pet projects and might well inter alia, put a stop on Camerons aim through the AID pot to become a world statesman.

  20. lifelogic
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I finally try a Boris bus £350,000 and yet they do not even have windows (like the nice old wind down ones at the front) so they are like green house/saunas and you are locked in by a pointless rear door too, so their one real advantage is gone. Are not simple opening windows rather greener and more energy efficient than mechanical cooling using diesel power? Certainly far more pleasant than being cooked alive with these pointless wastes of money at £350,000 a time. Still it is not their money is it and we need Boris buses, airports, bikes etc. to publicise Boris. Better than the road blocking bendy buses though but only just. Yet no better than all the normal ones a pointless waste of money as usual by Boris.

    • alan jutson
      Posted July 11, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Lifelogic

      I see in Press reports today (Daily Mail, Keith Gladdis), that Boris Bikes are being subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of £1,400 per bike per year.

      Total £11,000,000 per year.

      You need to save a lot of fuel on other means of transport to compensate for that expenditure.

      Like many other transport ideas, this perhaps needs a rethink.

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 12, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

        Indeed big trucks carting the bikes around too. Anyway bikes are not more efficient than cars if you take the food fuel production into account. Claret, Steak and bacon butties are not very efficient fuels.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted July 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      @lifelogic Completely agree. Have to say I never travel by train or bus these days. I can’t stand the fact the windows don’t open. When a train stops – not at a station – and just sits there and sits there – after a quarter of an hour I start feeling uneasy and I want to get off. At least on the old trains you could go to a door, pull down the window, stick your head out and get a bit of fresh air. In a real emergency (train stuck there for an hour or more), you could open the door, jump down on to the track and walk along the side of the tracks to a station.

      But, no, for some reason nowadays all the powers that be seem to think we are happy being entombed in buses and trains that, if they break down, you are trapped in.

  21. David Hope
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    It seems pretty clear that councils are using all sorts of fines and charges as an alternative revenue stream. Most of the time it is simple extortion, especially in the case of things like box junction fines.

    At the same time central government turns a blind eye as it means they’ll have to pay less.

    I’d like to see these things banned or the forcing of local referenda such that any increase in tax, fines or any revenue stream must be voted for by residents – if people say no, spending must drop.

    We might be helped by having more tax raised locally – say exchange some income tax to local and by making local democracy more transparent to ensure voters get rid of councils who only see them as a cash cow. I think votes on tax would be most effective though

  22. forthurst
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Why can’t the public sector….

    “Exclusive The controversial Universal Credit online benefits system is so flawed that skilled IT staff working on a pilot scheme have been forced to enter data by hand, two high-ranking whistleblowers have told The Register.

    The senior civil servants contacted us separately to warn that a trial of the new benefits system shows it is simply not working at the moment.”

    …stop trying to do things beyond its organisational capability to succeed. The benefits system is far too complex and far to generous; that is the problem: e.g. foreign business owners employing staff on lowest wages, subsidised by the taxpayer through the benefits system, then remitting all the profits back to Eastern Europe and beyond. The taxpayer should not be required to provide the profits for private enterprise any more than the feather-bedded lifestyle enjoyed in much of the public service.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 11, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Ironically the universal credit was meant to simplify the benefit system and in some cases reduce the amount of benefits people get.

      Those on low salaries get tax credits to encourage them to work in low paying jobs. The Government prefers tax credits to raising minimum wage because it doesn’t burden businesses as much (though it does burden the taxpayer more).

      • Edward2
        Posted July 12, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

        Uni
        How would just an increase in minimum wage be able to satisfy all the different needs tax credits does with applicants varying from single people to large families.

  23. uanime5
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    If you buy something from the private sector, you benefit from the mantra that the customer is always right. If you are forced to buy something from the public sector, you are usually under the mantra that the supplier is always right.

    It sounds like you’re confusing goods and services, where the buyer always has more rights when purchasing the former than the latter. For example when you buy water, electricity, or a train ticket from the private sector the mantra is that the supplier is always right.

    If , for example, you went the last year without borrowing a library book, shouldn’t you get a rebate on your Council tax for libraries? If you do not use the local Council’s leisure facilities, isn’t that worth a thank you in the form of a discount on your next tax bill? If you are a regular user of a Council car park which is not normally full shouldn’t you get a bulk discount on the daily tariff?

    As a council doesn’t make any savings if no one borrows library books or doesn’t use leisure facilities why would they offer a rebate for not using the facilities they’re providing? Also where is the money from these rebates going to come from if there’s no savings?

    Regarding car parks while allowing people to purchase a season pass, which will be less than paying the daily rate, is a good idea it may cause problems if the people with this pass frequently cannot find a parking space.

    The public sector is not good at managing demand. That’s why it resorts to queues, inconvenience for users, high charges and poor estimates of what is and what is not needed by communities.

    That’s because the public sector is given a fixed budget to spend on demand, rather than making money based on demand. For example if a private hospital suddenly has more demand for treatment they will make more money and be able to hire more staff. By contrast a public sector hospital will not get more money if they have higher demand, so they cannot hire more staff and have to try and spread this demand throughout the year.

    It’s hardly fair to blame the public sector for the way that they deal with demand when the budget they’re given by MPs makes it impossible to do anything else.

    In other news there was an interesting article by James Kirkup in the Telegraph who claimed that MPs aren’t going to accept a 15% pay rise, while only raising other public sector salaries by 1%, because of greed but because their wives are demanding that they earn more money. I wonder how long it will be before there are claims that MPs are going to accept higher salaries because their children are demanding it.

    Also there’s a plan to allow English MPs to veto laws that have been voted on by Parliament if these bills only effect England. Not sure why non-English MPs are going to be allowed to vote on laws when the final say is with English MPs. The cynic in me makes me think that the Conservatives, who make up the bulk of English MPs, are trying to create a Parliament within Parliament to ensure that they can veto laws even if they lose the general election.

    • A different Simon
      Posted July 11, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      Good points Uanime5 ,

      The key point with the MP’s remuneration is that the MP’s contracts should have been changed to require exclusivity – i.e. that an MP could not subsidise their MP’s remuneration with directorships , consultancy or non-parliamentary work .

      An increase in remuneration should have been offered as compensation .

      If their wives are so desperate for the money then they could try working themselves or (words left out ed) or something .

  24. JimF
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Taking money under force from local businesses as Business rates without any return or rational explanation is pretty harsh.
    Then we get to pay extra to them to take away litter!
    Businesses can’t even vote to disagree, or have any realistic input as to how the money is spent.

  25. Iain Gill
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Even when the public sector outsources the running of a public service it gets it wrong.

    Big expensive swimming pool built with public money fairly recently, owned by a council. The council has subcontracted the staffing and running of it. Problem being that its still monopoly provision in the local area.

    Half of the big pool is shut half of the time to save on lifeguard pay while everyone is forced into the other end crammed together like sardines. So the public purse has spend 38 million quid in the last 3 years building a swimming pool which when its running is half closed to save the wages of 2 lifeguards on marginal money above the minimal wage. And there is no lack of demand from the customers. Indeed even with more than half a dozen staff taking money they still generate a massive queue while paying as they are so slow and useless. Play 80’s pop music at deafening volume continuously (am I sounding old?). The managers like all state officials think the rules don’t apply to them and happily walk around poolside with outdoors shoes on. Etc.

    To say nothing of the long list of politically correct causes who can have the majority of the pool for extended periods, disabled, women, schools, etc leaving precisely no time at all when the full pool is available to ordinary working men paying full entry fee.

    Conservative council too! Basildon if you are interested…

  26. sm
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Would you get a discount for
    a) a private sector worker without a public defined benefit pension scheme.
    b) not having a defined benefit scheme.
    c) purchasing a private property subject to a s106 community charge.
    d) not having a car

    Local taxation needs to reformed to make it less regressive and lower.

    • sm
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Having a leasehold flat subject to service charges based on contracts engineered by councils and builders where areas are public access but have been engineered as being privately funded or where estate services to other blocks come with capped costs.

  27. Simonro
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    This sounds like an excellent way of convincing poor people to not make use of public services, and rich people to stop helping to pay for them.

    I.e. it sounds like a perfect way of closing down libraries and public swimming pools.

    Well done John.

    • A different Simon
      Posted July 11, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      Simonro ,

      Agree , it’s shameful as I’m afraid are many of the comments on these issues seeking to undermine public services rather than making them better .

      If the rich want to live in a safe country then they will just have to pay for the rest of us . What happened to social responsibility ?

      Instead what we get is London , now a landlocked autonomous country , wooing gangsters , international criminals , despots and aggressively establishing itself as the centre of the global money laundering trade .

      I want NHS doctors who are neither incentivised to offer nor withhold treatment to continue to deciding who gets what .

      Don’t want to be looking back in 15 years seeing that it is insurance companies making these decisions or being selective about who they cover .

  28. Simonro
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Or, we could extend that!

    I don’t own a car, so can I have all the money back that’s spend on roads!

    Also, I’ve not been a victim of crime, so can I have the cash back that goes to the police.

    Ah! If I don’t vote, can I have whatever of my taxes goes to your wages?

  29. alan jutson
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    All far too complicated John.

    The Councils will have so many jobsworths trying to keep track of all of this the cost (general overhead) would go up not down.

    Simple solution if you were able to pick and choose, would be a basic charge for the absolute minimum, and then all the additional services show as a cost extra.

    Thus you choose what services you want, and pay accordingly.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted July 11, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      You miss the point. He, Mr. Redwood, is not serious about reducing the cost of the public sector. No politician is.

      As our local elected member of the nation’s legislature, he could review every aspect of the service delivery of Wokingham Borough Council – classify each role to see whether it is a luxury or a necessity – and create a plan to reduce the headcount by, say, 20% and council tax by 20%.

      But he won’t do it. Why should he? He’ll always be paid his salary and pension. Why should he give a monkey’s about how much we all pay and whether the 2 and half grand I give them every year (out of already taxed income – so, double taxation) is spent properly. Why should he care whether salary and pensions are excessive. He talks about INCENTIVES – where is HIS INCENTIVE to save us money? Answer – he hasn’t got one.

      Reply We elect and pay 54 Councillors to control the budget of Wokingham Borough Council. They would not welcome public intrusion from me with their task. I spend much of my working day seeking to cut costs, removed undesirable spending programmes and improving value for money in the far larger budget of the national government, which is my job. This week at Westminster I have been mainly working on the very large railway budget, where easy savings would be more than the entire budget of Wokingham Council.

  30. Credible
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    ” If , for example, you went the last year without borrowing a library book, shouldn’t you get a rebate on your Council tax for libraries?”

    So you want people who need a library because they can’t afford to buy books to pay more than people who don’t need it. Isn’t it those people who should be encouraged to have access to books or can they just slip off the end of society into the gutter?

    How about a rebate for not calling out the police, or not putting rubbish out (we could just chuck it somewhere) or not having children or not being ill. Of course all this would have to be administered at a cost.
    I still have to pay something when I go to the local council run leisure centre. I could just not bother and sit around and get fat instead just waiting for that rebate.
    Incidentally, when I ring the council-run leisure centre (in Wokingham district) the phone is picked up straight away, when I try the privately run alternative no one bothers most of the time and my answer phone messages are not returned.

  31. Mark B
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    John Redwood MP asked;
    “Do you have good local examples of services that are not needed, or services which are wrongly priced?”

    Yes, the British Broadcasting Corporation. In an age where we can pay for our media services through various electronic means, why are we subjected to what is increasingly seen as a TV Tax.

    The BBC has wasted hundreds of millions of Licence Fee Payers’ money. If it were a private venture, it would have investors up in arms over such terrible uselessness.

    The BBC’s charter comes up for renewal I believe in 2016. It would be a god idea for a senior politician who aspires to high office to suggest proposals that would save people money and would enable the BBC to deliver services that customers really do want.

    It would force management and staff to make the necessary structural and personnel changes in order to compete and make use of every pound that it gained.

    Currently there is no incentive for the BBC to do anything, as it knows that it will always get a certain level of revenue, whether their services was used or not.

  32. Terry
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Nice idea but hopelessly impractical.

    A rebate for not using the Councils facilities? I can see it now – a full page advertisement for new recruits to man new desks and new computers in a new, purpose built council building.
    The result – we would have to pay more council tax to receive the rebates because of the additional administration required so we would gain nothing but another tier of bureaucracy. No thank you.

  33. zorro
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Indeed, cash cow is the name of the game, be it £100 late payment fine from HMRC for taxes you don’t owe or parking machines which do not give any change. They would never countenance a rebate. Let’s face it, if they can’t manage the service, they won’t be able to cope with multiple rebates…….

    On the subject of cash cows, it is interesting to hear about proposals to fine middle/overtaking lane hoggers. Of course, such driving is anti social and spams up the road, but I wonder if the real reason is the potentially lucrative sums of money that will be coming in…..Get ready for the motorways to be crowded with police cars!!

    zorro

  34. Matt
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Last time I looked my private sector bank rules and regs ran to 6 pages of closely typed a4. My last Ryanair flight had enough rules and conditions to keep me amused raeding them the entire flight. My PPP health care plan requires a law degree to understand and when I tried to claim on my house insurance after an accident I was told the incident did not fulfil Sun Alliance’s definition of “accidental”.

    Rules, restrictions and regulations are everywhere in abundance. Blame the (private sector) lawyers not the public sector.

  35. StevenL
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Its does work like you suggest. Vested interested donate money to political parties and hire politicians/bureaucrats and they influence the course of events in exchange.

  36. Tony Harrison
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    In the few responses so far, there are references to a couple of things I thought of immediately on reading this post. Car parking: it’s a minefield, with greedy, anti-car public bodies throughout the land viewing motorists as a cash cow to be exploited, threatened and fined.
    I had two examples recently of differing approaches. First, I was done by Wandsworth Council for parking in the “wrong space” even though I bought a ticket dutifully: the road markings were almost wholly worn away, indicating that I’d parked mistakenly in a Transport for London “red zone” space. Naturally, they dismissed my appeal (with photographs of the worn markings) arrogantly and rudely. Cost me £60. Barely two weeks later my very elderly mother was very distressed to receive a penalty notice at Oxford Station for parking in a space that used to be free – she is deeply rule-obeying and would have bought a ticket if she’d realised one was necessary. This was administered by APCOA on behalfof the railway – a private firm. I appealed on behalf – they waived the fine because of my mother’s age and distress.
    I don’t claim this is evidence of a uniform difference in approach but for me it sums up the inflexible arrogance of nasty little local authority apparatchiks.
    MickC (above) refers to private enterprise going the same way. But they have a public customer base whose loyalty they need to retain. Only the other day I renewed my Orange phone contract with a phone upgrade: they wanted to charge me £40, I suggested that as a longstanding customer I shouldn’t have to pay this – they changed their minds. I remain their loyal customer. I cannot imagine a public sector body behaving in this way.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 12, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      @Tony Harrison: For every anti LA controlled parking issue there are twice as many private ones, your mother was indeed lucky to have her fine waved I suspect.

  37. Jerry
    Posted July 11, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Of course the real money pits are not the local services such as bin collection or library but the non elected bureaucrats, indeed the greater the number of local services sold off or contracted out the more bureaucrats seem to be needed to monitor the now private services….

  38. wab
    Posted July 11, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    “If you buy something from the private sector, you benefit from the mantra that the customer is always right.”

    Mr Redwood must lead a sheltered life. The slogan “Ripoff Britain” was not introduced for no reason, and although the government is the biggest ripoff agent of them all, the private sector is not far behind. How many financial misselling scandals have there been? (These easily eclipse all other private sector abuses.) How about notorious car clamping cowboys? How about mobile phone companies who rip you off blind if you dare to use your phone abroad? How about abuse in private sector care homes? Etc. For these companies, the customer is always wrong.

    And even if a company treats its customers well, does it also treat its workers and its suppliers well?

    “Do you have good local examples of services that are not needed, or services which are wrongly priced?”

    My local council has a monopoly on parking (except around Christmas when they tolerate a few charities running schemes) and like any monopoly supplier, the council abuses its position. There is not enough parking so even though they charge extortionate rates, they have no problem making money. Car parking is one thing local councils should definitely not be running, and there should be no artificial planning restraints on parking space.

    And as others have noted, all the politically correct council jobs should be stopped, but they never are. They would rather sack teachers than sack the jobworths. (Central government is the same.)

  39. John Wrexham
    Posted July 15, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    If you think the penalties are bad in council car parks, you ought to try the penalties in the privately owned car parks that exist on many town centre retail estates. The trouble with offering people discounts for services they don’t use in a particular year is that it would create some very strange anomalies. Would we only pay towards state education while our children are in school, when businesses and society, both those with and without children of school age benefit as much from having an educated population as the individual child and parent.

  • 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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