Productivity

The government was able to report a reasonable increase in productivity in the third quarter of 2017 with a 0.9% gain in the three months, with similar advances in both services and industry. The Treasury is keen to advance productivity as a means of promoting higher real incomes and improving UK competitiveness in world markets.

One of the areas  of the economy that has struggled to make productivity improvements is the public sector. Whilst there is a good reason to want good staffing ratios for front line services like healthcare and teaching, there are many back office functions and other services where the government can improve quality and lower cost by adopting more productive ways of working. Offering more computing power to perform clerical functions, speeding and cheapening communication with users by going digital, adopting the internet for a wide variety of productivity enhancing improvements are the way forward.

Some of it requires policy change. The introduction of Universal Credit is partially designed to reduce the number of benefits that require separate application and calculation, whilst ensuring decent support for those who need it. The Treasury could reduce the costs of tax collection by streamlining and simplifying taxes.

Some of it requires  careful negotiation with staff. The aim should be to help people work smarter and to be better paid as a result. Given the need for more staff in many areas of the public sector, productivity raising improvements do not require reducing the number of jobs overall, but ensuring the jobs are better and achieving more. Some technology will not be popular with workforces, as we have seen with more automation on trains.

Today I am inviting you to write in with your suggestions for ways public service could be improved through the adoption of new technology. Well done it can  raise service  standards for users, reduce costs for taxpayers, and provide better paid and more worthwhile jobs for those in the public sector adopting the new ways of delivering.

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128 Comments

  1. sm
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    18mths ago, I had an in-depth discussion with a consultant cardiologist at a District General Hospital in SE England. While medical staff at the Trust were almost uniformly good, the administrative and management side was disastrous, for both the hospital and its patients. He admitted that much could be vastly improved by more and better use of modern technology, but told me that salaries offered by commercial companies were so significantly higher that people with the relevant know-how simply wouldn’t apply for NHS posts.

    It is noteworthy that the CEO and other top staff continue to take home top-notch salaries.

    • Tom
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Indeed, often the top admin people get free parking spaces that are denied to front end staff like doctors & nurses on perhaps just 10% of their salaries.

      The real problems is that a “free at the point of delivery” (or often non delivery) has no need to respond to customers so they do not in general. It is take it or leave it. Customers are a nuisance to be deterred where possible. GPs have the same approach.

      The system is bonkers but no one dares to touch this. May apologises but offer non of the obvious solutions. Which are firstly some charges and incentives and tax breaks for people to go privately. Certainly not a 12% IPT tax on insurance.

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        Or indeed 45%, 40% 0r 20% tax on company provided private insurance

    • Oracle
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      When I see Ministers in charge of stuff, speaking in Parliament they are often asked by some MP whether he or she with a fellow MP can have a meeting with them to discuss so and so. The Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for Health have both welcomed such talks.
      I do not suppose they have any choice really nor wish any other choice. To whom would they speak in preference? I do not know . But speaking to one MP I know
      would as profitable for the people in that MP’s constituency as speaking with the toffee-apple seller at the next Fair on the local Common about modern medical technology.
      There is a great problem with Local Authorities in this country and with MPs. I do not know a democratic solution. An undemocratic one would not necessarily result in something nice even in small areas.. But no-one designs the future. What will happen will happen.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      sm

      Mirrors my own experience this year where administration has been absolutely appalling, sending me appointment letters during my holiday, for an appointment during my holiday, when they had been informed three times beforehand of such pre arranged dates.

      Exactly the same problem occurred 6 months later,

      Intersting conversation with a retired Matron of one of our large local hospitals, that so called management never employ anyone who may prove to be better than themselves, so we have had a dumbing down of ability in Hospital management for decades, which has resulted in absolutely useless people in many positions.

  2. Prigger
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    “Some of it requires careful negotiation with staff.” ( streamlining and simplifying taxes ).
    I take this to mean speaking with persons of a mock-representative role in corporate trades unions? No, first streamline the corporate “trade unions” by discontinuing for eternity payment to their “representatives” by the taxpayer. Any “trades union” should pay its own officials, organise its own affairs, including ballots, rent or lease its own buildings, and not at a knock-down fee payable by the taxpayer via the local authority and, in all matters behave and act as a free and independent trades union. This will take twenty or more years for the persons to organise as they have absolutely no experience whatsoever in so doing and may not even wish to have a trade union, at all. This could save each workjer as much as £15.14p per month at the bottom line of the payslip. Quite a bonus for the many not the few.
    Whilst those corporate trade unions are trying to work out how they will manage financially when no-one is employed by them to figure it out, there will be no need to have “careful negotiation with staff” as no-one in that capacity of “”staff “representative”” will be at work.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Sort out a sensible easy hire and fire system. If the staff fired were/are any good they will easily get another job anyway. A massive improvement in productivity would result if unproductive people could be fired and knew they could be fired.

      Lots of pointless figures on the gender pay gap being expensively and unproductively published by larger companies now – due to May’s absurd new law. There is no gender pay gap that is not entirely explained fully by the fact that women are hugely underrepresented in Maths, Physics, Computer Science A levels and degrees and often choose to do different jobs so as to fit in with child care and career gaps. What a silly waste of time and money Theresa!

      At Easyjet and other airlines for example – nearly all the pilots are male where the cabin crew are far more female so what is the point of the figures? If most women choose not to study to be computer scientist, pilots, construction workers, oil rig workers, engineers or physicists should we force them to do so?

      • Anonymous
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

        In such areas it will result in more women being recruited but with more part-time/child care/career gaps – ie more shortages of staff and cancellations.

        Which is what we hear everywhere despite record numbers of staff, there are still shortages.

        • Lifelogic.
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 4:53 am | Permalink

          I have read that the combination of the EU working time directive and the fact that more doctors are now female together means that we need twice the numbers of doctors for the same number of working hours output.

  3. Mark B
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    Despite doing all my taxes, passport, driving license and banking on line, I seem to be both paying more and recieving less. More taxes, but practically zero interest on my savings.

    I do not believe that the means by which our kind host wishes to raise productivity is correct. I touched on the solution yesterday on the subject of Crypto-currencies.

    The main difference between the private sector and the public sector is this – COMPETITION !

    It is hightime that the government brought back Compulsive Competitive Tendering. It does this already for bin collection but it needs to do it right the way throughout government. Administration needs to be contracted out. Private management firms need to be asked if they would like take over the running of government. Ministers will still have authority and will be ultimately responsible for government departments. I am not talking about QUANGO’s here, but existing departments where admin’ staff and management are from the private sector.

    Also. Make any public sector staff PAYE. No show, no dough ! The public sector is overpaid and has far too many benefits. A dose of the REAL WORLD will do them good.

  4. Nig l
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Maybe doing somewhat better in the MOD would be a start. Promised a 16000 reduction in civilian headcount. Managed to achieve 170. In the private sector that would mean heads would roll. Obviously not in your sphere. Actually performance management of people across all the Public Sector would save billions and improve productivity.

    I know personally a Trust hospital where jobsworths are ignored putting an even greater strain on the good ones.

  5. jerry
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    “One of the areas of the economy that has struggled to make productivity improvements is the public sector.”

    Well neither would the private sector if it failed to invest, sorry but the solution is in the govt. hands, no one else’s! For example many sectors, such as the NHS and police have large back offices because of the layers of pointless red-tape the govt. insists upon these days with their targets etc. – police, fire, the NHS even customs & excise along with the boarder agency are reactive sectors were ‘targets’ simply do not fit, the police now appear to go looking for a crime to solve were there has been no but then fail to investigate real crimes such as breaking & entering with intent.

    “Offering more computing power to perform clerical functions”

    But someone is still needed to input the raw data, and someone is still needed to interpret the output, the first is likely to remove someone from the front-line whilst the latter will simply grow like Topsy until a whole office block full of self-serving ‘administrators’ is needed again. Technology is not always the answer, basic policies are though.

    UC is about reducing the amount paid out, not to each individual but by the state, why else has it moved so many off PIP and the such? Nor will it reduce the size of the DWP, including external contractors, in fact it will likely increase due to the need for disability assessments rather than a simply letter from medical specialist or doctor – never mind that all this automation you keep pushing for, such as driver-less trains will mean more people out of work and thus increased workloads within the DWP (once again under a Tory govt.).

  6. Ian Wragg
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    There should be an immediate recruitment ban on all non front line staff. Every post needs to be examined and duplication removed.
    The nonsense of flexi hours needs examining. My friend barely ever completes a full week so who is doing the job whilst he’s swanning off. Many public sector jobs actually hinder the private sector for no good reason.
    All final salary pension schemes including MPs should be closed just like the private sector.

    • Whelk Stall Vender
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      It is not that there are too few jailings of persons in Local Authorities for corruption but there are not any.
      In any modern civilisation, a certain percentage of people at the highest levels commit in-job crimes…involving criminal contract mis-allocation, employment of cronies and family, iffy recommendations for MBEs and knighthoods.
      The greater crime is that MPs and all Cabinets and Home Offices have not dealt with it.

    • Timaction
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Steady. Wouldn’t want the same austerity of pay and conditions, particularly pensions, imposed on the great and good in the bubble. They need their unqualified part time jobs the rest of the working class can only dream of.

  7. APL
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    JR: “The government was able to report a reasonable increase in productivity in the third quarter of 2017 with a 0.9% gain in the three months ”

    Let’s get some increased productivity in the Public sector. Starting at the top with Parliament. Slash salaries, expenses, and increase hours, cut perks like subsidised food and drink.

    That’s a good place to start. Then rinse and repeat right the way down the administrative chain to municipal dog catcher.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      I worked in Whitehall for 7 years. If we wanted a drink, there are lots of pubs. If we wanted lunch, we went to a sandwich place, there are plenty. Close down all the bars and restaurants in Westminster. There is a splendid opportunity coming up – they are going to have to vacate the place before it falls down.

    • Timaction
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      Council Chief Execs and all the non job management, the number of authorities duplicating roles needs urgent action……………..but heh, why bother, it’s only the public’s taxes being wasted. Foreign and EU aid MUST take priority whilst we have immigration crises resulting in housing, health, education crises all around England!

  8. Kenneth
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    A friend of mine works for a company that organises conferences.

    They do a good trade in lunchtime bashes where there is often a comedian and high profile speaker.

    He tells me that the vast majority of customers who enjoy these jollies are public sector (and charity) middle management employees who seem to have plenty of time to sit drinking and eating and socialising.

    A good start will be to (i) reduce the budget for these jollies; (ii) reduce the numbers in public sector middle management who clearly have too much time on their hands

    • jerry
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      @Kenneth; The point you miss is that such events are more often a means to an end, they get people who are by nature widely scattered, unlike a company were employees only need to change floors in their office block to see those in a different department or management position etc. – sure video conferencing could be used instead, but even the private sector accept that is not a total solution, sometimes face to face has to be literal not virtual.

    • Librarian
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      Kenneth. If you worked at any level in a Local Authority, a reason would be found to stop you getting promoted, making life miserable for you and sacking you on fake charges if necessary.

    • forthurst
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      There needs to be an investigation into the implications of civil servants and others in public employ going on courses promoted by ‘Common Purpose’ which purports to “develop leaders who can cross boundaries”, during work time and at public expense.
      What benefit do these courses bring and why if they are such a good idea, are they not part of the internal education programs for career development? Are minsters aware of these courses and have any of them attended? Is there overarching agenda being promoted which goes beyond what might be deemed leadership skills.

      • Stred
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        A public register of Common Purpose members and their position in government and ngos would be a good start. We would be able to trace connections and interests.

    • Dennis Zoff
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:30 am | Permalink

      Kenneth, l have worked with public sector management for the best part of 30 years and some of them have been outstanding….meaning, they have signed off significant contracts……however, the other 99% have been a waste of time?

  9. agricola
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    We have been here before, so rather than highlight all those standing round the apocryphal water dispenser, I offer you Kaizen, or in English, continuous improvement. It is a system that seeks to achieve small incremental changes to the way that any job is done, in order to improve efficiency and quality while eliminating waste. Any of the major Japanese companies operating in the UK could give you chapter and verse on how it operates. It is not a top down system, but rather the reverse based on the fact that those at the coalface know where improvements can be made.

    If you really want to understand Kaizen, ask to spend a day at Honda in Swindon who I am sure would be delighted that you were taking an interest. The workings of Parliament are ripe for Kaizen.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      Except few in the state sector have any interest in efficiency, after all if they were efficient about 80% of them would get fired.

    • Dennis Zoff
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 2:01 am | Permalink

      Agricola, Kaizen has been around for quite some time (originally imported into Japan from America, it’s originator)…it is one of many iterative manufacturing efficiency programs around today and it has its place. I personally introduced the Kaizen methodology into my then company in the late eighties…..worked well, if now a little dated!

      Regarding Kaizen for Parliament; they have been using a type of “inverse” Kaizen for many decades, to the detriment of UK industry…..l fear, only robust radical reform will benefit Parliament, which in turn will benefit industry!

  10. Sceptic
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Here in Wales, huge improvements could be made by adopting well established older technology. It is incredible that GP practices and hospitals can’t share patients x-rays etc by computers. They appear to prefer snail mail methods to disguise the dire lack of other jobs for local people. Where they appear to have more efficient systems they do not work properly.
    Ten years ago, in England, my repeat prescriptions were ordered online and came by post like clockwork. I have given up trying to get the Welsh online system to work. The local chemists seem to have more staff than the English equivalents.
    There is an online system to book appointments which can’t be used to book nurses’ appointments, and usually reports that there are no hookah doctors’ appointments anyway.
    The waiting list management is just as bad. My place on a list was cancelled by a clerical error which seems to be uncorrectable. Every clerk says “It’s my fault. It is the system!”

    • jerry
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      @Sceptic; Ordering repeat prescriptions or appointments etc. on-line is not a lot of help to those without a computer or internet access so no solution at all, in fact providing such convenience technology is adding costs because the older universal systems still have to be provided – want to use such on-line systems, how about making people pay a surcharge for such convenience?

    • Timaction
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      ……………..or we could have a National Health service for the British people ONLY, whilst the rest should pay or have to have travel insurance cover at the time of visa issue, like we do when we travel abroad.
      After 7.5 years in office getting foreign people to show a bit of paper to give an address they claim to have lived at for 12 months is…………..pathetic and obviously wide open to and is being abused by the …………world. We’re all witnessing this Mr Redwood, every time we access medical services or in waiting rooms. When are you getting serious about this or can we ration our taxes to you to go privately to get quality and timely health services?

  11. Duncan
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    The conciliatory tone of this article and its premise that we need more state employment is indicative of the ‘new and improved’ Conservative party. The party has effectively capitulated to the left across all areas.

    We need less state employees not more. We have to suffer the burden of a State that just gets larger and more powerful. The debate is almost becoming tiresome now.

    Under MT the party sought to change events. Now we simply manage them. It’s a pathetic state of affairs that the left have seized upon to strengthen their hand. The UK will suffer as a result.

    We are all conscious of the fact that the public sector perform a useful purpose. It is important. We know this to be true but today’s public sector as become a hotbed of militant trade unionism. It is almost as if the public sector is now designed around the needs not of the end-user or the taxpayer but around the needs of the state employee.

    Forget attempts to improve productivity within the state. It can’t be done for many reasons. One of them is trying to define the nature of productivity and then measuring it.

    The other is the elephant in the room. Confronting the union vested interest is essential to driving through necessary changes to public sector working practices. We all know the public sector is a scam on the taxpayer.

    Hunt’s tried to weaken the grip of the BMA in the NHS and it nearly cost him his job. try to implementing this process across all the state apparatus. It’s impossible to achieve especially when the PM is a socialist who would rather avoid taking tough decisions.

    Weaken the union grip. Abolish the opt-in system. No part-time employment for FT staff. No early retirement on a juicy pension. Attack the sick-rate culture which is another scam.

    Back-office automation using algorithmic software is now common practice. Companies like Blue Prism and MSFT are using across many areas. It will replace many thousands of employees

    The taxpayer is being ripped off. Spineless politicians in govt find it easier to throw money at public sector concerns rather than confronting the problem, reforming it and taking on the unions

  12. Lifelogic
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I see that someone from Friends of the Earth has said (of Trump’s very sensible moves on oil exploration rules):- ‘Climate science is clear that the remaining untapped fossil fuel reserves must be kept ‘in the ground’ if we are to have any chance of leaving a stable climate for future generations. ‘The reckless move by the Trump administration to pursue increased offshore oil drilling is an appalling attack on our already imperiled communities, both marine and terrestrial.’

    Complete and utter drivel, fossil fuels are vital to prosperity, productivity and a better future for people. Perhaps they should go and take a look at the freezing Niagra falls coldest winter for 24 years is it? . The greens, Libdims, most politician and the BBC are not really interested in real science and engineering, just their daft religion and their greencrap belief system.

    The BBC keep saying the price of wind is now below that of Nuclear – but wind is intermittent and Hinkley C is an absurdly expensive and misguided nuclear project anyway. To compare the cost of random/intermittent electricity with a nuclear base load supply is economic illiteracy. A bogus statistic to try to mislead. Just like the others misleading claims they came out with (one assumes they were released by the subsidy farming, greencrap industry’s PR organisation and no one at the BBC bother to think before repeating them).

    • agricola
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Discussed this this morning with someone at the sharp end of oil and gas exploration. The USA is pretty much self sufficient for this form of energy. I suspect there are two reasons. The first being it is cheaper and the second is that they have become free of the machinations of Middle East politics. After a flat two years and due to a pick up in World industrial activity it is anticipated that the demand for oil and gas will pick up from now on. It is time for government to get off the fence and go for fracked gas on an industrial scale. There is no need for us to build extortionately expensive nuclear power stations or more countryside blighting windmills, if political inertia can be removed.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        Political Inertia and the Climate Alarmist Lunacy which alas seems to infect almost everyone in the state sector or who does not have any understanding of science, physics or engineering.

      • Fedupsoutherner
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

        Agricola, yes, what the hell happened to fracking? Is the government losing its nerve? What about all that untapped cheap energy and abundance of good, much needed jobs?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Why are they closing all coal fired power stations by 2025? Expensive energy is not likely to increase productivity. Also it is not a decision to be sensibly taken now anyway. We need to see what the energy market looks like in say 2024 and take any decision then.

      Yet they encourage burning of bio fuels and wood burning stoves with subsidies, which can be very polluting indeed and give off lots CO2 too.

      What sort of fools do we have in charge of energy – any decent rational physicist or energy engineers to be seen? No people like Amber Rudd (History) and Grieg Clark (Economics) but he clearly fails to understand energy economics, both infatuated by the greencrap religion and climate alarmist agenda.

      Very cold indeed in North America I see currently.

      • Fedupsoutherner
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

        LL, not too warm here either. Still, they will be warm in Poland where they are sensibly building new coal power stations.

      • Stred
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        In December, coal was providing 20% of the missing power when wind and solar were zero. Are they building more gas or nuclear stations in time. Nothing announced or feasible. Maybe they want to kill off older voters in a blackout lasting a week in the middle of a freeze up. Then Andy Pandys could reverse Brexit.

    • Andy
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      The greencrap means your grandchildren have a planet. Without it they may well die. Plus – tidal power is entirely predictable and, properly harnessed, could power an island nation in its entirety. Plenty of light for the luddites.

      • Stred
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        Tidal energy could provide 11 out of 195 energy units for UK according to MacKay Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air. Others estimate 3.

      • ian wragg
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        Load of crap. Tidal power produces power on a parabolic curve twice each day and at varying times. Many times it will be producing full power when it is not required and at other times it will be idle during daily peak demand.
        When you put up the so called lagoons, they will silt up and require constant dredging . Finally there is heavy erosion on the turbine blades.
        If a project is billed at say 100Mw it will probably deliver about 20Mw average. Just like the stupid windmills.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        Well they will die! Everyone does had you not noticed?

        Tidal power is indeed “predictable”, but it is not “on demand” with neap and spring tide variations and silting up. It is not even a solid base load. But the real problem with tidal is the huge capital and maintenance costs of enclosing and maintaining a massive area of sea (given storms and the likes). In short it is far too expensive. Oh and it is also not strictly “renewable” as it slows down the earth’s rotation.

        I have a science maths/physics/electronics & engineering background, Cambridge Univ. then Manchester. I am very far from a luddite, just a climate realist. The luddites are the ones who want to go back to windmills and think Co2 is a pollutant when it is tree and plant food. Wind farms with current technology they make no economic or environmental sense at all. They farm subsidies not wind.

        • Dennis Zoff
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 2:23 am | Permalink

          Lifelogic

          Perhaps with your background knowledge you can eruditly suggest an alternative (new) to current (excuse the pun) power production and storage?

          My suggestion was a battery the size of Ben Nevis to store excess power production….did not get many takers….well actually none!

          I studied Electromagnetic theory with some interesting maths, among other things, so know a little on the subject too…and still rooting for my Ben Nevis!

          • Lifelogic
            Posted January 7, 2018 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

            Simply do not store electricity, (far too expensive and wasteful). Produce it only as needed with gas, nuclear, hydro or coal.

            A heap of coal or tank of gas is quite easy to store until it is needed.

            The only relatively inexpensive way to store decent amounts of electricity is to pump water back up hill into existing hydro-reservoirs (so long as they are not already full). But even this wastes much of the power. Batteries (various), compressed air, thermal, flywheels and all the other ways are too expensive, large and lossy and likely to remain so for some time unless the laws of physics/chemistry are changed.

        • hefner
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

          LL, How can you go on again with this crazy comment about lagoons slowing down the Earth’s rotation. If, as you pretend, you have a degree in maths/physics/electronics & engineering, you should be able to estimate the mass of the water in the oceans from area, average depth, and the mass of the water in a typical lagoon from same parameters and realise you are talking complete b******s.

          Some months ago, I produced the figures, but maybe as a Trump-like “very stable genius”, you did not bother reading them.
          Don’t you realise that by repeating this type of canards, you are hurting your cause!

          • stred
            Posted January 8, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

            It is on page 87 of SEWTHA. Tidal energy slows the rotation but even doubling tidal energy would last a billion years. Same page shows tidal as 11kWh/day/person as a small proportion of renewables. Page 107 shows tidal estimates from 11 to 2.4 to 0.09. hardly the ‘gold standard’ in energy to power the whole UK in euflake language.

          • Diogenes
            Posted January 9, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

            stred, according to more recent studies based on GPS and gravimetric satellite measurements, this slowdown is around 10^-6s per 10 years, and more likely due to melting of glaciers and land ice sheets and subsequent regional rising up of the upper Earth crust under these areas. The order of magnitude of this phenomenon is thousand times bigger than the potential impact of lagoons.
            And that has nothing to do with whether lagoons might play a role in the possible energy sources for the UK (something not addressed by hefner).
            Try to concentrate on what is written by contributors and not on what you think they think when writing comments.

      • Jagman84
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        No, the greencrap will result in your grandchildren being locked into fuel poverty / power outages for their lifetime as the back up capacity from fossil fuels is wilfully jettisoned..

      • Anonymous
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        Andy – Then you should be pleased at the Brexit appocalypse which will cut our carbon footprint through the poverty you predict. Rejoice !

        Please tell us. How do we reduce the UK’s co2 emissions by importing 600k of the world’s poor every year and increasing their standard of living ?

      • Caterpillar
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

        Andy, I think to date tidal power implies ecosystem destruction and shipping interference. Many of the (so called) renewables are damaging (or resource limited in different ways) and so need to be further improved before rollout if saving the planet for the next generation argument is genuine. Moreover the economy also needs to be protected for the next generations and jumping technologies too early could be problematic here as well – trashing the economy would have severe societal follow on. (Technologies disrupting some markets before main-streaming has an OK history.)

    • Toady
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Friends of the Earth and Green people in general are romantic except in their acceptance of dictators’ money from the EU for powering in a non-sustainable way their politics.
      If you look around. … and it is an Obvious to beat all references to “Are you missing the Obvious?” you will see all humans for most of their time much prefer and insist on “indoors” as opposed to “outdoors”
      In fact all animals and even insects prefer “indoors” of a kind to “wonderful” “outdoors” nature.
      We should ponder on this and understand why. “Mother” nature is by no means our friend. Being a Friend of the Earth is not a healthy friendship and should be discouraged as you would discourage your child in avoiding “that bad lot”

      • hefner
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

        Toady, “indoors” vs “outdoors”, you might be right if leaving in the UK. There may be other parts of the world where this could be very much discussed. What about Southern Australia, South Africa? In many countries where sunny conditions prevail for 300+ days/year, people want to be in the shade, not particularly indoors.

        • Toady
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:38 am | Permalink

          hefner. I am right in every place on earth “indoors” and “outdoors”. Shade is “indoors” ..it is not out in the open. The fact it is partially “indoors” still makes the point. Incidentally I may say you have a somewhat idealistic notion of Southern Australia and South Africa. The sun does not shine at night. It gets cold, very cold. It also rains and blows and nocturnal biting insects and animals prowl for persons who argue the point with me too much, That is why all humans have shelters ..an indoors..I never thought anyone would try to argue the point. Green people take an anorak making their bodies indoors ,and a tent, an indoors in the outdoors. South African dung beetles go under some dung so they are indungs

        • Stred
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

          In South Australia and South Africa, people need housing and warm clothes in winter. Don’t you mean Northern Australia and tropical Africa.

          • hefner
            Posted January 7, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

            Lowest point in annual cycle of temperature for Melbourne and Cape Town is in July. For Melbourne, mean Max is 13.5C, mean min is 6.0C; for Cape Town, mean max is 16, mean min is 8.0; nothing I would call very cold.
            Obviously people need housing, no question about that. But for personal experience of two years in Colorado, a large number of people enjoy cross-country skiing in winter, hiking, climbing, barbecuing, or sitting on the porch from April to October.
            And I agree, tropical areas might be better for temperature but much worse for creepy-crawlies.

  13. Caterpillar
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Alongside new technology could I suggest (a) appropriate technology and (b) appropriate policy / measurement.

    An example of (a) is the use of inappropriately designed wheelie-bins. Although they are wheeled they are often so light that they topple over in moderate winds, leaving streets full of rubbish to be either cleaned or not. The lids open at low winds (Bernoulli effect) which means recycling paper and card is strewn. Getting technology and collection policy right for waste collection needs to be a focus for many councils.

    An example of (b) is education for 16 to 18 year olds. There are many who are having n-th attempts at English and mathematics GCSEs but not really attempting, rather disrupting those that are attempting. Funding though is not structured in a way to remove the disruptors, because the educators need the revenue (so any headcount + stretched out value add can dominate thinking) – net achievement is lower. (Obviously the 16 to 18 y.o. can be from any EU country). Clearly access to English and maths education to all is important for future productivity, but reducing the access for those who are trying to succeed by giving to those who are not is a poor approach – more would be achieved with one effortful student triple funded than one working student handicapped by two disruptive students.

  14. Anthony
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Financial services regulation employs an army of people that add no wealth to society. The current regulatory philosophy is to allow FS institutions to take complicated risks provided lots of forms and explanations are provided which all require a lot of manpower. He complexity rarely adds value to the economy, it usually shuffles existing value in the direction of FS institutions.

    What we need is financial regulation that is simple to comply with and promotes high levels of resilience. Then all that manpower can be freed up.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Financial services and getting loans to people/businesses who need them and investing wisely pension funds is a vital service and does add wealth to society enormously when done well. Allotting capital investments wisely a very important indeed.

      But I agree that the financial services industry in the UK and indeed banking are getting away with ripping off clients and not providing a good service at all. Banks are a joke .2% on deposits and base plus 3 to 30%+ on (even secured) borrowing from sound customers. Adverts on TV for loans at 300% plus APR. We need more fair competition and more sensible but simpler regulations.

      As usual the government is the main problem here.

  15. BOF
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    ‘ Given the need for more staff in many areas of the public sector, productivity raising improvements do not require reducing the number of jobs overall, but ensuring the jobs are better and achieving more.’

    Sorry to disagree but the whole public sector needs to be reduced substantially, especially at senior and management level. More services need to be privatised where these are necessary. An inflated public sector is the means by which labour and the unions control votes.

    • jerry
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      @BOF; The last GE result suggests that most people think otherwise, if anything previously privatised sectors need to be renationalised/taken back in-house. Costs, to the end user, are not always lower in privatised sectors and industry, for example the NHS could employ staff directly, more cheaply, than they are currently purchasing in temporary staff from agencies.

    • Nig l
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      Well said. I respect JR for raising this topic but he is wasting his time. In the private sector you have a budget but are expected, indeed praised as a good manager, if you come in under that budget, in the public sector they spend every last penny so no incentive to increase efficiency.

    • Spy
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Yes they make their local kingdoms of Dependency both legitimate and otherwise.

  16. Epikouros
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    The way we measure productivity does not give quite the accurate picture that we believe. As we measure it by the number of people in work when it if we measure it by the number of people available to do paid work it would be different. On that basis for instance the UK’s productivity would be better than France’s whilst the way it is currently calculated France is better than the UK. Which way is better? That is debatable.

    The more automated we are higher productivity naturally increases but then of course that causes a change in what people are employed to do. Most believe it will increase those who cannot find employment. History and the evidence tells us that in fact does not happen the opposite occurs. Whether that will always be the case I do not know. It may not but does it matter as jobs are a cost and not a benefit. So if we do not have to work as long as the wealth that automation creates is used to the benefit of all then we will be free do things that we enjoy.

    As for improving the productivity of the public sector the answer to that is easy as most of what the public sector does we misguidedly believe it is they who are best at doing it. They obviously are not as their poor productivity plus many other poorly performing indicators proves. So stop them doing what they do and pass it onto the private sector to do as their productivity performance is far better and it gives better quality and price.

  17. Thomas E
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Parliament could introduce electronic voting so it doesn’t take so long for each division.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      It is difficult to think of any area of Parliament or the Lords that could not be made more far, far more efficient but their is not will to do so. Get rid of the 90% of the Lords who are dead wood daily tax free allowance collectors for example. Reduce the number of MP’s. Have ministers for energy who have some knowledge of Energy Engineering and science perhaps and similarly for transport, defence. industry …..

      Have Chancellors who understand economics & maths and are not History or PPE dopes.

      Have a Home Secretary who believes in the value of real deterrents to crime and who can deport people without being over ruled by bonkers legal decisions from the supreme courts.

      What is the real cost of the pantomime that is the State opening of Parliament, I wonder? I do not suppose it has even been costed,

    • Spy
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Yeah but how could their be fraud then????>?????????

  18. Wessexboy
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    My experience in the NHS taught me that many nurses lack basic computer skills – being unable to ‘cut and paste’ and therefore spending hours rewriting Care Plans and Risk Assessments which could be done and far less time. This sort of skill should be a prerequisite for passing the qualification. Far too much time spent inadequately at a screen, which should be such a time saver.

    • Ian Wragg
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Amazing that UK trained nurses need a degree but are not computer literate.
      Perhaps it’s the others?????

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      If a nurse cannot even cut and paste should she or he be allowed anywhere near patients?

      • rose
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        Yes, so -called educated nurses may look after patients properly, but they are also more likely to think they are too grand to wash and dress and feed. This is quite a common problem facing patients now and it wasn’t a problem before graduate and IT literate nurses.

      • Daktari
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

        It surprised me how many in local authorities had virtually non-existent computer skills. I came to the game very late and I honestly declare I am very slow at leaning. I ended up giving tips and explaining stuff to people who were my superiors adn went on PC course where I was denied for some reason or other.. Some of it, they just could not understand. Like saving an email or making a file never mind copying and pasting. But the government has let Local Authorities and indeed the NHS employ their own relations instead of having properly educated and appropriate staff. One wonders how some doctors ever got out of High School without bribing the Examinations Board. We have really bad schools and bad teachers but MPs are always shouting to the skies about the greatness of our education system. Perhaps they hope the staff will go dump themselves in Australia and elsewhere.Heaven help the rest of the world if our lot are the best. One should fear having an accident and needing a hospital in Oz.

    • jerry
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      @Wessexboy; IT is all well and good until the day it crashes, as it did in 2017, hand written forms are less ‘fragile’, what is more they can physically travel with the patient from ward to ward or to another hospital.

      Far to many IT professionals and users have far to much blind faith in it – a backup is no use if there are no working computers, or the backup is likely to be corrupt/infected too…

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        Also all the data on yours and indeed nearly everyone’s computer is now is accessible to almost anyone it seems, given the recent chip problems!

    • Spy
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      They look at other stuff outside the realm of the NHS online on the night shift too

    • Fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      I hear trainee nurses saying that once they are qualified they are leaving to work in foreign countries especially Australia and New Zealand. I makes me angry to think that we have supplied this training and yet we will get no benefit. They should be made to give the UK ten years at least. They would still be young enough to emigrate later.

      • Lifelogic.
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 5:03 am | Permalink

        About 50% of uk trained GPs now do not go on to work for the NHS. Many do not even go on to work in health care at all.

        The NHS is not a very appealing employer to many nor does it pay much, plus they have large debts to pay off.

      • Blue and Gold
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        Why on earth would anyone wish to work in our underfunded NHS, with lack of staff, and due to Far Right ideas such as leaving the EU, meaning it will also be further understaffed?
        The NHS cannot operate properly without the hardworking, loyal, smart (both in mentality and presentation) of porters, doctors, nurses, physios et al from across the great EU .

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

          Well no one is suggesting we should not have any immigration, just that it should be more selective not open door to all regardless of merit. What is Far Right about wanting to live in a democracy with controls resting with the people you vote for and can vote out? It might easily go more to the left – but hopefully not.

  19. alan jutson
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Scrap the complex and failing road fund licence charge and put 3 pence on a litre of fuel.

    Then everyone pays according to road usage , people cannot fail to pay it, and it automatically costs owners more when their vehicle of choice is uneconomical.

    Such a simple and logical proposal, and due to this, will probably never happen.

    You could then scrap a whole department, the new scheme which agreed to forgo the paper disc it is reported, saved £7 million on costs, but lost £90 million in revenue.
    Thus hardly a success story but typical of so many expensive and complex Government directives..

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Would also save administration time and cost in the Police and Courts when a percentage of the suggested 1,000,000 people who do not presently pay for road duty tax are tax are taken to the Courts.

  20. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I don’t really know what is meant by the term “productivity” in a technical rather than a colloquial sense, but I do read this passage at the start of the Executive Summary to an OECD report published last May:

    http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/industry-and-services/oecd-compendium-of-productivity-indicators_22252126

    “OECD Compendium of Productivity Indicators 2017”

    “Eight years after the global financial crisis, GDP growth remains below pre-crisis rates in most countries, leading to concerns that the global economy has been stuck in “a low growth trap”, with the post-crisis period being described by some analysts as “the decade of lost growth”. A striking feature of the post-crisis period has been a continuation of a long-term slowdown in productivity growth that has gone hand in hand with weak levels of investment.”

    The reference to “most countries” might be taken to mean that the UK is not unique in having this problem, as the opposition likes to pretend; and the statement that this was still the case “eight years after the global financial crisis” suggests the party which was in power in the UK in 2009 and presided over that historic crisis should not try to shuffle all of the blame off onto its successor in government; and of course none of this has much to do with our decision to leave the EU, although it does highlight the importance of getting on and implementing that democratic decision as the government expressly promised in its referendum leaflet:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/515068/why-the-government-believes-that-voting-to-remain-in-the-european-union-is-the-best-decision-for-the-uk.pdf

    “This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.”

    And without the oxymoronic concept of a “status quo” or “standstill” transition period after we have left during which nothing would change.

  21. Bert Young
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    The costs in the Public sector are too high and the focus has to be on increasing efficiency and reducing numbers . Obtaining improvements in these areas will rely on training , simplification of procedures and technology . If the sector heads are not committed to change and efficiency , very little improvement can be expected ; I would always start any programme of change here so a lot would depend on motivation and direction .

    5 year periods of Government are too short for any continuity of direction and improvement – particularly where capital investment is involved ; only electing a third of MPs at any one time is one solution . Union activity is a serious difficulty and results in too much restriction ; laws can and do overcome this providing there is a strong direction from Government . I would also impose a more stringent qualification and background of MPs ; representation of the people needs individuals of wide experience and capability ; no-one under the age of 35 years who as not demonstrated success in a management role ought to be considered and selected .

  22. Blue and Gold
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Members of Parliament had two massive pay rises in the last 10 years so it is a bit rich (literally), for Far Right politicians to start on Public finances, when they have had their snouts well and truly, deep in the money trough.

    Reply MPs need to discuss how to improve our public services. Conservative MPs also wish to raise MP productivity by reducing the numbers of MPs, but this does not seem popular with other parties.

    • Blue and Gold
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      As you know very well, the reason the reduction of MPs is not popular with other parties is because the Conservatives would unfairly benefit from this.

      You also know that we have an undemocratic voting system in this country as it is, with the majority of the citizens not voting this Far Right/UKIP government.

  23. Ed Mahony
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I think it’s to do with philosophy to life and work. Let’s look at the evidence: Germany.

    Research shows that British are more than 25% less productive than Germans.

    – The Germans are very goal orientated. And efficient in their communication. And they just get on with work, enjoying it as much as they can.

    – Germans don’t mix work with play. They work hard. And play hard outside work.

    – Germans take Elternzeit (‘parent time’) very seriously with certain working rights to bring up their children.

    Germans just seem more focused on work ethic. Something which we Brits used to be, in particular, during the time of the Quakers who created so many successful companies here in the UK. But work ethic seems to have diminished quickly in the last few years (along with other traditional values such as the importance of the family – and how strong, stable families effects the life of the nation in many different profound ways).

    Reply The Germans undertake more manufacturing than we do which has a much higher capital investment behind each worker.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      I think we in the UK have becoming excessively individualistic.
      – Bad for the individual. But also bad for the country.

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        When you have leading Tory politicians such as Boris Johnson say that ‘greed is good’ then you’re just promoting excessive individualism.

        I’m greedy but I’m not proud of it. If we’re going to try and promote anything, like Boris Johnson does then it should be ‘work ethic.’ The sort of work ethic the Quakers stood for, helping to make this country great, in a ‘strong + stable’ way.

        (And closely related to ‘work ethic’ a sense of ‘patriotism’ although no doubt some will think me quaint / out of touch for talking about this).

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      Engineers and trades (do-ers) are respected in Germany. Arts and PPE grads (talking heads) are respected in Britain where trades are looked down on and few kids want to learn.

      Completely arse about face.

      two thirds of universities need to be turned into technical colleges.

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

        Well said.

        And add to that, getting rid of all those universities would get rid of the problem of student loans (as millions wouldn’t be taking them and/or for not so long).

        And where savings can be made, to invest-invest-invest that all school children have the best education possible in Maths and English.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      I agree. That’s one reason I’ve been arguing the government should invest in the high tech industry as a number 1 priority of improving productivity so that we can compete with California and Germany in the high tech industry in general, providing great jobs that people like and that pay well and good for our country’s revenue in general.

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        ‘should invest in the high tech industry’

        – i mean in infrastructure, skills, and so on.

        But many in the Tory party appear too focused on financial services (important as they are of course), instead of thinking more about learning from and competing with the the German and Californian high tech manufacturing industry. And we need to catch up fast.

  24. Christine
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Stop the current ridiculous Government policy of moving public sector jobs from the towns, where office space is cheap, to the cities where it is much more expensive. Go back to the policies of the 80s where jobs from the South were moved to the North bringing massive savings and providing good jobs in deprived areas.

    Also improve Broadband speeds and reliability.

    • Fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

      Christine, we get 0.9 mb speed on our broadband. Half the time my husband cannot access his bank account to pay such things as his tax bill!!! No Netflix for us. Third world country comes to mind and yet we constantly get told we live in an affluent country. What a joke.

  25. Peter Martin
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Allow people who can work at home to do that more. The private sector could do more too, but still the general attitude in the Public Sector is that there is a set place of work which isn’t the home.

  26. GilesB
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    To improve productivity requires innovation.

    Innovation requires thinking: Regulations discourage thinking.

    Allow professionals to exercise judgement instead of ticking boxes.

    Auditors use to give an opinion that accounts were ‘true and fair’. Now they report that thousands of boxes have been ticked, but pass no opinion on whether the accounts are ‘true and fair’.

    Public sector workers similarly waste millions of hours on risk assessments and then deny any responsibility for outcomes. Any teacher knows how to make a school trip safe without filling out forms.

    Today completing forms is a defence against charges of incompetence: it shouldn’t be.

    Yes there needs to be accountability. Today a teacher would get fired if a tree fell on the bus during a school trip only if they hadn’t filled out the forms. If they had filled out the forms, but didn’t prevent an accident because they were chatting on their phone, they wouldn’t get fired.

    Get rid of all regulations that specify HOW something is to be achieved. And protect professionals who exercise reasonable judgement from witch hunts and prosecution

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

      I think ‘over-regulation’ has become an ideology in this country. Let’s look at the evidence (not that precise but something at least).

      New Zealand has relatively low business regulation, Germany relatively high business regulation. But Germany’s GDP per capita relatively much higher than NZ’s (and Australia has relatively high business reg. compared to NZ).

      The following also have relatively high business regulation: Switzerland, Netherlands, and Japan.

      That’s the not very-scientific evidence, in a nutshell, but best effort estimate. Yes, you need a certain amount of business freedom. But you also need a certain amount of regulation as well to protect you from sharks, aggressive short-term investors, and underhand dealings in general. Since people, in business, are not necessarily more (or less) virtuous than others in society and we all need to be regulated to a degree (that’s why we have police, law, Parliament and so on) …

      Lastly, economic history shows too much deregulation can lead to all sorts of problems in the economy affecting politics, society and the peace and security of a country (and the world) in general.

  27. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    If anybody wants to read what Philip Hammond actually wrote in his recent, December 20th, letter to Nicky Morgan, the anti-democratic Remoaner who chairs the Commons Treasury Committee, rather than depending on her version of what he said as uncritically repeated across the mass media, then that letter is here:

    http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/treasury/Correspondence/Letter-to-Chair-from-Chancellor-on-customs-union-20-December-2017.pdf

    And he said:

    “Exiting the European Union: decision-making”

    “The establishment of the EU Customs Union is set out in Article 28 of the Treaty on the
    Functioning of the European Union. As the UK will no longer be a Member State, or under
    the treaties once it leaves the EU, it will not be part of the EU’s Customs Union. The UK will therefore need to seek a new customs arrangement with the EU that facilitates the freest and most frictionless trade possible in goods between the UK and the EU, and allows us to forge new trade relationships with our partners in Europe and around the world. In assessing the options for the UK’s future outside the EU Customs Union, the government will be guided by what delivers the greatest economic advantage to the UK, and by three strategic objectives: ensuring UK-EU trade is as frictionless as possible; avoiding a ‘hard border’ between Ireland and Northern Ireland; and establishing an independent international trade policy.

    As outlined in the European Council ‘s guidelines published last week, the EU has agreed to negotiate a transition period covering the whole of the EU acquis in the next phase of
    negotiations. This will include how the UK will participate in the Customs Union during that period.”

    Exactly how Nicky Morgan can read that letter and then say:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/01/05/chancellors-letter-hints-potential-compromise-customs-unionafter/

    and

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-news-philip-hammond-customs-union-eu-leave-uk-trade-deal-single-market-a8143016.html

    “It was widely thought that being in a long-term customs union with the EU had been ruled out by the Government. But the Chancellor’s letter confirms that this is not the case.”

    could suggest poor comprehension on her part, but I think I will assume that she can read and understand and instead accuse her of deliberate, malicious, distortion.

    I’m getting fed up to the back teeth with these people; eighteen months is long enough for them to grieve for their loss, now they should move on and try to play a constructive role in fashioning our future. Alternatively they could just leave this country and go and live in the continuing EU, taking out citizenship of one of those countries and renouncing their British citizenship, rather than staying here and constantly trying to undermine us; on the whole we would be well rid of them if they did clear off.

    • LenD
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:01 am | Permalink

      Don’t worry Denis,,we have so many red lines in place that there will be no meeting of minds with the EU..March 2019 .. we’ll be out and free to start trade deals with our new friends overseas..so ease off on all of this EU stuff it will all work out

  28. zorro
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Computers, high speed broadband, flexible working, improved teleconference/videoconferencing, less commuting are all positives for the economy and also assist in maintaining a sensible modern work/life balance.

    zorro

  29. Andy
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I would like to propose a job swap.

    Every MP to spend (at least) six months working in frontline public services before they are allowed do become an MP.

    In return I would like our public sector workers to go in to Parliament to see what our MPs do – to properly audit them.

    My mum, who was a nurse for years before retiring recently on a salary in the mid to high £20ks was, usually too busy at work to get a lunch break.

    In contrast, MPs will soon earn £77k a year – making them among the best paid public servants. Yet an inordinate number have enough free time to do other well paid jobs too.

    Not many nurses or teachers can fit in “part-time” roles on company boards or as lawyers, investment advisers or the like.

    When MPs have finished their work at the coal face – I would then like them to review their silly notions that the public sector (outside of Parliament) is rampantly inefficient. There are not millions of people (voters) out there treating our sick, teaching our kids, fixing our streets who are also wasting time being lazy and spending taxpayers cash on gold plated paper.

    So – Mr Redwood – my suggestion is a job swap. When Michael Portillo did a TV ‘life swap’ with a benefit claimant you visible saw him become more human. What do you reckon Rees-Mogg as a GP’s receptionist? Duncan Smith as a geriatric nurse? Bernard Jenkin as a dustman?

    We do need to fix our public service – and we need to start with MPs. My taxes pay your salaries too.

    • Prigger
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      “My mum, who was a nurse for years before retiring recently on a salary in the mid to high £20ks was, usually too busy at work to get a lunch break.”
      Yes I know what you mean. I worked for most of my life on HALF the salary and much less as that of your mum in far worse conditions. I did work briefly in a hospital too. Not easy work true enough.What I would like is for nurses to try working in areas in which I worked. I do not believe they could do it..either physically or mentally. From what I see on TV they would have starved to death through lack of salary. Nurses actually give MPs a good name with their unreasonable and incessant moanings.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think MPs get paid too much. These are, after all, the people leading our country. We want to attract the best brains and experience we can. Any less than what they get, we’ll just get worse people governing our country.

      (although i’d like to see nurses paid more)

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

        (and doctors paid more but especially nurses)

  30. Helen Smith
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    How about councils get rid of all their ‘Diversity Coordinators’ etc, stop issuing edits on how many holes salt shakers in fish and chip shops should have and actually concentrate on delivering effective services to the rate paying public. All councils should do is keep roads clear of ice and pot free, run schools, libraries. Swimming pools etc and collect waste.

    They keep inventing new things to do in order to justify increasing staff levels in order to justify higher wages for those at the top. When they cut jobs it is always front line staff, lollipop ladies, swimming pool attendants or librarians who are culled to make political points.

    If every diversity coordinator went on strike who would notice?

    • Helen Smith
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Err, that should read pot hole free lol

    • Prigger
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      Government at the highest levels promote their behaviour and do not implement procedures , rules and laws to deal with them at all.

  31. Chris Rickard
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    There are more inefficient practices in the NHS than you can count – managers micro managing doctors meaning more time is spent by doctors on admin and less on patient care; insufficient beds meaning surgeons can’t operate and theatres lie idle, and expensive staff are paid for nothing because of a shortage of beds and the result is lengthening waiting lists; inefficient staff scheduling leading to reliance of expensive locums and agency nurses; poor clinical standards leading to escalating compensation by the NHS Litigation Authority and scandals like Mid-Staffs etc etc

    The same charges of overly burdensome administration procedures is causing a crisis in teaching, high abseentism, poor staff morale and a high levels of drop outs.

    My experience of social workers is universally bad. They seem to be very ineffective and much more concerned with their box ticking admin than actually providing a service. Trying to find help for elderly parents so they can stay at home is wasted effort and one daughter, who is a teacher, and another who is a hospital doctor, have an equally poor view of social workers lack of effectiveness.

    Trying to deal with the DWP when dealing with the affairs of someone who has passed away is also an exercise in futility – too many forms, most of which are unfit for purpose, many of which are issued many times over.

    • ChrisShalford
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      Well said Chris: I had to get help from my MP before I could get anything out of the DWP after my mother passed away.

  32. Miss Brandreth-Jones
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I work almost completely paper free , yet there are many problems with all files and information on line. If the computers go down which they do at least once a week then my morning/ afternoon list is unable to be accessed and all the patient information it holds . This includes all blood tests ,patient interventions, history and everything else we need. The reception staff do not know who is coming in or order of appointments. We cannot access letters , we cannot do referrals. We actually cannot cope without IT. In this respect it would be more productive if failures of IT were less, if pop up messages did not suddenly appear in the middle of a consultation and close the programme down and computers generally worked well and seamlessly.

    • Life in Cyberspace
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:04 am | Permalink

      I do not know who or what brainwashed high-ups about computers and the internet. Yet it worked. The amount of lost time and production because of this unbalanced view of computers has been a major feature of management performance in all the places I have worked. Many parodies in sci-fi movies and series on TV but it hasn’t clicked yet.

  33. Tenant
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Oh the “suggestions for ways public service could be improved through the adoption of new technology.” A revolutionary step forward ….tenants told to use their hi-tech phone when contacting services. Saves holding meetings and walking around causing trouble door to door.

  34. Brainiac
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    We have tried increasing the pay of Heads of MBCs to above the salaries of MPs and giving them knighthoods. What about a free update to their smartphones and a coastal property in Spain or Portugal?

  35. D Gardener
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I suggest getting rid of the antiquated Mandarins and putting a proven Industrialist into their job. Mandarins always fight change. I am sure the likes of business leader Gerry Rawlings would improve the efficiency and productivity across the whole of Whitehall, if allowed to do so.

    • D Gardener
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      Sorry I got the name wrong. It should be Gerry Robinson, super businessman of TV fame.

  36. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    The Treasury could reduce the costs of tax collection by streamlining and simplifying taxes.

    Just received a reminder that I owe seventy six pounds from last year on self assessment as a PAYE serf because my private medical insurance increased.

    Forcing those on low salaries to self assess because their children’s mother receives child benefit is surely not cost effective.

    Why is private medical insurance taxed? I can understand if it is not offered to everyone in a company but when offered to all why tax something that reduces pressure on the NHS?

    #Politics of envy

  37. Posted January 6, 2018 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    We need a teach-your-self education system for 13-21 yr olds:

    – small, same ability classes with no teachers
    – reading lists backed up by online lectures
    – examinations at the end of each term with cash prizes
    – each class monitored by security guards using CCTV.

  38. lojolondon
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Dear John, I think the major part of the ‘productivity’ fake news is that as long as the UK accepts several hundred thousand unskilled people each year, productivity will continue to fall, as low wages are cheaper than skilling up. Leaving the EU will change this with no other effort required, as the abundance of unskilled labour drops off, and mechanisation and skills become more effective.

  39. Nig l
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    How can anything change when we have a prime minister who is devoid of ideas, indeed it is said she doesn’t like them. Certainly I cannot think of one initiative she has made her own. The cliche is that a person who has never made a mistake has never made anything and she sure fits that bill.

  40. ChrisShalford
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    I don’t place such a high emphasis on technology as there are often low tech measures which are cheap and easy to effect. 1) People on long term medication are now allowed only four weeks’ supply at a time, i.e. we need 13 prescriptions per year with all the associated administration. Go back to the old system of allowing eight weeks at a time and slash the NHS’s admin costs. 2) Promote Freecycle so good existing stuff is reused rather than recycled or thrown away.

  41. mancunius
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    The productivity problem with state employees is that 50% of their energies go to doing as little real work as possible, while the other 50% are devoted to preserving their jobs by simulating as much pseudo-work as possible – which generally just creates more work for us. Draconian action is needed there to shake up the whole ” ‘ere-becos-we’re-‘ere” mentality.

    Low productivity in the business world is very much a chicken-and-egg question – as long as there is a) ultra-cheap low- or non-tax migrant labour b) a CEO/management bonus system that depends on short-term annual profit, and c) governments who jump up and down whenever a business reduces jobs, bosses will refuse to invest in automation.

    Are we really suggesting that in the 21st century it is impossible to get vegetables out of the ground or staff hotels except by employing (lots of workers from overseas ed)

  42. anon
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Exit the EU with a preference for a WTO model.

    Reduce the supply of immigration and hence low wage labour rates and the need for subsidies to pay the rent.

    Allow the price mechanism to guide the productive economy. Stop socialising private losses and pursue tax/benefit policy which encouragess the right individual decision.

    Allow the public via rights to recall to guide wayward MP’s.

    Simplify taxes , regulation and laws.

    Remove the BBC tax, move it to a PAYG subscription encryption based model.
    Remove any criminal legislation associated with its enforcement.

    Reduce the size of Parliament and the HOL.
    Use technology to hold virtual parliament.

    Start censoring MP’s who blatantly obfuscate facts or down right mislead on purpose, maybe using a recall process. Similar type process for any overly political civil servants.

    More use of PAYG charging for use of roads, airspace,ports,airports.

    National drive to exploit technology to drive down the cost of energy & transport.

    Energy poverty should be a thing of the past.

    Spend HS2 money on robot cars,ships,drone taxis and infrastructure.

    Wind power is now cheaper than nuclear and we can pay capacity payments for old style power plants for a day the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow enough.

  43. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Much of the regulation of privatised utilities is either unnecessary or does not work. Regulation of the energy market is a case in point. Why not, then, get rid of the regulators lock, stock and barrel, thereby saving billions of pounds spent on payroll, pensions and office space?

  44. rick hamilton
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Japan has the combination of a highly productive manufacturing and services private sector with a ludicrously pettifogging bureaucracy. It employs thousands of people to stamp forms etc, doing jobs which are objectively unnecessary. At the same time there is little welfare except for genuinely tragic cases. Unemployment benefits are minimal and nobody gets paid to sit at home and do nothing. Taxpayers know the system works, in a country where it is socially unacceptable to be seen as a layabout. Confucian values, the same all over East Asia.

    In the UK we seem to have both the massive cost of too many box-ticking bureaucrats and the over-generous welfare state as well. This suggests there are far too few jobs in wealth-creating areas, which is hardly surprising looking at the massive loss of manufacturing industry and tidal wave of imports during our membership of EEC / EU.

    Since my overseas experience leads me to conclude that socialism and left-wing thinking has crippled the UK economy, I would naturally say the whole set up needs massive overhaul, starting with education. You need to instil a proper work ethic from an early age and stop making people think there will always be a free handout when they want it.

  45. John S
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    We need the right technology. Some computer systems introduced e.g. in the NHS were a fiasco.

  46. Rien Huizer
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I would not know where to start if it is strictly raising public sector productivity by technical means. The key to productivity in any sector is to choose what to make, or provide and then figure out if that can be done efficiently (ie at least as cheaply as the best in the business).

    Governments do things that are chosen politically, without any inkling as to what shpould be done to do that efficiently. At leat that seems to be the case in most democracies. In a place like Singapore the choose inefficiencies when that is useful, either politically or as an alternative to social security (hence the old ladies sweeping the pavement here and there). But if that was a vote-buying demos, that would not be possible.

    One glaring area for imrovement would be government IT projects (you mention IT as a source of productivity). No other area has so much in common with civil engineering and construction in general. An area that attracts rentseekers like honey.

  47. Posted January 8, 2018 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    The public sector is littered with examples of failed technology investment much of the productivity problem is simple incompetence.

    Example M27 Junction 9 the Seginsworth intersection – two roundabouts linking the M27 and A27 plus 3 local access roads – in addition to the immense cost of 2 roundabouts there are no less than 58 individual traffic lights (each a complete red,yellow, green) running 24 hours a day, 365 a year.

    The average UK traffic light contains three 150W lamps, one of which is illuminated at all times, that is 1,340 KWatt hours per traffic light per year, for the 58 lights on this intersection that’s close to a staggering 76 MegaWatts Hours of energy consumed per year.

  48. Robert Betteridge
    Posted January 8, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Having, by mistake, created a commodity (University education) and a value for it (£9,000 x 3+keep) – Commercialise it. The Services, Nursing, Police, Education &c. need good quality recruits. Offer a subsidised Degree course/Qualification for a short term of serviture, and, incidentally, give an incentive for business to compete and thus invest in training, with the spin-off that few would accept low value courses.
    For the first time in 40 years we have the opportunity to work ‘clever’ for ourselves. Start putting our problems together to cure themselves; for example a ‘no deal’ lorry park at Dover could be a Rail Terminal to ship containers all over the country overnight and ease road congestion.
    We are short of housing, but we aren’t short of rooms – many of which are owned by income poor asset (house) rich wrinklies. These same wrinclies need Care in the Community. Student nurses need accommodation – incentivise the Tax system to exchange ‘care’ for ‘bed’.
    May was right to try to fund Care for the Elderly from loans against house value – she just didn’t market it properly. Tell the ‘nudge tank’ to work on the idea.
    A Global UK could become the ‘School’ of the world. What better way to spend Foreign Aid than free (with strings) education. Revolving intakes of students do not increase net immigration, I’m sure the best would be earmarked for preferential treatment.
    In a Capitalistic society there is no reason why a Government instigated business shouldn’t enter the market and ‘lead’ competitors in a particular direction; for example how about a Power Company with an agenda to promote a cheap DIY solar panel kit.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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