I am heartily sick of all these hand wringing interviews about how difficult it is to cut public spending. They usually ask people if they want to cut schools or hospitals, the nonsensical Labour spin. The “better” ones do go on to offer the interviewee chance to cut defence or some other public service.
Businesses regularly have to cut their spending. They do not agonise over whether to cut production or the service they give to customers, as they know they need to sustain both if they are to stay in business. They debate whether they can buy their raw materials cheaper, how many people they really need to produce what they are producing, whether there is a smarter way to make it. They look at cutting what they spend the money on – staff, raw materials,semi manufactures, adverts, transport etc, not at cutting the final output or service.
If we are to have a sensible debate on the public sector that’s what we need to look at. The only small hope in the whole debate is the way some are now asking questions about MPs’ expenses. Did the MP need the patio heater to do the job? Does an MP who lives 9 miles from Westminster need a second home?
These are sensible questions, opening up a needed review of the rules on spending. We need to do the same type of questioning for all public spending. Does the highly paid CEO need the assistant? Does the CEO need to be paid so much more than a Cabinet Minister? Does a government department need 100 spin doctors? Does the quango need to exist? Do we need the extra 300,000 civil servants Labour has added? Did they need to send out all those glossy brochures?
We are not going to get anywhere all the time lazy people in the media conduct interviews about how difficult it is to cut spending because it means cutting schools or hospitals. We need to cut through Labour’s lie that their opponents came into politics to sack teachers and make nurses weep. I know of no MP who has ever wanted to do that. You can have all the nurses, doctors, teachers, military personnel, fire staff, police and other front line public servants we already have for under one quarter of public spending. So let’s start asking soem questions about the other three quarters. Let’s apply some of the efficiency driving logic from the private sector to the public sector.
And let’s start with some popular cuts, like scrapping ID cards, centralised computer schemes and unelected regional government. Cutting public spending can be both easy and popular, because the public sector is so bloated and does so many things we do not need it to do.