It is depressing that so many in the media are still following the Labour line that the choice is “investment” in public services or “cuts”. You woudl have thought that after the MPs expenses and the BBC salaries rows it would now be obvious to everyone that there are plenty of costs to squeeze out or down in the public sector without damaging services. The Today programme struggled with Mr Mandelson who intends to draw imaginary lines between a caring and brilliant Labour government printing as much as it takes, and Conservative policy based around his fiction of their proposals based on major cuts. Mr Mandelson did in fact tell us more housing spending would be paid for by cuts in Home Office and Transport budgets, but was not asked to elaborate or explain those cuts.
After 10 years of throwing huge sums of money at the public sector, and claiming this proves things are getting better, there are huge areas of waste, incompetence and over spending. Reading through the salaries of the BBC top executives, it is impossible to say that the top of the public sector understands the need for cost control, value for money or even still operates on the basis of “public service values”. What is true of the BBC is true of many quangos and Whitehall departments, of Town Halls and nationalised companies. The pay of the nationalised bankers is still based on the assumption that these are highly competitive businesses making good profits, with senior people at risk of losing their jobs. Instead they are now subsidised state employees. The pay of so called Chief Executives in local government is modelled on private sector CEOs who have to bring in the business and the revenue or else lose their posts, when Council CEOs just put the tax up and send people to prison if they don’t pay.
Labour should remind their overbloated public sector that it is meant to believe in public service values. They should ask all public sector employees earning more than the Prime Minister to take their pay down to his level of remuneration until they have got their organisations under financial control in a way which produces a realistic level of overall national budget defcit. They should all be set targets to make a quantum improvement in quality, efficiency and cash conservation. When was the public sector last asked to cut its stocks? When was it last given productivity targets that drove real progress?