Well done Mr Alexander

It was good to learn yesterday that projects announced shortly before the election which Labour could not afford are to be cancelled. I am surprised in many cases that people think it worthwhile arguing against such cuts, when there is no money to pay for these new commitments.

The BBC chose to give time to critics to defend one of the most marginal ones – a new Visitor Centre at Stonehenge. When we are borrowing £1 in every £4 spent surely a new Visitor Centre for an ancient monument must be top of the list for cuts? If it is likely to bring in much extra revenue, as its defenders suggest, then it is a project which should be carried out with private capital under a suitable franchise or lease arrangement which transfers all the risk and none of the existing public revenue to the private sector.

It was also good news to learn that the taxpayer will not be asked to pay £240,000 a year for a new head of the Audit Commission. I am sure they will find someone good to do such a job for around half that amount of money. If the Audit Commission cannot set an example over value for money then heaven help us.


  1. @velolondres
    June 18, 2010

    though need to cut may be there the prioritisation seems poor ie free childrens swimming must be good given social and health benefits while far more money could be saved by cancelling new toys for RAF and Navy for example.

    1. Mark
      June 18, 2010

      I think it was discovered that 85% of those who benefited would have paid happily for their swim, so most of the social and health benefit remains.

  2. Boudicca
    June 18, 2010

    It's no good Labour squealing about the 'loss' of a Visitor Centre at Stonehenge. If Labour had provided funding for a tunnel under Salisbury Plain, or a diversion of the A303, the original monument could be seen it all its glory. Instead, millions were spent on studies and investigations and not a spade went in the ground.

    We are now stuck with the A303 bottleneck on Salisbury Plain for decades to come …. affecting a World Heritage Site at Stonehenge and the tourist destinations in the west country.

    Labout ………. just what DID it spend all that money on?

  3. JimF
    June 18, 2010

    This proposed Stonehenge Visitor Centre is laughable. Having not visited the site for some 40 years, I took the family 10 years ago or so and thought the whole "Stonehenge Experience" thing was a parody of the way Britain was going at the time. Commercialised, rip-off Britain at its worst. I cannot believe that this "experience" was insufficient, and that a £25 million!!!! Visitor Centre was proposed, presumably with parading mock-up Druids….., probably charging £100 for a family day out, to see a pile of stones which just made a convenient 10 minute stopover on the way to Devon to sit and eat sandwiches and boil up a cuppa in the sixties……

  4. Ronnie S
    June 18, 2010

    If the Government were to provide an avenue for public servants to anonymously identify waste the Government's task would be greatly assisted.Currently there is a culture of trying to keep the bodies hidden especially those still under fresh earth!

  5. Neil Craig
    June 18, 2010

    I am in 2 minds about the Sheffield steel loan being removed. There is need for world expansion of nuclear boilermaking capacity & this is an opportunity not to be missed. However the fact that it was not financed by banks makes me wondwer – though it may well be that the bank's refusal owes more to political factors than economic, in which case such a loan has a valuable moral tonic.

    Either way this loan is infinitely more worthwhile than any of the billions given in subsidy to windmills. I assume the reason for rejecting it is because the Luddims have insisted that nuclear get no subsidy whatsoever. Would that they were also to insit on at least some reduction in the handicaps government heaps on the industry.

    Most amusing seeing Peter Hain on Question Time comp[laining that without this subsidy we will not be able to build nuclear plants & the lights will inevitably go out, something he never noticed in the last 13 years & then later on the same programme saying how important it is that we put more subsidy on windmills to produce a "Green" economy. It is good to know there is somebody who makes Miliband look intellectual.

    1. JohnC_Up_North
      June 18, 2010

      "However the fact that it was not financed by banks makes me wondwer – though it may well be that the bank's refusal owes more to political factors than economic, in which case such a loan has a valuable moral tonic. "

      John Redwood has repeatedly pointed out the fact that banks are lending less money due (owing?) to capital requirements imposed by the regulators.

      There seems to be a good argument for supporting this loan of £80 million. Apparently, their products would be used by the new nuclear power plants (if they ever get the go-ahead).

      In the current situation, it would be incredible to spend £25 million on a new tourist centre for Stonehenge.

    2. nonny mouse
      June 18, 2010

      The fact that Labour won the seat in which Sheffield Forgemasters are based in by 165 votes says it all. The loan was all over the candidates website. It was Gordon Browns last stop on of the election.

      The loan was not about investment in jobs, it was about investment in one job – Labour were buying seats with our money. Pure and simple.

  6. Gordon L
    June 18, 2010

    Good news about the Audit commission. Top-peoples' pay inflation in the public sector fuels itself through tit-for-tat pay recommendations and these pay increases ripple down the organisations. The taxpayer ends up losing out through extra inefficiency. The irony is that the less the head of the Audit Comission gets paid, the better and more motivated he is to do his job. It is hard to imagine that anyone would be put off from applying for a job that pays a mere £120,000, but if it does, you would have to question their commitment to the purpose of the audit commission.
    My real worry about public sector pay is the pensions. I believe some are index linked to final salary, which is like asking the taxpayer to sign a blank cheque. I believe that an ever larger proportion of council expenditure goes into paying these pensions. This is unsustainable.

  7. TimC
    June 18, 2010

    I commuted for some years past Stonehenge. What was always notable on summer evenings was the bevy of aggrieved foreign tourists unable to enter the monument because 'Stonehenge is now closed – here is the phone number of English Heritage' Clearly the management was unwilling to meet the demand for late opening and the staff was limited to ensuring the public did NOT get in to the attraction. Replacing the tin visitor sheds with a new centre funded by- VISITORS seems an ideal solution- satisfy demand, produce happier tourists and make the most of a rather basic attraction.

  8. Brian Tomkinson
    June 18, 2010

    Having seen the 'outrage' from Labour and some of the media at the coalition government merely deciding not to proceed with projects which were announced shortly before the election for dubious motives and for which there is no money, prepare for the outright hostility when the real cuts are announced. The Labour Opposition is in denial and trying to re-write history. Far from being a constructive opposition party they are and will be blatantly partisan. In this regard they will look to their paymasters in the trades unions to be the militant wing of their irresponsibility.

  9. Mike Stallard
    June 19, 2010

    Ever heard of Building Schools for the Future? £30,000,000 to be "invested" here on our failing Comprehensive for buildings when they have got a real need for teachers. Two fully trained teachers for one naughty boy every day, though. Enormous amounts spent on County Council Officials, organisers and little men in suits with titles fixing things up.
    The drain on our money continues unabated out here in the backwoods. So what is happening down there in London? Or in the rest of the country?

  10. dohte
    June 19, 2010

    On the subject of salaries, I have never understood why anyone employed in the public sector should need to be paid at an equivilant salary level greater than that awarded to the Prime Minister.

  11. John Wrexham
    June 19, 2010

    It's a funny old word. Our banks seem to find the cash to fund the acquisition of chocolate factories, but have none left over to fund real industrial investment that would have brought dividends in the long term. Any one who thinks the banks/ the city care in the slightest for the 'national interest' should read antony sampson's anatomy of britain and its successor editions.

    Our new government claims to govern in the 'national interest' and i hope they are thinking about our long term interests, especially in relation to energy security. I am not holding my breath as no UK government has had a proper long term energy policy since we chanced upon oil in the north sea.

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