The Coalition started well. Their cancellation of ID cards, HIPs, and lots of regional government was just what many wanted to hear. Yesterday’s papers contained a few warnings that the civil service empire may strike back.
Mr. Lansley’s wish to streamline the bureaucracy in health has led to claims that Health Authority and PCT chiefs might be in line for massive pay offs. Mr Maude is busy trying to change the basis for redundancy payments, which is far from popular amongst officials. Mr Pickles’ statement that the stifling and expensive Comprehensive Area Assessment bureaucracy is being swept away has not be greeted with announcements of similar cuts in bureaucracy in Councils who had to provide all the information and comply with the system . Instead Councils seem to favour cutting grants to voluntary bodies, and some officers will probably be looking around for the most politically damaging reductions in services possible to put Councillors off the whole idea of saving money.
Meanwhile some MPs are trying to get the government to carry through some politically popular cuts. How about starting by sending many of the 12,000 foreign prisoners back to their homelands, with a clear statement that they will never be allowed back into UK now that we are planning better policed borders? That might help cut prison costs and cut the numbers of new prison places needed.
Why not follow up by asking Mr Hague to go to Brussels and explain that as the UK is having to cut parts of its domestic budgets, we expect Brussels to do at least as much. Would Brussels like to show us what 25% and 40% off their budget might look like, as that could prove very popular.
Most popular of all would be to follow up the PM’s statement that our troops will be out of Afghanistan within five years, with a faster timetable for training the Afghan army and police so we can pull out earlier.
Messrs Holmes and Lilico have produced a very useful guide to pay and staff numbers in the public sector entitled “Controlling public spending”. That shows, for example, that senior officials in national government rose from 5000 to 9000 between 2002 and 2009, public sector “marketing and sales” rose from 11,000 to 29,000, management consultants, actuaries and statisticians from 5000 to 23000 and public relations officers from 5000 to 10000. That shows there is plenty of scope for natural wastage to bring down the totals markedly over the next five years. Presumably the number of receptionists went up from 18000 to 30000 because there were so many new bodies set up.
This big increase in recruitment helped take total public employment on the ONS survey up from just over 6 million to 7.3 million. (6m on the narrower definition). The median salary in the public sector is now 12% higher than in the private sector, and median hourly earnings 30% higher.