Design your own budget

Each year the state spends on average £10,000 for every man, woman and child in the country.

The idea of public accountability, democracy and more transparency over how public bodies spend your moeny is that you should be more involved in how this money is spent.

I would like to hear from you on your priorities. How do you think your £10,000 a year should best be spent?

For my part I feel I am getting more defence than I want. I could live without the wars in the Middle East, but like to have professional forces to defend our country. I have more levels of government than I want, and wish to see the end to regional government and to much of the EU bureaucracy as it applies to the UK. I have more regulations than I need, and more quangos than I can remember the names of.

How would you like your £10,000 spent? And how much do you want of it spent on you, and how much are you prepared to see spent on the neighbours?


  1. JohnnyNorfolk
    August 22, 2010

    I would only want to see about £5000 spent and the rest used for tax cuts. We have not learned Mrs Thatchers lesson that you do not make the poor rich by making the rich poor.

  2. Duyfken
    August 22, 2010

    I would like a hefty lump of it not taken from me in the first place, a point made also in your later post about Oz taxes,

  3. P Haynes
    August 22, 2010

    It need to be spent on useful things defence (not attack) and a fair legal but affordable system, and good roads and airports- not absurd over regulation of everything, not subsidies for absurd solar cells and wind mills, not largely pointless recycling schemes or absurd under used bike/bus lanes not £20M not wags and pensions for useless BBC staff and useless state employees, not buying votes, not redistribution of wealth from the responsible to the feckless, not rendering business uncompetitive by silly regulation.

  4. Clive Emshall
    August 22, 2010

    Easy, first cut the amount down to £5000. Then £250 on armed forces, £1000 on a slimmed down and more efficient health service, £750 on benefits to the needy (all means tested), £750 on roads and railways, £0.00 on the EU, £0.00 on foreign aid (always misused and frequently counter productive), £50 on bureaucracy (instead of the current £9950), £500 on other essential services (fire, police etc). The balance of £1700 could be used to pay off the real national debt of 333% of GDP run up but by our criminally incompetent "leaders". I realise this would be a shock to the country but contrary to currently popular opinion it is possible to live your life without being told what to do and how to do it by a country full of box ticking, intellectually challenged, risk averse bureaucrats and politicians. When it comes to government less is most certainly more.
    I know this would never happen until the currency actually collapses (not far away) but it's nice to dream.

    1. APL
      August 23, 2010

      Clive Emshall: "£0.00 on foreign aid "


      The British people have time and again demonstrated their openhandedness when it comes to disaster relief. We can do it without the government thank you very much.

      And if it turns out that countries that we have been generous to in the past want to bomb and kill us, we know not ( or otherwise if you are of a Christian bent , turn the other cheek and all that ) generous to them in the future.

  5. forthurst
    August 22, 2010

    I think that the concept of neighbour as a legitimate recipient of neighbourliness has been stretched well beyond breaking point by governments seeking to import or purchase votes by using our money to fund people we do not want here or provide them or others with unearned lifestyles we ourselves might not even be able to afford. And of course it is not solely about tax: our own costs are raised when we find ourselves living in an area which has become alien and unsafe forcing us to move to a more expensive area, or having a bright child unhappily languishing in a school where all the attention is given to the speakers of fourteen different languages not including English and thus having to fund private education.

    As to wars, here again the last government abolished the offence of treason thus making it a risk free activity for those who want our military to fight and die, not in defence of this country but, based on lies, on behalf of another where they themselves may have affiliations.

  6. Jim
    August 22, 2010

    I don't want £10,000 spent on me. I work, and look after my families needs without financial support. Whilst accepting my children's school and health needs are costs borne by the state(and hence me via tax), I would be much happier to accept less spending per head. The only area's of government spending should be Defence and Law/Order, all other area's of policy should be devolved locally(and taxed locally), or scrapped. But I think thats probably politically incorrect, and would be discribed as out dated victorian values. Oh well, never mind.

  7. A.Sedgwick
    August 22, 2010

    My four key areas would be:

    Defence (not overseas wars),

    Health Service – despite all the plaudits in my view the NHS, like most government operations is weak on the service bit. The difference when you go private is very marked.

    Law and order – zero tolerance and common sense.

    Education – take local government out and really incentivise schools to run their own show.

  8. Nick
    August 22, 2010

    Oh dear. Basic maths.

    60 million people in the UK

    661 billion government spend.

    That's 11K per person

    Reply: MY figure is correct as it clearly says "current" spending. I have excluded capital.

  9. simon_555
    August 22, 2010

    Obviously the NHS free care for all is important. I would however slash child benefit after the second child, fair enough have two with help but anymore you should pay for yourself with the exception of twins / multiple birth.

    We also need to spend less on subsidising high house prices with potty shared ownership schemes and spend more on tackling the chronic lack of housing.

  10. Nick
    August 22, 2010

    As for what the 10K should be spent on, how about tax refunds? 5K on average

    It's easy to save that money.

    For example, lets abolish the house of Lords. 115M a year. We can replace that with referenda by proxy at 20 million.

    Then if you want to tax more, you have to ask the electorate, do you support the tax rise? We will say no, and the state shrinks.

    1. APL
      August 23, 2010

      "referenda by proxy "

      I am sure I have asked before, but what on earth is a that? Doesn't that describe the house of commons?

      We have [supposedly] elected our proxy and they vote on leglislation??

      1. backofanenvelope
        August 23, 2010

        Yes, but they do not do what we want them to do, do they?

        1. APL
          August 27, 2010

          Agreed. But that is because the Party apparatus has inserted itself between the constitutents and their MP.

          All women selection lists, Ethnic selection lists, Central office approved candidates, what do you imagine all these things are intended to achieve? Central party control of MPs.

          Very successful it has been too.

          I still would like to undestand the mechanism of 'referenda by proxy' and how it differs from the representative system we already have.

  11. Alan Jutson
    August 22, 2010

    A number of things here.

    £10,000 per year for average life span of 85 years is £850,000 in a lifetime or £1,700,000 per couple of State expenditure.

    This seems rather excessive expenditure to say the least.

    I am all for the Government (Taxpayer) paying into a central fund to pay for things that the individual would/may find difficult, such as Defence, National Security, Basic OAP Pensions, the provision of an element of Healthcare, Education, and a Safety net of State Benefit and the like, but why anything else.

    Surely better to work on the amount of money required to fund the essentials required from the bottom up (zero expenditure), rather than the situation which we have now, and try to work from the maximum expenditure and reduce it.

    We must get back to a lower tax take by the State if we are to take on the rest of the World, Let us encourage the work ethic, the risk takers, and yes the savers and investors, and dump the fantasy land of equal everything for everyone, no matter how much/little effort people put in.

    Yes of course we need safeguards to protect the vulnerable, but we also need to be realistic.

  12. StevenL
    August 22, 2010

    Well a good example would be that this weekend it rained a lot, fast, and all the drains overflowed. Instead of unblocking the drains like they used to the council have all sorts of expensive working groups about 'peak oil', 'climate change', 'sustainability' and trying to make us ride bycycles more.

    I'd like to work out how much of the £10k get's spent producing pointless glossy brochures, strategic plans, on 'working group' meetings etc and scrap all those, using the savings to rdeuce the budget deficit as #1 priority.

  13. Stuart Fairney
    August 22, 2010

    Give me my ten grand, repeal the laws on firearms (I'll keep my family safe with an AR-15, it worked for Switzerland in WW2) and I will buy each and every other service I need.

    You might find that the accompanying abolition of taxation might marginally stimulate the economy to say nothing of attracting foreign investment. If I might misquote the bard, The problem is not with our stars it is with our political structure.

  14. John McEvoy
    August 22, 2010

    First of all, let's cut it down to £7500 and have a 25% reduction in every kind of tax. Then I'd spend it like this: £200 – Social Fund (genuine unemployment, hardship etc.). £300 – environment, waste. £2000 – education. £2000 – law and order, policing. £1000 – national defence. £2000 – health. Everything else goes – including the sate funded jobs that can't be paid for.

  15. Richard
    August 22, 2010

    This is one of those questions that really makes you consider, what is the role and purpose of modern Government.

    My view is that apart from the defence of the realm, the main aim of Government should be to encourage the reduction of poverty.
    So the next question is, how best to achieve this aim?

    We seem to have shown over the last few decades that Government spending, on its own, does not provide a solution.

    Perhaps the answer is in Government giving incentives to its citizens, rather than subisdies.
    Trust us, set us free and watch the natural human desire to be better than our predecessors provide us with the improvements.

    So, less new laws, less new regulations and simply more incentives.

    I urge our MPs to ask themselves if their latest idea actually creates wealth or not.

    Then you can tax and spend as much as you like.

  16. whistle
    August 22, 2010

    Nothing can,nor will be done,until we leave the EU. This is the main concern of a majority of the Country,but,as the present Prime Minister and the rest of his Cabinet have shown,they are simply not interested,even to the point of integrating more and more. Something to do with the Bilderberg lot, I presume.

  17. charles
    August 22, 2010

    Dear John

    I think that the Inland Revenue should break down your tax bill to show where the money is being spent by government. So, for example, if you pay £500 in tax then on your tax bill you would see, say, £100 for the NHS, £160 for Social Services, £40 for Defence etc etc.

    This kind of thing would help people to see much more readily where their money is going.

  18. HJ777
    August 22, 2010

    I would like to see a lot less spent on the NHS.

    The fact is that there is very little correlation between the amount spent on medical services and the health of the nation. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, other factors have a much grater influence on health: Sanitation, housing, diet, lifestyle, etc.. Secondly, most of the benefit from medical spending comes from well established and relatively cheap routine treatments – things like vaccination. Half of medical spending gives perhaps 90% of the total 'health value'.

    Thirdly, salaries in the NHS are hugely inflated. Yes, it is bloated and bureaucratic, but the fact is that much (40% according to Derek Wanless in his King's Fund report) of the increase in spending on the NHS in recent years was spent in paying existing staff more. As a consequence, we now have by far the best paid medical staff in Europe. Medics especially, and even nurses, are paid far more than in other European countries. We have let the BMA and Royal Colleges artificially restrict access to their profession in order to provide their members with extremely secure and well-remunerated employment, largely at the expense of the taxpayer.

    Fourthly, a large proportion of the population appear to care very little about their health, so why should the taxpayer spend so much on something they care little about? A large proportion of the population, is overweight, doesn't exercise and has a poor diet or smokes. If they're not bothered about their health, why should everyone else cough to try to ameliorate the consequences of their behaviour?

    Lastly, much medical treatment is of extremely dubious efficacy. Tonsil removal and glue ear operations are just two recent examples of procedure that have been largely discredited. Typically, people consume around 60% of all the medical treatment they will ever consume in their last two years of life – so it really isn't very effective at extending longevity.

    Countries like Japan and Singapore get along just fine spending about 5% of GDP on medical services – and both have better health and live longer than we do. We should follow their example.

    1. H W Tsudnim
      August 23, 2010

      A doctor writes: I agree with most of what you have written. The more you give us in the NHS the more we will spend, but bad luck if you fall ill as the cinderella service at the moment is the treatment of sick people.

  19. simple bloke
    August 22, 2010

    zero tax dispensation to non European nationals here on work visas, no national insurance holidays, no offset of accomodation against tax for them, no access to our health service for them – let them pay for medical insurance like we do in their countries, no access to state schools for their kids let them pay for their kids education like we do when we work in their countries

    as for what we should be spending on top priority is the bottom 25% of schools, that above all else dictates the likely success of this country, whether we can move whole estates off benefits and so on

  20. grahams
    August 22, 2010

    Broadly agree with most of your priorities. But I would like my spending designed and procured systematically to safeguard and create British market sector jobs, to promote specifically British interests abroad and particularly to promote the remaining big British companies at home and overseas. This affects all the big budgets , including health, defence and non-emergency aid. For this purpose, I would also like to see £1,000 of my £10,000 switched to capital spending as soon as the Budget can take it. If we take some lessons from other EU countries, there should be little difficulty in fitting this within EU procurement rules.

  21. Jabez
    August 23, 2010

    I regard defence as one of the two key responsibilities of Government and the maintenance of law and order as the other. Defence includes border control and coastal patrols, anti-terrorist activity and intelligence gathering, international trade and diplomatic relations and making sure our armed forces are in a state of readiness for conventional warfare on Europe's borders, so in my view at least thirty percent of whatever is raised should be devoted to this purpose. The same goes for policing and the criminal justice system. The remaining forty percent of the money should be split between public health, statutory education, major infrastructure projects and a safety net for those in genuine need.

    I would also replace all taxes with a flat rate tax of ten percent of income, with a maximum of five percent payable in addition as local income tax, to replace the present shambolic council tax system. Whatever we couldn't afford on that basis we would just have to do without.

  22. Lindsay McDougall
    August 23, 2010

    I don't accept the premise of your question, that the state is entitled to carry on spending £10000 a year of my money and that my only choice is to decide how it should be spent. As Mr Gladstone put it when he cut income tax from 6d in the pound to 4d in the pound: 'Let the money fructify in the pockets of the people.'

    The common denominator among people that support a high level of public expenditure and government intervention is that they do not believe the private sector is capable of generating sufficient jobs to keep people busy. Have they never heard of supply side economics? Have they never heard of innovation?

    I am unhappy about so much of the money we spend overseas. On American wars, on troops in Germany, on foreign aid, on donations to the IMF, and most recently on the expanded EU diplomatic service. Once you pay the Danegeld, you'll never get rid of the Dane.

    And is a nasty, Stalinist monopoly really the besy way of providing health care?

  23. Matthew Page
    August 23, 2010

    I'd like to see more money spent stimulating and incentivising business away from London and the South East. House prices and the cost of living there keep going up and up, yet in the rest of the country there's high unemployment.

    August 23, 2010

    For the foreseeable future we believe in these broad principles:

    1.The number of £s spent in total should be frozen at 2009/10 levels. Let growth and inflation eat away at our deficit without major upheaval. All of us – public servants included – can understand this absolute rule.

    2.Overlay this with elimination of all projects that are merely ’nice’ but not ‘essential’. All those savings should go into a ‘Deficit Pot’ and be clearly identified, updated quarterly and announced as an important national statistic in which we hopefully take pride and comfort.

    3.The Prime Minister and his team should cease to believe that he has to continually make news, announce ‘initiatives’ and get his face on the telly. Most are quite content that he and his government are getting on with things. The list published in last Wednesday’s Guardian was alarming. The number of political advisors in 10, 11 & 12 Downing Street – many young and without life experience – is like the last Labour governmentat its worst!

  25. Rob H
    August 23, 2010

    Can I keep MY £10,000 in the first place? and my wife and my 2 children – thats £40,000.

    Imagine what I could do with that………..

    Platinum Private health care would cost about £2,000 for my whole family.

    Put tolls on the motorways and make coucils raise ALL their income locally – sales tax? that should keep them to ESSENTIAL services.

    I can then pay for the rest my-self.

  26. Steve
    August 23, 2010

    I only want the State to provide Defence, Police and Law Courts. I also want us to be on a Gold Standard to prevent Government Thievery by Inflation (which I define as increasing the base money supply). I want a consumption tax because an income tax is Government extortion and a consumption tax is to some extent voluntary by the exercise of choice. Why tax income? The saver can only make their savings available for others to borrow for business.Tax them when they try to enjoy their money.

  27. FaustiesBlog
    August 23, 2010

    QUANGOs. These are unaccountable organisations which rob people of their democratic voices. Because they're unaccountable, they tend to be expensive. Because they rely on government for their money, they're constantly lobbying government.

    Scrap the lot of them. Should the government need expertise, let it hire contractors who:

    1) would pay for their own training;
    2) would make their own pension provision;
    3) would not be entitled to bonuses;
    4) would not get paid when they don't turn up for work;
    5) would get no paid leave;
    6) can be fired, at any time;
    7) would receive no compensation / severance pay on resigning, retiring or being fired.

    Next on my list would be charities in receipt of public money. Because they are government funded, they have a clear incentive to perpetuate the misery that they supposedly seek to eradicate. Should the succeed in their brief, it is in their interests to find another, to take its place.

    Room 101!

  28. rose
    August 24, 2010

    One economy I wouldn't have made is deferring the bus pass. Just think of all those baby boomers driving round in their cars for longer than they would have done: wearing out the roads, causing congestion and pollution, just to save a bit of money which is dressed up as welfare but is really essential transport and environment policy. Students should also have bus passes. We have tens of thousands of them driving round our clogged up city. August is the only month we can breathe.

  29. simple soul
    August 24, 2010

    I just wish they would stop bribing me with my own money.

  30. Angrysaver
    August 24, 2010

    Both National and Local Government need to be made to realise that we tolerate that they take some of our money to spend on essential and I mean essential services and NOT that they allow us to keep some of our earnings whilst they spend the rest on any scheme that takes their fancy and that they know that the answer in a referendum would be NO!
    Both forms of Government are not paternalistic benefactors bestowing largesse (they have none of their own) on a grateful public.
    Essential services means just that national defence and security, healthcare and education, front line Policing. Motoring taxes only to cover the actual cost of the roads. For local authorities bins, libraries and some and I mean some social services.
    If any new scheme means an increase in Council tax or new charges than it should not proceed.

  31. christina sarginson
    August 24, 2010

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on what you think the £10,000 needs to be spent on although I think it is pointlless asking anyone what they think as it will be of little importance. Most of us would like to see more stability in our working lives and not so much bad news for individual's with jobs. Still that is the whole point of diversity isnt it.

  32. Mark Nightingale
    August 24, 2010

    Agree with the above post and your thrust on cutting regional/EU bureaucracy (leave the EU if possible) and defence John. Defence should mean defence, not a roving force able to fight on any continent. In line with this we should end the notion of being a big player on the world stage. Money thrown at this is unproductively spent.

    I would use the surplus MoD land to build council houses (rent on flat pack housing should more than cover the mortgage when there is no land cost to the government).

    The remainder assumes no introduction of a universal credit benefit system which is clearly a good move (and which should be introduced with a low enough credit that it has no initial cost):

    1) Phase out housing benefit as the new low cost council houses are built, allowing rents to reach market levels which would be much lower given government would have built loads of new council housing. Housing benefit is basically a susbsidy to landlords.

    2) Stop spending money supporting people who are behind with mortgage payments and schemes to make housing more "affordable" since housing costs are clearly dependent on housing and credit supply and so these ventures are self-defeating.

    3) Stop all attempts to buck the inevitable housing downturn. Lower proprerty prices in general make for a lower cost of living and a more economically healthy nation. Get shot of the ogvernment owned banks before this necessary cleansing!

    4) When banks go bust let bondholders and shareholders suffer. Bailing them out involves taxing the less wealthy to reward the poor choices of the more wealthy. Make this policy known in advance.

    5) End the war on drugs. This has been a complete failure, and in handing control of the drug trade to violent gangs and pushing up the price of drugs has been completely counterproductive. This would save oodles and free up police, courts and prisons to deal with the genuine criminals: those indulging in property crime and violent crime.

    6) End all subsidies to private business.

    7) End much of the oversight of business by quangos (and abolish associated laws), e.g. health and safety. Much of this is clearly unnecessary.
    8) End the right of asylum seekers (and any other class of immigrant where feasible) to any support beyond food kitchen/legal/healthcare but allow them to work asap.

    9) End all spending on sport and the arts. The cost of major sporting events to be borne entirely by host cities.

    10) End the right to strike for people working in infrastructure monopolies (including for private companies who have been granted the monopoly by government). Pay and working conditions particularly on railways could then be cut savagely making the services far more affordable.

    11) End government recognition of unions. Allow employers to ingore them and fire strikers when they don't show up for work.

    12) Phase out national insurance and taxation of savings and similarly phase out public sector pensions entirely (cutting contributions progressively so that contributions end in a decade or so).

    13) Reduce the amount wasted on unnecessary pregnancy interventions. more generally concentrate more on prevention rather than cure, e.g. I asked for a blood test so I could avoid nutritional deficiencies but was I told I could only have one if I was already demonstrably ailing!

    14) Get rid of Barnett, don't discourage Scotland from seceding and introduce English votes for English only matters in the meantime. That should help to keep costs down.

    15) Rebalance the tax system, introducing a land tax to replace (or partially replace) VAT, abolish council tax and central government funding for local government, give local councils total responsibility for tax raising as well as allowing areas to secede and form their own authority and further allow local authorities to set their own planning policy so that they can increase their tax take by allowing more house building.

    I'm sure I've missed plenty.

  33. jedibeeftrix
    August 25, 2010

    I would create a peacetime minimum of 2.5% of GDP to be spent on Defence, and a proscription against using more than 33% of GDP on public spending outside of national emergencies.

  34. Debt
    August 25, 2010

    John, you're right about too much being spent on defence but I would like to add that if we are committing to our troops lives to overseas conflicts we ensure that they are properly equipped. Getting rid of trident etc is a good idea though.

    I would also like to see more regulation if the finance industry. The "invisible hand" does not work in this sector and therefore it should be more regulated. I would also like to see more money being invested in education so that we are producing people who are capable of criticality examination.

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