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Bonfire of the inefficiencies

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Stephanie Flanders | 11:51 UK time, Monday, 29 March 2010

"Back-office staff spend money too." That would be Labour's response to George Osborne's list of efficiency savings for this year - if it weren't so easy for the opposition to portray Labour's own thinking on efficiency savings as already hopelessly confused.

The Conservatives believe that Sir Peter Gershon and Dr Martin Read have identified efficiency savings of around £12bn that can be implemented within the coming financial year 2010-11 - of which about half will be re-invested in health, overseas development and the Ministry of Defence.

The remaining £6bn will come straight from departmental budgets - meaning, by their own calculation, a 2.8% real cut in spending by those departments. This, in turn, will make it possible to cancel a large part of Labour's planned National Insurance rise for 2011-12.

Do the numbers add up? As a matter of arithmetic, I'm sure they do. Especially since the Conservatives have already asked the IFS to give them the once-over.

Taken together, the National Insurance changes announced since the 2009 Budget were due to raise £6.9bn a year. The IFS reckons the Tory proposals, which would raise the thresholds at which National Insurance Contributions are made, will cost £5.6bn in 2011-12.

With a shaky recovery, it's perfectly reasonable to want to delay tax rises which increase the marginal cost of employing people, and are likely to hit workers' disposable incomes. But if you're also committed to cutting the deficit more quickly than Labour, it matters how you say you will pay for that change.

Which brings us back to those £6bn in net savings to be taken from non-protected departments. The first big question to ask is whether any of these savings are included in the efficiency plans already under way for this year?

The Conservatives say not, but given that Labour has not even identified two-thirds of the savings promised for this current spending round, it's hard to say one way or the other.

Of course, if any of them are already included in departmental plans, the difference between Labour and the Conservatives would simply be that Labour will "reinvest" all of them - while the Tories would "reinvest" only half.

But assume they are not part of existing plans. Then we have what amounts to a cut in departmental spending in 2010-11, which will bring public borrowing down faster than Labour plans. This is what the IFS has to say about it:

"The Government is currently planning to cut public services spending outside the NHS, defence and overseas aid by 2.4% in 2010-11, after adjusting for whole economy inflation. We estimate that the additional £6 billion cut planned by the Conservatives would increase this to 5.1% and would leave these unprotected areas of spending 2.8% below the level planned by Labour. (The figures do not sum precisely because of rounding and we cannot be entirely precise about the declines until new 2010-11 Departmental Expenditure Limits are published in the Treasury's next annual public spending statistics). The largest unprotected area would be schools."

George Osborne may be entirely right that these cuts can be achieved without hurting "frontline services". As I said in my Friday post, these savings do exist. We've just stopped believing in them because Labour has given us no way to measure the impact on individual budgets and services.

Mr Osborne has not given us spending totals for individual departments this morning. But we might derive them from applying the £6bn cut across the relevant departments, because he has told us that spending in non-protected departments will actually be cut in line with these savings. That is more than Labour has done.

However, even if a spending cut doesn't affect frontline services, if it cuts the budget, then it has to affect the economy. And it has to affect the number of people earning public sector salaries.

Philip Hammond said this morning there was "no plan to cut jobs" with these savings. That may be grammatically true, but it's disingenuous. If you don't fill vacancies, then you are deciding to cut the number of jobs in the public sector. Real people who would have been on the public sector payroll will not be on the payroll as a result of this cut.

Likewise, companies whose public sector contracts are re-negotiated will find they have lower revenues than they expected. The individuals involved in those cancelled IT projects will find they don't have that work after all.

Now, all of this lost demand might be made up by new private sector contracts and jobs. Indeed, it's part of the Conservatives' whole argument about the deficit that if you cut borrowing faster, you create private sector demand by raising financial confidence.

They may be right. The net impact on the total demand in the economy might be negligible - there are even studies suggesting it might be positive (see my post from 5 March).

But either the savings cut spending - or they don't. If they do, that is demand being taken out of the economy. That may not hurt the recovery overall: we don't know. But the Conservatives cannot deny that public sector demand is being cut. As the IFS has now pointed out:

"Combined with Labour's existing plans, it would increase the discretionary fiscal tightening between this year and next to £29 billion or more than 2% of national income - significantly larger than that planned for subsequent years, even though the recovery should by then be stronger."

Labour may say all of this in their response to the Conservatives' proposals. But it's difficult for them, because the Conservatives have identified a weak link in Labour's plans. It really does sound silly to say you've identified waste but you're not going to do anything about them for another year.

As Ken Clarke suggested in the press conference, if that's a fiscal stimulus programme it sounds like a pretty silly one to ordinary voters. In that sense, Labour's own confused approach to efficiency savings may have played into the Tories' hands.

But, to return to the larger point: a saving either saves money, or it doesn't. I don't know how many of our leading politicians believe in the immaculate conception. But many of them do seem to believe in immaculate consolidation. That's when you cut borrowing, but somehow leave everything else in the economy unchanged. Apparently, they think that voters believe in it too.


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  • Comment number 1.

    So we face 6 or 7 weeks of claim and counter claim about savings / cuts / investments - non of which is really credible, and all of which is only going to have a marginal impact on the numbers involved.

    All the parties are clealy terrified of spelling out what we all know to be true - The pain will be significant and we can not avoid it.

    Is it the public that cannot face the truth, and will bury heads in the sand - or is it the media which cannon help but apply heat to any mention of the pain to come? Either way, the debates from now until the election will be forgotten as soon as the votes are cast and the next administration looks at how it can deal with the budget deficit and get back to a feelng of financial stabilty within the 5 year term and another election!

  • Comment number 2.

    So are you saying that Labour's stance is that it is better to spend money in the public sector inefficiently than to pass off some of the savings made to the private sector? Most of knew this already.

    Not increasing NI rates might well be a better way to help the economy than keeping underemployed public sector bueaurocrats in a job for the perceived benefits of their money trickling into the economy through their spending. It is high time the private sector was given a break from this government's tax and spend (wastefully) policies. I think that the conservatives may be onto a winner with the proposal to reverse the NI increase.

  • Comment number 3.


    This puts the whole fatuous debate about "efficiencies" into its proper place. As I suggested, in commenting on an earlier blog, you don't save any money by reducing sick leave in the NHS unless you then reduce the number of people employed (full time or temp-replacements)as a result: and if you do that then there's a de facto cut. Less money going into the system for the same output is more efficient - but it is still less money. A cut by any other name.

    The efficiency debate is not, therefore, about reducing public spending but how to protect "front line services" while you're doing it.

    If the lessons of privatised public services are anything to go by, it will be by reducing head count and pressurising the remaining staff to deliver the same volume (although not quality) of service.

  • Comment number 4.

    So we are still faced with one lot of known incompetents against another lot of unknown incompetents, neither of whom will let on what they plan to do when elected? How surprising.

    The Tories' claim that they can cut tax, reduce the deficit and leave frontline services unaffected sounds akin to claiming that money grows on trees. Drivel like this doesn't win elections.

    It shouldn't be surprising if, in the circumstances, people decide, "Better the devil you know".

  • Comment number 5.

    Surely the point is that we need to do everything practically possible to help the wealth generating sector of the economy. In the long term this is in the interest of the whole economy, including the public sector.

    Reversing the NI tax on jobs will help business to compete, to invest, and to create jobs. This has to be the best way of helping the country emerge from recession and repairing the harm that New Labour have inflicted on everyone.

  • Comment number 6.

    'I don't know how many of our leading politicians believe in the immaculate conception. But many of them do seem to believe in immaculate consolidation'

    I share your skepticism about the ability of politicians to bring about real efficiency savings, but the point has to be made that no Government has ever been more wasteful or more inefficient than New Labour.

    If you want to judge if there's any hope of them delivering efficiency savings then simply look at their track record.

  • Comment number 7.


    Labour don't have a plan. Its just spin based on an unrealistic growth assumption.

    GB cannot afford to take on the unions and the country cannot afford for him to allow public spending to stay at these levels. Bearing this in mind all he has is a hope for it all to go away.

    The Conservatives have an outside chance of keeping disruption to a manageable level whilst resolving the issues. Labour, unfortunately, have no chance at all.

  • Comment number 8.

    'As Ken Clarke suggested in the press conference, if that's a fiscal stimulus programme it sounds like a pretty silly one to ordinary voters. In that sense, Labour's own confused approach to efficiency savings may have played into the Tories' hands.'

    Spot on. And it goes along way to explaining why they've managed to waste so many billions of taxpayers money over the last 10 years and why there's little hope of that ever changing.

    With money being so tight we can't afford to have a government that doesn't appear to care how much money it wastes.

  • Comment number 9.

    A Tory Tax giveaway announced just before an election. Groundhog day, is it?

  • Comment number 10.

    "Philip Hammond said this morning there was "no plan to cut jobs" with these savings. That may be grammatically true, but it's disingenuous. If you don't fill vacancies, then you are deciding to cut the number of jobs in the public sector. Real people who would have been on the public sector payroll will not be on the payroll as a result of this cut."

    Stephanie I'm a frontline public sector worker in Northern Ireland. Most of the additional resources we got during the boom years went on creating new back office admin jobs just to build up the little empires of middle managers. These are largely classic "non-jobs" as they largely spend their time chatting about the weekend, on Facebook or pestering frontline staff with requests for statistics which keeps them back from doing their real jobs. If these people are to fall into a bottomless pit it would cause no adverse impact whatsoever on service delivery, if anything performance and efficiency would improve.

    As for the argument that unemployment would rise the simple fact is that the public sector is too large in some areas and needs to be drastically scaled back because the country simply can no longer afford it. Instead of creating non-jobs, the government should be setting out measures to grow the private sector and rebalance the economy away from the reliance of financial services which has proved so disastrous. That will create long term sustainable growth and employment rather than the castle built on sand which Brown constructed.

  • Comment number 11.

    Now let's think about this for a moment. The NI 'savings' are supposed to encourage employers to hire more people. Yet, nobody can demonstrate that there is a demnad from employers for more workers. What are they supposed to do? Where is the pool of latent demand that would require more workers?
    How about moving those already in employment back into full time working?

    This is merely another falicy.

    As for savings. No matter what Boy George tries to say (boy did he sound even more like a frightened litle boy today), there will be an effect upon employment and demand of whatever you call them - cuts or efficiencies.

  • Comment number 12.

    Its like watching a primary school playground fight but without the intelligence and wit of primary school pupils.

    Until a party comes out and tells me that they agree that public spending needs to be cut (in real terms) by about £120bn they have no credibility in my eyes.

    Public sector spending is now at its highest peace time level ever (52%). Labour blames the banking crisis but in fact it is due to them spending like there is no tomorrow.

  • Comment number 13.

    The part of this argument that seems to have been overlooked is that there should be so gross "inefficiencies" at all. Just what has been going on in the public sector for all these years and why haven't steps been taken before now to control the monies? CEO's of Hospital Trusts jumping ship after 2 years and getting £200k pay off even though their contract is for 3 years?
    It looks like the government have just touched the brakes - a little (lets not frighten the unions) - on the supertanker of public sector jobs and it will take years for the darn thing to stop. Meanwhile the rest of us, the ones who actually create wealth and lob taxes into the tanker's engines, get mown down.

  • Comment number 14.

    @ jobsagoodin

    Private business is already annoucing new jobs in industry like Wind Turbines and Electric Cars and they will have factored in the increase in NI.

    Let NI increase so we can pay off the deficit faster and borrow less. Maybe the government should say new jobs will pay at the old rate for 1 year to help the changeover.

  • Comment number 15.

    Briantist 9

    They're not 'giving anything away' they're just promising to reverse a damaging New Labour tax increase.

  • Comment number 16.

    Osborne's theories are a load of mince!

    Cutting NI by £5.6 bln when the deficit is over £165 bln is bonkers.
    And the only way to pay for it will be with 22% Vat ,rip-roaring inflation and a public sector wage-war,and a public services cull we have not seen the likes of since Maggie and burgundy leg-warmers.

    The ides of March are dreadful ...... if these Tory loonies get elected it's curtains for Britain.
    Do you remember 15% base rates?

    Let's hope they are not coming back.

    Tories only cause trouble.

    G.O. OH NO!

  • Comment number 17.

    Darling avoided unfunded tax give aways in his budget because he knows it would be unbelievable to announce one just before the election. The public aren't stupid and shouldn't be taken as fools!

    Osbourne however seems to have missed that fact.

    Or is it because Ashcroft is out of the picture that the Tories needs an alternative way of trying to buy an election?

  • Comment number 18.

    The big problem the goverment has in making staff redundant is that it often has to pick up the tab for such redundancies via the benefits system and loss of taxes. Now the neo classical liberals of the Thatcherite right seem to believe that every employee relinquished by the state will be eagerly snapped up by the swarms entrepeneurs that roam our streets looking for willing hands.
    The rest of us have spent the last 40 years noticing this not happening and if anything the swarms are of increasingly disaffected and violent youth.
    With this in mind its worth considering if all efficency savings are equal. Closing down a goverment office in a northern city may just give savings which are mainly absorbed by increases benefits as there is little other suitable employment in the area. Where as the same people in the south east may indeed get snapped up.
    If that last paragraph sounds like it came from the seventies it is because what we are experiencing is the ultimate failure of the "leave it to the market" approach of Thatcherism. It was great for politics allowing goverments to shelf all sorts of tricky problems. But the lack of full employment ment an ever growing welfare burden which could only be met with income from an over expanded financial sector.
    Without that income we now need an industrial policy. unfortunately we have generation of politicians who are more focused on media perception than actually solving problems and an electorate that does not trust any of them anymore.

  • Comment number 19.

    If someone wants to make the NHS more efficient then removing the trust status is the way to go. Far to much money is spent replicating management jobs while front line staff are continually under pressure.

    I was amazed to see at a local hospital, there are more remunerated jobs on the board than there are surgeons and doctors, this cant be right and has to stop.

    PFI cost are astounding, and dont even show on the Governments books yet.The way this countries finances have been handled is stunning in its incompetence, short term political gain is going to cost us all dearly, we are bankrupt !!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    You can't make an omelette without cracking eggs. Last week we had talk of £500m savings in the NHS by cutting down on sick leave. Leaving aside whether that is achievable or not in practice, the money is only genuinely saved if lower levels of sick leave leads to either a) fewer staff, b) less overtime, or c) less use of supply nurses etc.

    To achieve £500m savings in practice means something like 10 - 20,000 fewer jobs. There can be no savings without headcount reducing somewhere. For Labour to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

  • Comment number 21.

    #13 Bax-of-Delights,

    "the ones who actually create wealth "

    And exactly who would that be? Now don't go and say the private sector because you'd be wrong. Even on money orientated appraisal the vast part of the private sector creates absolutely zero wealth. If it did then we would not have the crisis that we presently have.

    The private sector have, however managed to borrow significantly more than ever before and increase the velocity of money within the economy. This has given you the mistaken impression that they have created wealth. On that point they have been a resounding failure.

  • Comment number 22.

    'But many of them do seem to believe in immaculate consolidation. That's when you cut borrowing, but somehow leave everything else in the economy unchanged. Apparently, they think that voters believe in it too.'

    Actually this is possible, as long as you have a good procurement strategy. Public sector procurement is broken and it's because of all the laws restricting the procurement officers from doing their jobs properly. We are so scared of someone giving a £1m job to their brother that we are paying billions in red tape and suppliers are taking the oppertunity to fleece us.

    Don't focus on the savings, focus on the spending process!

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm not sure why Stephanie Flanders describes Labour's thinking on efficiency savings as "already hopelessly confused". A biased comment, if ever I read one! Based on what evidence? And I don't see why she believes the Conservative numbers add up just because they've been given the once over by the IFS? The IFS may have self-acquired the title "Independent', but they have patently never been independent. Rather they follow a very Conservative line of thinking, and therefore are not to be trusted in a debate over political economics. I think it is a pity that the BBC's economics editor is so obviously skewing the debate in favour of the Conservative Party. Please bring back some truly independent BBC thinking.

  • Comment number 24.


    You say "Private business is already annoucing new jobs in industry like Wind Turbines and Electric Cars and they will have factored in the increase in NI."

    Surely that should read "FOREIGN OWNED private business is already announcing new jobs in industry like Wind Turbines and Electric Cars and they will have factored in the increase in NI."

  • Comment number 25.

    What actually is the true figure regarding the UK's year on year black hole. Meaning how much are we spending greater than tax receipts, I read £70bn Is this true?
    I also read that we also have borrowings of £1+ trillion (whatever that number is)
    How in simple terms, are we as a nation, going to close £70bn per year shortfall and reduce our debt by 1/2 trillion ish over the next 5 years. Maybe if someone in government /BBC could answer that simple question, we could all believe a little more in the future... Stephanie any ideas?
    Ps your better then Robert Peston.

  • Comment number 26.

    Can we have our leaders answer a question with only a YES or NO and not waste valuable time,perhaps penalties for persisting with their own PR.

  • Comment number 27.

    This cancelling of an NI rise is utterly trivial in the scale of things. The delusional current incumbents of Westminster seem to think we as a nation can't cope with the bad news. If the Conservatives get in power they will have to fund this "tax cut" by increasing the take somewhere else or from further savings (anyone asked why not make the efficiency savings and keep the NI rise to accelerate paying off the deficit). Note no politician has denied an increase in VAT after the election. No one is arguing against efficiency savings in principle. As SF ponted out, actually achieving public sector employment shrinkage (for that is what it is) is going to take some time to bring about. First to go the unfilled jobs within the spending budget, next contractors (IT, Health? etc.), renegotiate contracts if you can, avoiding penalties. The Unions will not fight theoretical job cuts so some easy wins here. Then into the real cuts which need the full employment protection consultation process, face union resistance, and will naturally incur some cost in terms of compensation. To achieve NET savings the cuts will have to be very deep indeed. Most likely older experienced workers who will be more expensive and easier to fork onto early retirement. When you work the process through in real terms the cuts will be very bloody indeed. But not actually that difficult for a politician to spell out. However, this would require politicians to grow a pair.

  • Comment number 28.

    A good post Stephanie.

    #4 Tim ('nice but dim')

    National Insurance is a 'crippler tax' for enterprsies and employees though it looks like you don't have a clue. Employees pay it and just for good measure employers pay it too - its a double tax directly related to jobs which means that it normally reduces the number available.

    It's a direct tax on jobs and goes to the absurdity of Labour's position on the economy in terms of their supposed 'supporting it'.

    Any enterprise whether public or private will tell you this is a good thing because it keeps employment costs down, particularly in the public sector - perhaps the majority should listen'pro-spenders'. Please take note. If you're not sure, do a calculation on the NHS where employees total 1.61 million and the Trusts who employ them. This kind of tax is only for the economically criminally insane.

    #11 FDD -As usual your comment shows limited understanding. If you perhaps 'think' for a minute you would understand that it also saves jobs from being axed because of the imposition and that's doubly so in the public sector. It also exposes another of the Labour planned tax rises conveniently stored away for next year.

    This 'small' offering by the opposition makes a big statement about intent for those who have any basic understanding of how an economy actually works. It's a good move and should be applauded. End of argument......

  • Comment number 29.

    Indeed there is a case for stimulating the economy with public work schemes and investment. It would be nice if the political parties could also address the 8 million people who are available for some sort of work but the large majority of whom are supported by public expenditure. Public works could mop up some of these into paid useful work

    The unchallenged assumption is cuts in public sector departmental/sector budgets generate a pound for pound reduction in public expenditure but the law of unintended (or is it undeclared) consequences will always apply. In the case of public sector redundancies the in year expenditure may rise but that would be a funny way of stimulating the economy.

  • Comment number 30.

    Frankly, only two aspects REALLY matter.

    Firstly, this present Government has shown that it tolerates lying, deceit, half truths, massive waste, rewarding the lazy and the scroungers (and we now have over six million of them), dumbing down, fiddling expenses (oh yes, they were the ones in power!),justifying a war based entirely on a lie,opening the immigrant floodgates (and NO, I have nothing against decent honest hard working people of ANY race, so don't come on with the 'racist' tripe),taxing and then taxing and then taxing again and finally undermining virtually anything that is honourable or British.

    And you truly believe that such dregs deserve a vote? Who are you kidding!

    And secondly, YES you can cut taxes and still write down our debt. Take an honest in-depth look at the WASTE in this administration. It is everywhere, absolutely everywhere. And don't kid yourself that it is all being utilised for better public services. Codswallop.
    Try getting Inland Revenue to answer the phone; try getting a doctor's appointment within a week;try finding an NHS dentist with any vacancies; try getting a medical consutancy within a month........... come to that, try finding half a dozen school leavers who can read and speak English correctly! It goes on and on and if that is what you think is good use of VAST amounts of tax money, then vote Brown's Clowns in again and pay their price.

    Things can be better for Britain but not by entrusting the job to a load of proven wallies!

  • Comment number 31.

    Here they go again!
    One day they're telling us that absolute priority must be given to the deficit. Hoping some people won't notice that British Government debts are pretty low by international standards. Or that interest costs are half the rate in 1997.
    That 'deficit' argument doesn't have traction with the voters. That's clear. So they've switched to tax cuts and so-called government waste. I bet George Osborne's family spends money on things that others might call waste. Most firms have spends that they decide they don't need after all. There's no coherence here.
    Tories opposed rationalisation of Post Offices. They opposed the concentration of Accident & Emergency departments. They mocked measuring the effectiveness within the NHS. Why? Because achieving savings on waste, and by auditing outcomes of services sometimes leads to the sort of protests an Opposition can nourish.
    Tories wish for 'savings and efficiency'. But in reality they don't want to face the protests against change that this government has faced down. They need to be specific. But they can't be - because they don't know how to save on waste.
    Maybe next week we'll all be offered free chocolate eggs?

  • Comment number 32.

    Briantist - Onward Ho & Newstalk, Are you products of the Labour education system as you do not seem too bright! It is not a tax giveaway. The Tories are saying that they will not INCREASE national insurance, i.e. Not penalise the workers to pay for Labours decade of waste and the Lazy!You 3 don't happen to be on the rock and roll do you?

  • Comment number 33.

    There isn't a right answer because it's very difficult and circumstances change - that's life.

    But there's no harm in trying, especially when it's your job.

    So it's better to focus on something that's easier to answer - like: has Labour improved Britain over the last 13 years?

    If you think it has, vote Labour, if you think it hasn't vote Conservative (and emmigrate if Labour win).

  • Comment number 34.

    When will be get the money back from the banks we bailed out....?????
    Thats got to be worth a few bob!

  • Comment number 35.

    Onward Ho,

    I think I may have to agree with half of your statement, hard as it might be I agree with the increase on NI (having weighed up the pros and cons). I think the base rate for the lowest earners should have been increased though. I would however be looking at VAT rises too, whilst it all seems a bit steep I think that we've got to take some bitter medicine sooner rather than later.

    I am hoping though that should we start to turn HMS UK around that we get a chance to buy the bank shares first (or be given them based on tax revenue paid) before the financial markets - that way the everyday efforts of the public are rewarded and as the major shareholders we can actually get our voting papers for the AGMs, then I'll stand up & say thanks to the CEOs.

  • Comment number 36.

    #14 F1

    "Private business is already annoucing new jobs in industry like Wind Turbines and Electric Cars and they will have factored in the increase in NI."

    It looks like some people are gullible enough to fall for the Labour 'green' energy revolution spin. Your argument is a complete non-sequitur. The point of the NI increase being a bad thing is that, companies will not be able to hire as many employees as they would otherwise.

  • Comment number 37.

    On 6th March, you reported that Goldman Sachs were reporting that the UK economy was not as badly placed as some were saying(implying the Tories and their newspaper friends).
    Which was true then and truer now.
    The deficit is manageable because interest costs are very much lower than in the mid-90s or earlier.
    Moreover, the deficit is the consequence of Banks not paying taxes right now. As banks return to profit and find that their provisions for bad debts are less necessary than they thought, tax revneues will flow again as before. And our profitable Bank shares can be sold off for billions more than we paid when we saved them from bankruptcy.
    What's happened is that the public realises the Tories have been panicking.
    Voters don't want emergency cuts that will throw us back into a 1980s style recession and mass unemployment.
    Another week. Another headline gimmick from Conservative Central Office.

  • Comment number 38.

    Oh, no !! The Marshmallow Man beating up the Jelly Baby !!

    Meanwhile, Vince of the Cable probably sat back and smirked at the farce !!

    Does it really matter that they spend lots of valuable time, effort and money arguing over inconsequentials ?? Put up or shut up, I say !!

    Let each party specify *EXACTLY* how much they are going to cut/save/etc. and how and where and over what *time-frame* (not over the next 100 years, please), and we can then see the truth for ourselves.

    Oops, sorry, they have a violent allergy to the truth !!

  • Comment number 39.

    If all these "efficiencies" are so easy to identify and implement why haven't the concerned departmental managers not been fired for not introducing them already ? Caledonian Comment

  • Comment number 40.

    The banking bail-out and the stimulus....what have they accomplished? A lot of money went somewhere and seems to have done very little, unless you are a banker. Funny how that much money can be allocated and only maintain the status quo. Funny how that much money can be allocated and create a substantial national debt with no one seeming to understand where it all went. But it is not real, it is all digital money and apparently only bankers have access to that. Increased taxes, reduced services....called a plan for recovery.....maybe for banks but can't see where anyone else will benefit.

  • Comment number 41.

    "Necessity is the mother of all invention." Or so they say. So why don't we just call it as it is: cuts, big cuts. To be completely fair, government spending has been increasing every year since the arrival of the Labour government and that doesn't even include the dreaded public-private finance arrangements. The government account has doubled in the past 13 years, yet it is safe to comment that public services have not improved. Given the state of our economy, we are not able to afford all the waste that has been created in the past 13 years. The answer is simple - just cut it. As the cut materialize, the government will make the necessary cuts. If there is no pressure, the 'efficiency savings' will just be something that is talked about, but not take place.

  • Comment number 42.


    Why not define "frontline" while recognising that public spending is a continuous spectrum? "Frontline" services (i.e. if interpreted as direct customer/provider interface) could be impaired in terms of quality and cost-effectiveness by "backline" cuts. So let's avoid using the undefined "frontline" and take a broader look at the breadth/depth and impact of public sector cuts.

    P.S. In BBC news comment on George Osborne missing the point about tax allowances not being increased re negative September inflation data, please note that state pensions were increased despite September data. Maybe you could address the economic (as opposed to political) rationale for different treatment of income tax allowances and pensions/benefits

  • Comment number 43.


    "This 'small' offering by the opposition makes a big statement about intent for those who have any basic understanding of how an economy actually works. It's a good move and should be applauded. End of argument......"

    No need to argue when you set out quite clearly that you haven't a clue about economics.

  • Comment number 44.

    #19 >> I agree absolutely and I've been saying the same. It's the "management" that is killing the NHS. Meanwhile the frontline staff are short-handed and struggling to cope !!

    Firing one manager will pay for two or three nurses !! It also saves on the mountains of paperwork and increase *REAL* efficiencies !!

  • Comment number 45.

    A good example of wasting public money is the FiReControl scheme set up 6 years ago to centralise into 9 regions the fire commands of over 40 brigades around the country. This should have cost around £70 million and should have been completed 2 years ago; current estimates are this will now cost in excess of £250 million [if it ever gets finished]. I'm told that the empty buildings still not in use are costing £40,000 PER DAY in rent, other rumours are that the scheme will never get off the ground and indeed may be scrapped - I must get hold of the report due out on 1st April [yes I know].

  • Comment number 46.

    It is interesting to compare your response to Labour proposals with your response to Conservative ones Stephanie. I have some sympathy with JPS Lotus79 above who posted about loads of non-jobs being created in the public-sector as I know of these too.

    The Budget had two essential flaws according to notayesmanseconomics web blog. Economic growth is assumed to be much higher than that expected by independent economic forecasters and the planned spending efficiencies lack clarity and detail.So it was flawed. In that sense I guess so is George Osbourne's plan as we have very little experience of efficiency savings in recent years as our present government has not seen them as a priority (until maybe now).However cutting National Insurance may help the economy...

  • Comment number 47.

    It would appear I have stumbled across the sponsored ''talk nonsense'' version of Stephanie's blog

    Emotions are running high today...

    For goodness sake, what will it be like when the election is actually happening?

    Let me try and offer three simple truths

    1.Increasing NI is plain stupid, as it is a tax on jobs, as both Employers and Employees pay it above earning of around £6000 a year. This is why Employers are better off having 3 employees earning £6K a year, as opposed to one earning £18K. Being highly cynical, is this what they have been trying to achieve, to keep unemployment numbers lower

    2.If there is inefficiency, why aren't the government being nailed for allowing that to happen, irrespective of the deficit? Is it acceptable for them to waste OUR money? Boasting that we can easily identify inefficiency is bad, delaying doing anything about it is stupid

    3.Enough with the anti-George Osbourne comments. When did this begin?I will tell you. It was Peter Mandleson, setting the honey trap for him on that yacht. Nobody had a downer on Osborne before then. It is all part of Labour's political strategy, and extremely distasteful that someone 'asked to leave the Government more than once for slightly unacceptable behaviour' can get away with this, and play such a role in Government, when he has not been elected. Bringing back Tony Blair, in my view a war criminal, is also beneath contempt

    Labour spending less than they said they would, is neither a saving, or a cut it is manipulation of our language and money

    The Conservatives announcing they will not impose a rise that the current government plan to introduce, is equally NOT a cut, if the rise has not even been implemented yet! How can it be!

    Please can we try and make the government accountable for at least speaking English

    On that note, I noticed Stephanie wrote arithmetic...which should please those who think math is worse than the deficit

  • Comment number 48.

    Man, you are really starting to see those who are so "dyed in the wool" Labour, they seem to ENJOY the idea of tax rises, no matter the pain they will cause. Hey, why not propose an extra 5% N.I. if its such a wonderful tax?

    We are talking about less than TWO WEEKS borrowing making up this supposed cut. Don't the Labour lovers realise we haven't even started to address the real issues?

  • Comment number 49.

    Budbury 23

    'I'm not sure why Stephanie Flanders describes Labour's thinking on efficiency savings as "already hopelessly confused'

    Because they ARE hopelessly confused. How else can you explain their decision to delay efficiency savings they claim they've already identified ?

    I really wish Labour bloggers would stop their continual bleating about BBC pro Tory bias. It's becoming a bit tiresome.

  • Comment number 50.

    Let us find some common ground! May we agree that there are no significant savings to be made other than by axing jobs ? Saving paper clips is neither here nor there. Secondly, may we agree that a public sector job removed, is money saved. The person's salary, plus NIC etc is saved, less income tax they pay, less unemployment benefits they might then receive when unemployed. This has to be true. Were it not, it would follow the more public sector jobs were created, the better off we would be. It is probably true that a jobseeker in the SE would more quickly find employment than one in the NE or NW of England, so government downsizing in the SE would bring bigger faster benefits.

    Worth noting that both BA cabin crew and rail workers are not striking about pay, but about preserving jobs. There seems little doubt that "efficiences" will be fought every inch of the way.

  • Comment number 51.

    Leftie 37

    'The deficit is manageable because interest costs are very much lower than in the mid-90s or earlier'

    So if that's all true then why on earth are Labour introducing a job destroying NI tax increase ? Sounds as though you should be supporting the Tory move leftie rather than churning our more knee jerk anti-Tory sentiment.

  • Comment number 52.

    #37 leftie

    Thanks for explaining everything to me(!) However, for one, could you just explain how INTEREST ALONE due on government debt is going to be paid for?

    It's currently c. £40 billion having doubled in the last couple of years and will be in excess of £75 billion to over £100 billion in the next few years.

    Are you hiding all that the cash under the mattress each year? No - I thought not. Plank.

  • Comment number 53.

    #43 FDD

    I've realised that you are an automated response machine that doles out twaddle with increasing regularity. Not gone to Australia yet?

  • Comment number 54.

    Government spending....last week east london lost water; every local business including 3 resteraunts stayed open; the council and the probation service went home. If you change the culture of public sector then efficiencies come, more work to the pound; and we reduce the amount taxed without losing jobs.

  • Comment number 55.

    Cuts or efficiency savings is just a euphemism for job losses.None of the parties are being honest with the electorate for fear of being punished at the ballot box. Let's face it most of the electorate don't understand what a Billion pounds is! I reckon for every £1 billion pounds saved means at least 25,000 jobs must go.The position we find our self in is due mainly to this government who believed they had got rid of the "bust" part of the economic cycle.However, just like any drug addict has to do cold turkey when they want to kick the habit the same will be required of us when we try to kick the addiction we have had to easy credit.No government (unless we find enormous wealth such as oil reserves) can continue propping the economy up indefinitely.

  • Comment number 56.

    The votes of the public sector workers have been bought by this government with directly harmful consequences for the nation's solvency.
    Labour will now, in all probability, get back into power.
    At least GB and AD can go down with the ship.

    Run for your lives!

  • Comment number 57.

    #37. The deficit is manageable because interest costs are very much lower than in the mid-90s or earlier.

    Please! You can only say this about the next month or two. How do you know if we will be able to raise the necessary £600 Billion or so over the next 4 years at low interest rate costs? And even after the 4 years the deficit is still huge, needing hundreds of more Billions being raised over the years into the next parliament from 2014-15 to 2018-19.

    Why is it that the Lefties on this forum have such a short term view of everything? Can't you look forward 4 years, 8 years, and see the massive implications of this government's debt.... and that is whoever takes control in the election.

  • Comment number 58.

    I am rapidly comming to the conclusion that the Labour argument has nothing to do with protecting front line services. Rather it is all to do with protecting public sector employment.

    Seems to me all the focus is on reducing non-staff costs i.e. that proportion of the public sector expenditure spent on the procurement of goods and services from the private sector. So we spend less on purchasing tea and coffee but still employ the tea lady. We spend less on the material to repair roads but still employ the staff who do the repairs etc etc etc.

    If labour retain power i can see armies of public sector workers sitting around doing nothing. Which i suppose is a small improvement on where we are today as presumably they cost less to do nothing than they do when they do something.

    Over the last 13 years the public sector has totally lost its way. Its not about providing services - its about providing employment and keeping people off the unemployment register

  • Comment number 59.

    Bonfire of the ineffectuals, more like.

    So its a billion here and another billion there, what does it matter? We are so far under water it is of no consequence whatsoever.

    The political class are not even addressing the deficit properly so how can they even comprehend the debt?

    As I have said previously there are only two things which will get us out of this mess and those are work and time. There is precious little of the former left these days so I reckon that is where we must start again.

    So someone can import something from China cheaper than we can make it here with nine million not economically active, then stick a massive tariff on it so that it is cheaper to make it here.

    If we are not careful our problem will be feeding the people not whether we have out-reach workers for the excluded.

  • Comment number 60.

    It is quite amazing that in this day and age, there are people who think 'big government' is a good thing. I have said it before and I'll say it again: governments are notoriously inefficient, especially when it come to spending our (taxpayers') money. We as individual know what we need best - let there be democracy and allow us to spend our hard-earned money as we choose fit.

  • Comment number 61.

    For those who support a static public sector or even growth of it Keynes style, if you take it to its logical conclusion you would have 100% of people employed by the state, no profit would be made, so no corporation tax and nothing to fund said workers, not a bean.

    The point then is where should the line be, bearing in mind how far above the historical average of public to private sector workers we are there must be a good case for saying that we should dramatically reduce the public sector, relieve the pressure on the private sector and let it grow sufficiently quickly to get us out of this mess.

    People are still motivated by self-interest, let the innovators and entrepreneurs do their best, this is the only way out of this mess.

  • Comment number 62.

    It appears that some people actually believe that the Public sector creates wealth. I hope that it's just a debating position, surely no one's that disconnected from reality?
    Anyone with a job that does not bring money into the country is an expense, it really is as simple as that.

  • Comment number 63.

    #37 leftie

    'The deficit is manageable because interest costs are very much lower than in the mid-90s or earlier' - What a strange world you live in!

    The interest charged on the UK's enormous worldwide borrowings is governed by a variety of factors, including the rating applied by the various credit rating agencies. When considering cold, hard facts the UK's economy is virtually as much a 'basket case' as Greece's.

    If the UK's credit rating is downgraded (which is a real possibility) then the cost of borrowing money will increase substantially meaning even less money for frontline services. The credit rating agencies are not affected by Darling (or, should that be Mandelson's) smoke and mirrors.

    The UK is no different to any family facing financial difficulties - we have to get our costs in line with our incomes. The public sector has been on a spending spree for the past decade but alas, it has failed to deliver the necessary improvements or efficiency gains.

    People can discuss the merits of management failure versus 'tick boxes' etc etc but at the end of the day we cannot go on borrowing like this. Brown may be unable to tell his paymasters in the unions that the cupboard is bare but that's where we're at!

    One final point - whenever public sector job cuts are mentioned unions always claim it will mean the loss of nurses, police, teacher, soldier etc etc. Why is it they never mention equality outreach workers, diversity consultants or marketing posts, or Council Chief Executives on mega salaries for that matter?

    Whatever your views of the PM, it is hard to justify why the Chief Executive of a UK Council deserves a higher salary than the man empowered to run the country! Start with a policy to cap all public sector salaries at no more than the PM - if they don't like it then they could always move to the private sector, but then say good bye to gold plated pensions, long holidays, big pay offs........

  • Comment number 64.

    If this move - to cancel the planned rise in National Insurance - had been announced by Alaistair Darling in the budget it would have been attacked as a pre-election bribe - irresponsible at a time when all efforts should be concentrated on reducing the deficit. That is exactly what it remains when announced by George Osbourne.

  • Comment number 65.

    #53 Rugbyprof,

    Arrongance prompted by ignorance, stimulated by lack of inteligenece with which to comprehend anything sums you and your posts very adequately.

  • Comment number 66.

    A silly thought at this time but what would happen if we could pay of our national debt?
    what would happen?
    do we use debt to pay off our debt
    Or do we work without increased debt to repay our debt
    who gains and who loses
    Answers please
    ps please try make it a happy out come lol

  • Comment number 67.

    #59 stanilic,

    "So someone can import something from China cheaper than we can make it here with nine million not economically active, then stick a massive tariff on it so that it is cheaper to make it here. "

    You can't say that on here!!

    Firstly you'll get the midless saying protectionism leads to war. Though they can't give you any specific examples.

    Secondly, you'll petrify the employers who have still managed to make one grand cock-up by importing from China.

  • Comment number 68.

    I still struggle to see why there should not be enormous cost savings to be had in both the Healthcare budget and the Education budget as this is where the biggest inefficiencies are most likely to exist. If done effectively with real productivity improvements made there should be no impact on the 'front line services'. Identifying these inefficiencies and making the cuts is the only way to meet the overall reductions in spending required. With a current national debt of c.£800m which is forecast to rise to £1,400m by 2014/15 and probably a whole lot more given the insane growth projections, we are pussy footing around with public spending.
    If, for whatever reason, it is more palatable to keep the jobs then the public sector needs to brace itself for 15-20% pay reductions and share in the pain that the majority of the rest of the country are going through. The reality is that those in the public sector have made few financial sacrifices with low interest rates giving a vast number of them more disposable cash to spend than they had in 2008.

  • Comment number 69.

    #62, 73entry,

    "Anyone with a job that does not bring money into the country is an expense,"

    Then you have just accounted for the majority of private sector workers as being simply an expense.

    As even the most effective enterprise in the country cannot operate without public sector input then there is an element of wealth creation from their activities.

    Plus you are limiting your perception of wealth if you merely equate it to money.

  • Comment number 70.

    Come on - You can't use the phrase "job cuts". What happened to good ol' "natural wasteage"? I suppose from a marketing point of view (spin as it's called nowadays! [a.k.a. bovine x. to the learned economists]) "efficiencies" sounds posititive whereas "cuts" and "wasteage" are a bit too negative for the campaign trail.
    The suggestion of £1 bill. equates to 25,000 jobs (£40,000 /job). Let's see 25000*£50(dole money/ a.k.a. JSA) = £2.5 mill. / week = £.125 bill. / year. NI and Tax clawback from 25000 jobs = £.3 bill. /year So roughly £.575 bill saved for every 25000 jobs cut. So I think it would be fair to say that for every £10 bill. shaved off the public secotr spend, 1/2 a million people added to the scrap-heap. And boy, have we got an unsustainable public purse! Are we going to shave with an axe or a razor blade?

    Tread carefully (Mr Cameron / Mr Osbourne) when you are dealing with peoples lives.

  • Comment number 71.

    #37 >>On 6th March, you reported that Goldman Sachs were reporting that the UK economy was not as badly placed as some were saying(implying the Tories and their newspaper friends).

    And you believe them ?? After what they did to Greece and everyone else ??

  • Comment number 72.

    Stephanie Flanders' take on economic matters is always worth watching/reading/listening to. She always seems to have a firmer grip of her facts than the politicians she interviews. (and don't they know it) I'd like to see her give Ed Milliband a good verbal pasting. He sounded terribly schoolboy-ish on television this morning. It's easy to taunt the opposition over an inability to answer questions when your own party are the sole possessors of the information upon which an answer would necessarily be based.

  • Comment number 73.

    Let's face it,neither party is going to tell us what spending cuts they're going to make in advance of the election because they know it will be a vote loser.

    Not implementing Labour's NI will retain personal spending power thus increasing the chances of a quicker recovery and a speedier return to growth,higher tax revenues enabling the Tories to reduce the deficit quicker.

  • Comment number 74.

    Stephanie says: "But either the savings cut spending - or they don't. If they do, that is demand being taken out of the economy. That may not hurt the recovery overall: we don't know. But the Conservatives cannot deny that public sector demand is being cut".

    That's true, but it isn't a reason not to cut spending.

    "We will halve the deficit in four years" means the government will halve OVERSPENDING in four years. Halving the amount by which spending exceeds income isn't enough. It won't repay any debt - debt will continue to rise until the overspending (the deficit) has been completely eliminated and income exceeds spending.

    It is no argument at all to say that you mustn't cut government spending because we need government employees' demand to remain in the economy for ever.

    We simply can't afford the state sector that has been built up.

    The economy cannot be built on more borrowing.

  • Comment number 75.

    21 Foredeckdave
    I've come to the conclusion that you are Peter Mandelson, because your grasp of economics is non-existent; and you never quote any factual reference to back up your wild statements.

    Last week we had the Tories destroying the manufacturing sector. Facts:

    From 2007 to 2009, Manufacturing output has fallen by 13% (source: National Statistics March 2010)

    Since 1997, manufacturning has declined from 23% of GVA to 13%


    Now you would have us believe that the public sector creates wealth. What? Because apart from the last disastrous couple of years under Labour, GDP has grown more or less consistently thanks to the economic model they inherited from the Tories.

    (Since when did a Socialist party believe in privatisation; also, having rubbished PFI as privatisation by stealth, your Socialist party has presided over the biggest privatisation programme since records began, with a hidden annual deficit for up to 35 years that isn't even oin Darling's figures).

    In other words, because the public sector is running a deficit, that means that ONLY the private sector is creating net wealth...and now its down to only 48% of the economy under Labour.

    So, the only way to cut spending is either/both cut public sector spendoing and/or inmcrease private sector growth... Simple logic.

    Frankly sir, you have become ridiculous every time you post.

    Once again, please, less hyperbole, more economic FACTS, please, otherwise your statements will; continue to drive folks like me down the blue brick road.

  • Comment number 76.

    "Firing one manager will pay for two or three nurses !! It also saves on the mountains of paperwork and increase *REAL* efficiencies !!"


    Might not said nurses then spend all day gossipping due to reduced management. Cue for handbagging from irate nurses.

    Management, properly applied, are the eyes and ears of an organisation, the 'control centre'. Done in the right way it will control costs and improve efficiency.

    On the subject of waste.

    Waste is everywhere. The sheer amount of fresh food thrown away is staggering. Only to-day I threw away 2 slices of bread out of a 20 slice pack; those who can do the maths will calculate that as 10% waste.

    The point I am making is can we have a sense of proportion. Take the NHS, it is a huge organisation, annual budget c. £100 BN, 1% waste would be £1 BN. A waste of £1 BN captures headlines (Daily Mail readers choke on their Muesli), it is a huge number taken on its own without context and people get worked-up.

    I am not saying waste is good, just that it is unavoidable in any aspect of life and needs to be managed within acceptable limits. Just don't get hung up on the numbers without the context.

    On the deficit.

    It is dishonest of anyone to think it can be reduced in a hurry without cutting out whole processes complete with head-count (the most expensive element).

    Can this be done without making the problem worse ?
    A large chunk of the saving in a head-count cull will be swallowed up by lost tax revenues and increased benefit costs. Pass an emergency law cancelling benefit payments and the money will still be lost in increased policing costs to keep public order.

    Squaring the circle is fiendishley difficult, which might explain political dithering; the poor souls have not got a clue.

    Sooner or later the 'chaps on the bridge' will have to work out whether the 'national cake' is really big enough to fund 'super-power' sized wars as well as all the public services people take for granted.

    Chickens coming home to roost.

    31 years of poor stewardship of UK PLC. It actually goes much further back.
    18 years of Conservative government; disastrous strategic wrong turn in championing services over manufacturing and a belief that the market 'knows best'; also sowed the seeds of the credit boom.
    13 years of a Labour government too gutless and afraid of the middle classes to introduce fundamental changes (rebalancing the economy and increase social mobility) who borrowed more than the country could afford to refurbish public services, shamelessly encouraged a 'feel good society' on the back of credit booms.

    On public services, like the NHS.

    A lot of posters sprout the usual out of date cliches (they were true once). My experience is that there has been a major step improvement over the past 5 years. They are a lot better than they were.

    It will take at least 30 years to put all this right but only if the right decisions are taken now.

    Hint: Try and learn from more successful economies in the EU. Not Greece :)

  • Comment number 77.

    "A silly thought at this time but what would happen if we could pay of our national debt?
    what would happen?
    do we use debt to pay off our debt"


    we put it all on the Spanish lottery and keep our collective fingers well crossed.


  • Comment number 78.

    The Tories might have asked the IFS to take a look at the figures but the IFS have come out against the policy....ooops....bit of an own-goal that one George.

    We all would like to believe in 'efficiency' savings - unfortunately history and common sense tells us that this is not likely to be the case.

    And what happened to repaying the deficit being the Tories number one priority? If we have an extra £12bn and they really believe our credit rating is under threat then surely they should be using the money to pay the deficit off?

    Or could it be that this whole issue of credit ratings agencies downgrading the UK has blown out of proportion by the Tories and the tax cut is a cynical political ploy to win the election at all costs.

  • Comment number 79.

    Perhaps we need to finally accept that the welfare state does not bring out the best in the Britsh psyche in terms of both motivation and individual understanding that it needs to be cherished and not abused.

  • Comment number 80.

    11. At 1:09pm on 29 Mar 2010, foredeckdave wrote:
    Now let's think about this for a moment. The NI 'savings' are supposed to encourage employers to hire more people. Yet, nobody can demonstrate that there is a demnad from employers for more workers. What are they supposed to do? Where is the pool of latent demand that would require more workers?
    How about moving those already in employment back into full time working?

    Interesting, so the private sector is in dire staights, so bad that even if we didn't tax them more they still wouldn't take on new employees, so lets tax them more on the ones that they already have working at less than full capacity, and while we are at it, tax the poor sods whose hours have been cut too, yes they've had their hours cut and their income reduced, so why not reduce it a bit more.

    I know Brownian Motion is the random movement of minute particles, now it seems we have Brownian Taxation. At least I hope it is random, 'cause if this is a plan, God help us all. (Oh no, it IS a plan, its one of those cunning plans that Tony Robinson as Baldrick was always thinking up isn't it, please tell me he isn't advising Nu Labour!)

  • Comment number 81.

    I appreciate the Tories aren't exactly spelling it out in words of one syllable, and frankly they should, but they aren't really cutting anything.

    Labour are planning to tax working people and private sector businesses because they believe that the government can spend the money better than individuals. The Tories think that individuals and the private sector can spend that money more effectively and that the multiplier effect will be greater that way.

    Why they won't come out an say that is something you journalists should pursue.

  • Comment number 82.

    FDD Not sure why everyone's having a go at you.
    You have made your point clear about how the public sector helps in wealth creation.

    I think standards are slipping. Have a Gin sir !

  • Comment number 83.

    "Since 1997, manufacturning has declined from 23% of GVA to 13%"



    But when were the policy seeds sown. When did the cultural shift (as in Banking good, making things so so last century) start.

    Long before 1997 I would say.

    The old western economies have been growing their services sector every year since WW2. Even Germany (a manufacturing superpower in most peoples eyes) has a service sector equal to 70 per cent of GDP).

    But only muppet UK (easily recognisable as the one with the pointy hat in economics class) decides that 13% is the right share for manufacturing.

    OK JA lets go into banking !

  • Comment number 84.

    The savings are credable as a person who worked in the public sector . I know how wasteful senior management are especialy in the way they purchase equipment buiy it centraly at inflated prices .

  • Comment number 85.

    I must admit, that the joy from those posting that the Conservatives trying to live within a budget, as opposed to borrowing a further £600,000,000,000 over the next four to five years is somewhat strange, especially as the government are trying to sell the public the idea that increasing the national debt to £1,400,000,000,000 is a saving!

    Of course the government should be capable of providing more detailed plans, for two reasons

    1)They have been in power for 13 years

    2)They have the full support of the Civil Service as well (I don't mean politically) to churn out whatever is requested

    So, either these posters do not pay tax at all, and are enjoying that fact, whilst the rest of us (irrespective of whether being Labour/Lib Dem/Conservative) struggle on, or they have a degree of awareness and intellect, which is roughly on a par with a cheese mite

  • Comment number 86.

    Any encouragement to business to increase profits, employment etc had to be a good thing for the public purse.

    Yes, you would have to surmise that the Tories will say anything to get into power and this is just another effort to increase their chances of doing just that.

    The poor voters have to try and decide what their actual policies will be once elected. Do they have any long term vision, conviction, competence or character ?

    No I don't think so. These guys are career politicians, no different from the current incumbents. They have no idea of the real world or real people. They are shallow, dysfunctional, vain and self-serving.

    Perhaps Dempster is right. Maybe the only way is to start withholding tax.

  • Comment number 87.

    The concensus on this blog seems to be that the wealth generating sector will rescue us all from the feckless excesses of the public sector.
    It was the main driver of the private sector, namely the banks, encouraged by New Labour and the Tories, that created the mess and I am sure that the bankers will now be rewarded with a new round of bonuses for rescuing us. So its drinks all round lads!!

  • Comment number 88.

    I have just read an article about a new employee of Lincolnshire Police (on, I guess, about £25k - £30k p.a,). She is the “PRIDE” Development Manager and she says the aim of her team is “to develop and introduce new ways of working better to embed the behaviours within the culture of Team Lincolnshire”.

    Having spent 30 years in the police force I just do not believe that this sort of thing is really improving policing. Indeed I think this is just the kind of back room staff whose departure will not affect “frontline policing” one little bit. The article was just above another relating to the new Lincolnshire Police Diversity Officer – oops, think I just found another potential saving.

  • Comment number 89.

    When 52% of the economy is public sector spending, we are talking about a lot of votes that need to be bid for. It is therefore hardly surprising that the McCabinet refuses to say where the cuts will fall as the answer is obviously within its own client state. Being that turkeys don't vote for xmas, the prospect of public sector workers voting tory is pretty remote. As denial is a powerful human emotion, Darling even has the luxury placating the international debt markets by saying that future cuts will be bigger and deeper then Thatcher's because the people who will lose their jobs as a result at least have one more year's breathing space than if they voted tory. I think that "call me Dave" has really got his work cut out.

  • Comment number 90.

    One of the biggest myths with management, is that you MUST continuously monitor everything, and target everything, otherwise you can't measure performance, and the sky will fall in

    Unsurprisingly, this government is obsessed with faux targets, and rather like the 5 year tractor plans, and the chocolate rations in 1984, when the numbers are missed they just change the targets, and re-write history, relaunch this, announce something so many times, that even they forget which version announcement they are on

    Added to this, we also have the burdensome health and safety culture, which has devastated every aspect of our lives, to the extent that you can't move now without some vacuous jobsworth scratching their chin, shaking their head, and and safety

    Also, political correctness gone mad, positive discrimination...what a joke

    We have negative discrimination, so let's balance it up by some positive discrimination instead? They are both wrong

    All of these layers have borne down on our society like some giant suffocating trifle

    Solving the deficit, reducing the debt, improving the quality of life is absolutely possible, although it just won't happen, as the unions, the politicians, the bankers, all have their agendas

    I just cannot believe anyone is stupid enough to think we can go on borrowing, and borrowing, spending and spending, money we don't is sheer lunacy

    The terminology is tired, and from a different era

    With modern IT, the numbers employed in various parts of the government should have been tumbling over the last 20-30 years...not rising!!!!!!

    As taxpayers, we should be demanding value for money at all times, although sadly too many members of the public just take no interest in what is happening, thereby adding to the problem

    This has not been helped by either party, although there are some interesting aspects to this


    The labour party falsely, and successfully accused the Conservatives of wanting to privatise the NHS

    The public (as a generalisation) bought this lie

    Labour then use PFI to ensure that they can spend even more of our money, and use 'slick (dodgy?) financial practice to not even include that debt on the books...privatisation in effect by the back door

    Richard uses a 1% waste example earlier...

    We should not tolerate waste

    Missed appointments...the last I knew, 12% of appointments were missed!!!!!

    There should be something done about it

    Can we afford to have non-essential operations carried out on the NHS at the expense of life saving treatment?

    Can we afford to keep treating health tourists?



    I remember Blair's Education, Education, Education

    Hasn't really happened though

    More PFI with school not only are our children and grandchildren saddled with debt, they even have to pay for the schools and hospitals that we have built on the never never
    So what have this government spent all of our money on?



    This has gone from being a safety net to being a tightrope around our collective necks

    It needs to be modernised, and there are too many stupid traps within it

    It should be used to help people in need, not to provide a lifestyle choice, so sink estate teenagers can get pregnant just to get a flat and benefits (used as an example of one glaring problem within it)

    When did all of this happen and creep up on us?


    After I posted on the previous blog on this yesterday, rather co-incidentally the NAPF released a report today calling for changes, which include delaying the retirement age

    Under this government in particular there has been widespread destruction of retirement planning for all except the wealthy, public sector workers and MPs, who still have the best pension scheme in the UK by miles and miles. Disgraceful, then, that under Brown's watch this has happened

    Whoever wins the election, these issues MUST be resolved


    Over the last 13 the amount of law passed has been incredible, the quality of some of it, so poor as to be unbelievable. This needs reviewing. particularly the poorly conceived terror laws, which have been used to ill-effect by many

    So, whilst I strongly advocate the diminishing of the deficit urgently, and view Gordon Brown as being an 'Economic Criminal' for what he has done to my country, there are so many other areas which make me angry and cross

    I will not be voting for this government, no

    I have no idea what the Conservatives will inherit if they win the election, although it won't be pretty

    They do not have all the answers, they do not have a magic wand

    What is clear, though, is they have tried to genuinely spell out the financial mess we are in, only to be attacked for getting in a muddle (yes, they have with some policies) being slightly confused (yes, they have been, by a public that wants the they claim...only to ignore the message and be in denial about it)

    Politically the Conservatives are naive, and Labour have undoubtedly roughed them up

    Quite easy to do, if you have no principles, and will sell your soul to the highest bidder....see PFI...a LABOUR government who derided the Conservatives for floating a proper PFI...then steal the idea and wreck it

    On here, we still have posters who think the credit rating story is scare mongering...the debt is was all Maggie's fault

    It is pathetic, and somehow, at some time I hope that these people remove the scales from their eyes

    No doubt I will get loads of abuse, yet I write these comments honestly, openly, and in a non-partisan way, although I have made my views clear in the interest of transparency

    Disagree with me, by all means, but please stop kidding yourself that we are not in a serious, serious financial situation

    The economy is on a knife edge, and the tax rises already in the system will damage, not help it

    Take care of your vote, especially if you plan not to

    People died to give it to you

  • Comment number 91.

    We live and learn, I've just watched the first 15 minutes of the Chancellors' debate, and raising NI is an aid to business according to Darling, and neither Cable nor Osborne pulled him up. There we go, I hadn't realised that all those taxes I've been paying were actually the Government aiding me, silly me. Gosh, when I think of all the people who are aiding me, it makes me so humble, it also makes me very poor, which is the puzzling thing, unless of course they are aiding me into bankruptcy, now that will be a tad annoying, as I was hoping to be aided out of it.

  • Comment number 92.


    I don't see it that way at all

    I would suggest the greater majority see the mess we are in
    Differences in opinions on causes...big differences

    The majority of the majority see spending cuts as the way to reduce the deficit..
    Big differences on how..some see the current government as a meal ticket..some very anti from either extreme to the other's views

    maybe under half understand that not all of the banks caused the mess...Most understand the number of people in the banks getting huge bonuses are very small as a percentage

    Maybe a sixth want to join the Euro and have a USE

    Majority very depressed about the fact the politicians are too timid

    Most see that the public sector is capable of improving quality of life, when done well, although in the true sense is not wealth creating

    Most realise that we need companies, including banks, to be making a profit, in order to pay corporation tax

    A lot (majority?) think we are in for a very tough time, ranging from 2,3 to 20 years

    Some, a minority, think the worst is behind us

    Some, maybe 10%, think the government is economically very sound, and has done a very good job


    I am not in that 1 in 10

  • Comment number 93.

    #76 >>Might not said nurses then spend all day gossipping due to reduced management. Cue for handbagging from irate nurses.

    You do intend to live dangerously, don't you !! Just wait till you need a injection !! The nurse will probably choose a needle meant for a horse !! :-)

    >>Management, properly applied, are the eyes and ears of an organisation, the 'control centre'. Done in the right way it will control costs and improve efficiency.

    The operative words are "properly applied" !! Unfortunately, the current "management" seems to be more interested in ticking boxes and filling forms than being the "eyes and ears" of an organisation. See the recent expose of the various NHS Trusts where unnecessary deaths occur !! Some were even "rated" *GOOD* !!

  • Comment number 94.

    I pondered for a moment, and wondered exactly how this is going to play out.

    I discounted the Labour v Conservative battle, because it’s largely if not wholly irrelevant.

    Where exactly is all this going? I asked myself. And for some unexplainable reason I thought of writingsonthewall.

    And the more I tried to work things through, the more negative I became.

    Is sovereign debt and therefore currencies truly at risk here?

    All those promises to pay being carefully accumulated.
    Can they actually be paid? Are we and our children really good for it?

    And if I’m thinking this, perhaps I’m not alone.

  • Comment number 95.

    "Missed appointments...the last I knew, 12% of appointments were missed!!!!!

    There should be something done about it"


    I agree this should be dealt with. The waste of resources is massive.

    One way would be to charge a refundable fee when booking an appointment - keep the appointment you get a refund.

    To work this needs 2 things

    1. Everyone should have a bank account with a debit card.

    2. More intelligent use of IT. This has still to happen in the public sector; I have seen it happen in the private sector. It really does produce efficiencies. The technology is here; you make an appointment using a mobile phone and automatically a fee is taken from your account (or your benefits if on benefit) and refunded on keeping the appointment.

    I find the sheer ineptitude of public sector IT projects depressing. My own take on this is that public sector (compared to private) IT contracts are huge and by definition unmanageable; they are approached using private sector rules. They should be modularised with attention paid to common interfaces; each department has its own budget and common interfaces make data exchange possible. Departments will learn from each other and this spiral will promote efficiencies. Obvious really.

    As I write this a news item that illustrates dumb headline responding government. Postman Pat, the Home Secreatary has kneejerked a ban on legal highs without attention to the law of unintended consequences.

    I blame the media.If they did not exist Ministers might not feel the need for 5 second responses. They might actually take time out to think.

  • Comment number 96.

    #90 >>Unsurprisingly, this government is obsessed with faux targets, and rather like the 5 year tractor plans, and the chocolate rations in 1984, when the numbers are missed they just change the targets, and re-write history, relaunch this, announce something so many times, that even they forget which version announcement they are on

    Didn't someone write a thesis on this ?? Oh, no, it's Orwell in his book "1984" !!

  • Comment number 97.

    "Some, maybe 10%, think the government is economically very sound, and has done a very good job"


    Not me kevinB. I rate the current lot at 3 on the 10 scale.

    Trouble is, Dave&George I rate -1 (thats minus one). A bit unfair as they have not had a go yet, I admit; trouble is don't want to take the risk.

  • Comment number 98.

    "And if I’m thinking this, perhaps I’m not alone."


    You are not alone.

    You need Plan B which I patented about 301 posts ago.

    A large duvet for hiding under plus a large bottle of a single malt.

  • Comment number 99.

    #94 Dempster

    There are plenty of people who like playing Nostradamus like WOTW.

    Some aspects are seriously worrying but the problems are not insurmountable just the wherewithal to sort it out. There is the UK and the bigger global picture. There have been some very dark and desperate times in the past like plagues and world/civil wars. Today's really isn't in the same category (as long as we correct it). No problem is insurmountable.

    I would disagree over the Labour/Conservative irrelevance. There's a stark difference. Labour would like everybody to work in a quasi-public and public sector role.

    Anybody watching tonight's Channel 4 Chancellor's debate saw the Labour position clear when Alistair Darling stated that the only way to help private enterprise is to have a bigger public sector (yes - just read that again and let it sink in.....)

    It was quite shocking and proves that a few commenters on here can only be from LABOUR HQ. If that doesn't get picked upon and pulled apart for what it is - a complete and utter bankrupt and fraudulent position I don't know what will?

    There are some things we have to get right starting with voting in the coming election.

    However, the UK can make a wrong choice and I will make a choice if I wish to remain resident. I trust that the right choice is made in the circumstances....

  • Comment number 100.

    #90. Kevinb wrote:

    "NHS - The labour party falsely, and successfully accused the Conservatives of wanting to privatise the NHS"

    Historically wrong, as usual, please read up the Churchill government in the early 1950s, when he came back to power he wanted to scrap the NHS, but he was stopped by his party.

    I do agree however that it highly probable that David Cameron believes in the NHS - however also recall that Mrs Thatcher world never herself either go by train or to an NHS hospital. It is almost certain that in the libertarian wing of the party there are those who are being trained by forces of Republicanism into believing that the NHS is a bad thing.

    Generally, Kevinb, you tend to spout half truths that you refuse to acknowledge are factually badly founded and that you refuse to research documentary proof that contradicts your prejudices, and this assertion is yet another one of those.


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