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5 live Drives down the deficit

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Chris Mason Chris Mason | 19:31 UK time, Monday, 19 July 2010

CalculatorMPs packing up to leave Westminster for the summer might just have half an eye on the beach in a week or two's time.

But when they get back, the political elephant in the room won't have gone away. Cuts. The deficit. Tax rises.

So how big a challenge is the government taking on, trying to tackle the £156bn budget deficit? If you were Chancellor, what would you do? Next week, we want to hear your ideas.

Starting next Monday on Drive, I am heading across the country to hear how you would sort out the country's finances. Your suggestions don't have to be popular. They can be big or small, serious or outlandish. The aim is to drive down as much of the deficit in a week as your ideas allow. Who knows, maybe we can balance the books by Friday!

Of course, whether cutting the deficit within five years, let alone five days, is necessary is a matter of intense political debate. But we hope that by setting a ridiculous timetable we can explore the dilemmas, quandaries and difficulties facing Whitehall. Our guests will suggest where savings could come while others will be equally passionate in defending areas of spending.

Each day throughout the week, we will examine a different area of government spending. And then we'll switch the focus to look at raising taxes.

On Monday we will explore the home affairs budget - things like schools, hospitals, the police and the arts. How much could you change the NHS to save money? And what about schools?

On Tuesday we'll take a look at foreign affairs. Can we afford to slash the defence budget? Can we be generous to poorer countries when we are short of money?

On Wednesday we're planning to look at how much difference could be made to the national overdraft by selling off state assets. What do we own that we can do without and that someone else would want?

On Thursday we'll turn our attention to a massive proportion of government spending - the welfare budget, which accounts for about £1 in every £4 of spending from our taxes. The state pension, housing benefit and money for people on the dole - everything's up for debate.

On Friday we'll move from looking at spending to looking at tax. By then we hope to have taken in Berkshire, Northumberland, Fife and to have arrived in Nottingham. We will be at the splendidly named VAT and Fiddle pub. What we haven't paid off by today will be added to the tax bill. So ideas for new taxes will be welcome. Serious or seriously off the wall, we are all ears.

We'd love to hear your ideas for where cuts could come and where taxes could rise. Anything goes - there are no sacred cows, unless you want there to be. Nothing is ring-fenced.

Clearly, we're not saying any of this should, could or would happen in reality, but we hope our exercise, with your involvement, will help us all get a greater sense of where our taxes are spent.

Post your thoughts here. We would love to hear from you and we might get back in touch.

Chris Mason is 5 live's political reporter


  • Comment number 1.

    Chris, what day are we discussing value for money for our licensee fee, the savings the BBC is making and the austerity drive the BBC is undertaking.

    Would like to know how it squares with rotating football studios, enormous executive salaries, exorbitant and unecessary taxi fares and needless junkets.

    Can you tell us where "all over the country" is? Are you ignoring the South West as usual?


    Sounds like an interesting week of radio.

  • Comment number 2.

    Embracing the big society eh? Shame as usual you can't be bothered to go to the South west, Wales or East Anglia.

  • Comment number 3.

    Would my suggestion still be read out if it isn't a joke, limerick or pun?

  • Comment number 4.

    Lunchtime, if your comphrensive spending review plans can be delivered in 140 characters or less you might just about be in with a shot.

  • Comment number 5.

    Cutting the deficit huh? Bringing down the deficit. I think you're quickly going to regret this thread.

    The Telegraph reports "BBC executives spend thousands on expenses. The deputy Director General of the BBC claimed £4,878 in expenses for flights to South Africa during the World Cup Final."

    Credit where credit is due "By contrast Adrian Van Klaveren, the controller of BBC Radio 5 Live, regularly took the London Underground instead, claiming back £1.80 for each single trip. In March 2010 he took the bus to a radio conference, and claimed back the £2 fare."

    Doesn't excuse sanctioning Dotun's trip to Ghana or funding Nolan's three days Manchester while studios his Northern Ireland home sit idle overnight.

    More egregious waste revealed here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/7892863/BBC-executives-spend-thousands-on-expenses.html

  • Comment number 6.

    That article made me want to shout in fury. They are all on six figure salaries and by the time their expenses are factored in they take home enough to support 25 working class families in the world of the lower paid.

    Jobs for the boys. For example, lucky Mrs Lineker with her new programme about being a step mum. Someone who spent £250000 on her wedding! Now getting BBC fees for what will have absolutely no insight in to the subject. Could someone tell me what Gary's fees were for his month away?

    I see Gabby may, just may, be the person going to the One Show. If so can we have someone who knows about current affairs, politics and history, to take her place?

  • Comment number 7.

    Richard Bacon perhaps Carrie? You can never get too much big personality clearly.

  • Comment number 8.

    Off you go then Mason, on your mission to pretend to satisfy the listener.

    Meanwhile, Tim Davie, the fizzy drinks salesman, who's been shown to have no strategy or idea of "audio" - and Klav, who follows every word he says, will be back, with the rest, around late Sept. in time for the conference jollies.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    Eliminate the Deficit? Simple. Leave the E.U.

  • Comment number 11.

    Must be frustrating trying to do a serious blog and all you get are the usual moamers. I suggest you have a moaners blog and then those who want to discuss real problems don't have to trawl through them.

  • Comment number 12.

    As a crazy, free market idea, try this one (which I'm not sure I even like!)

    Give each government or local authority department a budget and a set of objectives. If they come in under budget then all the department workers can share the 'profit'. In the following year the budget would be lower, so they would have to drive costs down even more. My belief is that those who are most involved with a job are the best at driving down costs. This would involve in departments deciding to shrink the size of their work force.

    Probably unworkable, more a seed of an idea.

  • Comment number 13.

    If the British government, and the British people, can accept a lower international profile for this country then the money saved by not going to war and by not helping to support other countries could be used to ensure that our needs here at home are fully met without compromise.

    Not going to war could allow us to have one Defence Force rather than an Air force, an Army and Navy and a smaller, more agile Defence Force would enable a lot of military hardware (ships, planes, tanks etc) to be sold off.

    Meanwhile channelling the large amounts of foreign aid to the needs of hospitals and schools here would have a direct benefit.

    These two suggestions will probably seem sacriligeous to some people of a certain generation who remember the 'good old days' when being British meant something in the world.

    But that world is changing and I believe that having a strong military presence during conflicts and acting as an international policeman as well as helping those much more needy than we are is, considering our present financial situation, probably a 'like to do' rather than a 'need to do'.

  • Comment number 14.

    Whilst I am more than happy for disabled badge drivers to have 'free' cars, why do they also get free tax, free insurance and free servicing? Is this another abused social benefit as there seem to be more and more cars with blue badges!!
    Whilst I was at hospital this morning, I read a notice which said 'if you are a visitor to this country, you could be responsible for charges for your treatment'. Does anyone ever get charged? All we ever hear about is people coming here for free treatment.
    Perhaps neither of these things would save a fortune, I believe they would save some money.

  • Comment number 15.

    Not content on blowing £1m on a rotating football studio, £2000 a week on driving MOTD staff half way across the country to sit in a warm London studio and countless other examples of needless waste -- like flying Nolan to Manchester to host his programme while Belfast radio studios sit idle -- here's the latest bit of BBC hyprocrisy...

    BBC's £1m in bonuses ... the year it said they were banned

    Basic salaries for senior managers at the BBC start at around £75,000, rising up to £838,000 for director general Mark Thompson. The BBC has gone back on a promise to suspend bonuses for all its staff. The broadcaster had announced it was stopping any extra payments in recognition of the tough economic climate. But figures have revealed that despite the promise, in the period when the bonuses were meant to have been stopped, the best part of £1million was handed out.

    Read more: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1299094/BBCs-1m-bonuses---year-said-banned.html

    When was the last time your employer gave you a bonus in these challenging economic times?

  • Comment number 16.

    On the day we learn the BBC set to deliver less for even more of our money (see: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1301405/BBCs-800m-licence-spend-23-rise-budget-public-sector-faces-savage-cuts.html ) we learn they've just lost another £240,000 of our money in "lost" equipment.


    These people must think money grows on trees.

  • Comment number 17.

    Does that include the laptop Logan left at the airport?

  • Comment number 18.

    Here's the latest gem... "We would like your help. We've set Drive's reporter Lesley Ashmall a challenge: spend a week travelling around the country having as much fun as possible."

    How much are we paying for this junket?

  • Comment number 19.

    Rather than have her enjoying herself at our expense, how about a taste of the real world? Get her to do a different minimum wage job each day, also one where you can't go home after just a few hours.

  • Comment number 20.

    Presumably us licence payers are footing the bill for the Nolan sleep overs whilst Vicky is away. Why he has to be here in mainland Britain beats me. What do you think - four star hotel or little service flat?

  • Comment number 21.

    Oh, the former and no doubt also a hefty room service bill for snacks to keep up his strength between meals.


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