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Saving money on home affairs

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Chris Mason Chris Mason | 11:28 UK time, Monday, 26 July 2010

We're setting off today on our five day trip to find out how you would cut the budget deficit if you were Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Don't worry about suggesting things that are unpopular - our aim is to see how much of the national overdraft we can chip away at in just a week, thanks to your ideas.

Our first stop will be Reading in Berkshire. Throughout Drive on Monday, 5 live Money's Declan Curry and I will be chatting to people at the Broad Street Mall about how they'd save money on the UK's home affairs budget. So we're looking at the money currently spent on things like schools, hospitals and police.

Flicking through the Chancellor George Osborne's Red Book - his Budget from last month - I can tell you the government is planning to spend £122bn on the NHS this year. That is about 22p of every £1 we pay in tax.

The Prime Minister has promised that the health service budget won't be squeezed, but we'll be hearing one radical idea to do just that.

And we're keen to hear plenty more from you. Once Drive is on air you can text us on 85058, you can comment below or you can contribute to the BBC News website's Have Your Say discussion on this.

One final thought.

I think I have found the most-uttered political cliché of 2010. Here it is: "Front line services." Politicians of every persuasion trot out the phrase, with the word "protect" usually cropping up somewhere nearby.

But what on earth is a "front line service?" How would you define it? Perhaps we would all agree that a teacher or a doctor, for instance, would count. But what about the person who picks up the phone when we have to dial 999? And what about teaching assistants? Do they count too?

Chris Mason is 5 live's political reporter


  • Comment number 1.

    I would like to suggest an audit of usefulness/productivity within the apparently woefully over-staffed clerical support in the NHS. I bet that would help the NHS cut a bit of the costs. I live near and often visit three vast teaching hospitals in London and the number of not very active clericals standing around always makes me wonder when and where they do anything during their working day.

  • Comment number 2.

    The government should stop benefit payouts to people who have not contributed and do not live in this country.

  • Comment number 3.

    I see no problem with charging to see a doctor. We already have to pay to see a dentist!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Here's a big one for you. Hand control over personal data back to individuals. Instead of dozens of public bodies (education, pensions, health, welfare, census, jobs, tax etc etc) spending £billions trying to keep their own comprehensive version of the truth about us, let them ask us. Or rather: let their machines ask our machines. All the tech exists for verified emails and personal data stores which can provide automated updates under the control of the user (like RSS feeds or Twitter updates of personal data).


    - rapidly saves many £millions spent on trying to keep the state's many dozens of sets of detailed personal records up to date
    - soon means we save the billions wasted by trying to provide public services on the back of inaccurate data sets
    - and in due course saves the many tens of billions spent because we provide services people neither want nor need

    I know it sounds a bit counterintuitive at first, but the logistics of personal data between the individual and the many organisations we deal with are daft. One result is the many public sector data losses seen in recent years. Another is the so-called "database state". But the real problem is the huge waste of money, and the amount of our own time it wastes (average one and a half weeks per householder dealig with customer services).

    This isnt an easy idea for radio. But you asked for big ones, so here you go.

  • Comment number 5.

    How about everybody (the whole country) donating 1 days pay each year for the next 5 years.
    How much would this bring in? I've no idea.

  • Comment number 6.

    European Union,
    get the rebate back,
    reduce the fraud,
    reduce MEP salaries, expenses and pensions

  • Comment number 7.

    Make the secure army barracks left by cuts into prisons, using the ex army redundances to run them. Also making the prisoners work during the day, I would suggest having a green rubbish segregation unit for plastic paper etc.

  • Comment number 8.

    How about making it illegal to sue the NHS - I read somewhere that the NHS's legal budget amounted to as much as 10 per cent of its total budget. Sounds like an urban myth doesnt it but ambulance-chasing lawyers would be a popular target for cuts with me, ahead of nurses obviously and hospital administrators even.

  • Comment number 9.

    Child Benefit - have to have paid 5 years National Insurance to receive it for first child and 10 years for second.

  • Comment number 10.

    The NHS should not be ring fenced; it allows for too many non medical expensive jobs to escape scrutiny. I have no argument with clinical staff. Further I would sack the judiciary and recruit people with a modicum of common sense. The only reason we have had so many new laws is the stupid decisions handed down. Also one new law which repeals all legislation passed under New Labour. That would get rid of Lisbon Treaty at least, plus reverse Blair giving away most of our rebate.

  • Comment number 11.

    I would like to suggest that my local Business Link finds out why they order approx 15,000 copies of their information book and only send out about 2,000. I am sure there is a saving there and how many times is that repeated? Is there no one in charge there? If you are a staff member and you pay taxes it is coming out of your pockets as well as mine.

  • Comment number 12.

    As I was looking at millions of hanging baskets draped over road barriers in a local town, it occurred to me that the 1 less rule could be applied to almost everything. If there was one less hanging basket per railing, street light per street etc how much could we start to save? It's the little things that add up. Oh and a complete ban on any public service buying any stationery items until the absolute last of the kind has been used up.

  • Comment number 13.

    Just had another thought, how about stopping Government departments 'rebranding' themselves. It would save a fortune in replacing all thge stationery, changing all the signs on buildings, and best of all save on employing 'consultants' to come up with a new logo


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