Spending Cuts in the UK

April 9th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

My weekly column at NBR 24/7 takes a look at the UK elections. An extract and a proposal:

Both Labour and the Conservatives are promising to cut public spending faster than Margaret Thatcher did in her first term. Labour has pledged to cut the deficit in half within four years. The Conservatives are promising a further £8 billion of spending cuts beyond that.

And one good proposal:

One welcome manifesto pledge from the Conservatives is to publish online all items of over £25,000. For the size of their economy, this is equivalent to publishing all items of spending in New Zealand over $1,000.

I suggest:

Think of how popular Bill English would become if he ordered every Government department, ministry and agency to list every payment that make, online in a searchable database?

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15 Responses to “Spending Cuts in the UK”

  1. gazzmaniac (2,266 comments) says:

    It would provide a lot of data for the public and media to scruitinise – and that can only be a good thing.
    I don’t see it going down well with the civil service though.

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  2. ben (2,385 comments) says:

    One welcome manifesto pledge from the Conservatives is to publish online all items of government spending over £25,000.

    Hmmm… is that a good idea? Does it help to have million pound projects split into 40 pieces to avoid reporting?

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  3. s.russell (1,486 comments) says:

    Yes, both the big parties have promised huge spending cuts. They will cut “waste” and “inefficiency” and “unnecessary programmes”. They have also promised not to cut anything that really exists.

    Whenever I check on the UK news there is some pronouncement from one or other (or both) parties designed to win votes. Labour will save the economy by taxing jobs. Conservatives will scrap this and make up the 6 billion pound cash shortfall by cutting unspecified “inefficiencies”.

    But strangely enough, every utterance simply deepens my disgust with them both.

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  4. Jack5 (4,216 comments) says:

    More disclosure would be good, so long as it included state-owned entities such as Solid Energy and Meridian.

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  5. GJ (329 comments) says:

    We’ve got enough bureaucrats in the Public sector now without adding more to keep up with this sort of stuff!
    What we really need is to have elected people that understand what is required to keep a country running like a well oiled machine and then to give them the tools to get on with the job. If they fail then dump them at the next election. Our trouble is we get the same old after the same old as in reality we are fearful of real change.
    All this sort of thing does is to encourage Politicians to feed off public opinion which is not always the best for the country.

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  6. freethinker (648 comments) says:

    $1000 seems very low but perhaps $10,000 is more practical and to avoid the splitting identified by Ben, perhaps a rule to remove any split amount that should have been part of a total be removed from that departments budget the following year and the person responsible have a 5% salary cut for that year – just to encourage accuracy and honesty.

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  7. malcolm (2,000 comments) says:

    There’s no reason to set a lower limit. All invoices and payment are put onto the system – so let us see it all.

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  8. kevin_mcm (152 comments) says:

    I could never understand while a Government would not do this – every one has been embarrassed at some point by illconsidered expenditure by one department or another. Put it all on line and that sort of stuff will disappear. And if it doesn’t the Government can say “That is why we put it on line so tacpayers can find poor expenditure”. Seems like a political winner to me. Will no doubt generate lots of discussion when it is first done as we find out how much the Govt is propping up TVNZ etc with advertising.

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  9. DRHILL (121 comments) says:

    Wouldn’t they just put it in one category then?
    I.E.

    Category : Miscellaneous
    Current Cost : 25 Billion

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  10. JC (838 comments) says:

    Going down to $1000 is a silly amount. In context of Govt spending its 0.0000016%. The departments already have thousands of people scrutinising spending and you’ll just create a Public Service that becomes more risk averse and arse covering. You also add in far too much democracy where the PS spends most of its time answering queries on penny ante stuff dreamed up by short arsed losers and activists.

    Government and its administration is not a perfect science.. waste and some corruption is inevitable. Rather than fucking about, look at the big spending decisions and query them, eg, why is there no mechanism tying Govt spending to a proportion of GDP?

    JC

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  11. Viking2 (10,703 comments) says:

    JC, thats really the point isn’t it. There is a lack of scrutiny, they just pass the parcel whereas open scrutiny by anyone would put the fear of god among the wastrels. It would also be a brake on the feather bedding of payments to people outside of Govt. because rorts would be out there to be seen, especially by opposition businesses. Could not be a bad thing to do.

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  12. Viking2 (10,703 comments) says:

    Think of how popular Bill English would become if he ordered every Government department, ministry and agency to list every payment that make, online in a searchable database?

    Despite this being a bloody good idea:

    Bill English and popular is a contradiction of terms. Its just not possible except for two, Sorry three people. Mary, Bill and DPF.

    What was the election result a couple of times ago?
    How popular was he after last years Tax cuts in the budget and wow iy will really go into the startosphere after the next one when he shafts people with property just to keep growing the social welfare expenditure.

    “Existing entitlements to social benefits, New Zealand Superannuation and Working for Families would be maintained. “

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  13. Poliwatch (335 comments) says:

    What a load of bullshit this is. I elect governments to govern, and I don’t want to know the detail to this degree. If I don’t like the general thrust of their direction I vote against them.

    It is akin to a public company releasing details of every payment to every shareholder.

    Providing this detail in the UK will be enormous and the conservatives know it. It is the art of if you have to provide information then provide a deluge so that it is hard to analyse, can be statistically analysed in different ways for different conclusions.

    It will of course allow for another group of public servants to be employed to review and analyse all information before it goes public and massage it into appropriate shape for least damage.

    It is no wonder that many in the UK can’t work out who to vote for.

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  14. Haiku Dave (273 comments) says:

    the tories say they’ll
    save seven bill – costed so
    far? a hundred mill

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  15. Michael (880 comments) says:

    The $1000 limit is too low. And publishing everything could breach codfidentiality (personal and commercial).

    For example, if all Government departments had to publish payments over $1000 then WINZ would have to include a lot of benefit transfers.

    On second thoughts …

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