Monday, May 24, 2010

The waste is there

Today will see George Osborne’s task of having to cut the largest budget deficit in British history begins as he outlines £6bn of spending cuts through efficiency savings.

Throughout the election campaign, that is now just a distant memory to many, to cut now or to cut later was a fundamental difference between the Labour Party and Conservatives. Gordon Brown continually argued that making £6bn of savings this year would put the recovery at risk whilst George Osborne argued that to not do so would ruin the country and risk leaving us in the same position as Greece.

As many people know I worked on Nadhim Zahawi’s campaign and sat at the back of many a public meeting and public debate over the month long race towards May the 6th. At event after event people questioned if we could really find the back office savings necessary to cut £6bn without having to cut front line services. Many suggested that it was a folly to ring-fence spending in the NHS and areas such as international development, but despite this we stood firm,. Nadhim would point to his own experience at YouGov, where as the company grew from 2 men in a shed to 400 plus staff over 4 continents the back office grew and grew and never wanted to make cuts to themselves pointing at the front-line instead as the place to cut spending.

During the campaign it was obviously difficult to give specifics, we hadn’t in the words of many a candidate “Seen the books” yet and so we had to talk in generalities, cutting back on waste, freezing public sector recruitment etc. However now that we are a few weeks into the coalition Ministers are in place, and the civil service has begun to provide details  on where they spend and the returns it is giving. Sadly some of the details of wasteful spending are shocking.

According to internal auditors:

  • There are currently 271 HMRC face to face inquiry centres, some of which receive as few as 11 visitors a week;
  • The Department of Health has 200 phone lines that make or receive fewer than 100 calls a month;
  • There are 573 phone numbers (not even lines, but numbers potentially connected to multiple lines) that receive no calls at all within the Department of Health and the Department of Work and Pensions;
  • A £5m strategy in the Education department “outlines the short, medium and long term objective in bringing to life children’s right to play”;
  • The government spends £125m a year on taxis, £320 million on hotels and £70m on flights;
  • In total the government spends £3billion a year on travel alone .

Now we all know that £6bn is only a tiny percentage of the spending cuts that need to be made to cut the £156bn deficit, but this is a down-payment, a starting point that proves we are serious beyond all doubt that this deficit will decrease.

NB: For anyone wondering why I haven’t been blogging much lately I’ve now got a new job working for Nadhim Zahawi MP so am quite busy as I handover from my old job and get up to speed on this one. I should point out that anything I write here is my own view and not in anyway related to those of Nadhim Zahawi.

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