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How to wield the spending axe

It was grimly amusing to watch as TV interviewers tried to get some straight answers out of the UK government and the Tory opposition about what items of public spending would and could be cut to get the finances under control. George Osborne, shadow Chancellor, was pretty evasive, as I have come to expect. Well, for those who want to see some sort of shopping list of cuts, the Taxpayers’ Alliance has come up with a handy list of items deserving of termination.

10 comments to How to wield the spending axe

  • The TPA’s heart is in the right place (despite they have an obsession with Council Tax), but they just list the clearly superfluous spending, it’s “top-down” in the jargon.

    As we have reached the point of no return, the correct approach is in fact “zero-based budgeting” where you notionally sack everybody, shut everything down, and then just reinstate the people who actually identifiably do something useful – the answer is, only a quarter of taxpayer funded jobs are “frontline” (glossing over the fact that we can argue whether the state should provide schools’n’hospitals in the first place).

    There is a hug gap between current spending minus what TPA identify as waste and what actual “frontline” spending is, I can only assume that the balancing figure is waste as well.

  • Did anyone else see the bit on the BBC where Balls and Cable were interviewed and balls kept sucking-up to Cable and patting him?

    Balls is mental. Completely nucking futz.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite correct Mark Wadsworth.

    The correct thing to do is to openly admit “we are heading for bankruptcy – we must start from a ZERO budget, with people having to justify (beyond all reasonable doubt) ever Pound of government spending”.

    No sacred cows and no “rights” in the sense of “entitlements” of money (or goods and services) from government. All spending must be questioned – with the burden of proof placed upon it.

    This is not “libertarian principle” by the way – this is just basic accounting practice for a situation like this (especially when one factors in the FUTURE costs of existing Welfare State spending committments).

    The Taxpayers Alliance (decent and intelligent people though they are) act as if they do not fully grasp the above.

    And as for little George …….

    It is better to pass over in silence (as it with Mr Cameron also).

  • Paul Marks


    At least everyone knows that Mr Balls is a nonenity – that he is just planning the future Lib/Lab pact (by the way the Economist magazing wants a Lib/Con pact, which would utterly destroy anything good left in the Conservative party).

    However, “Vince” Cable is treated (by the media anyway) as a serious figure – when actually he is a joke who does not have a sensible idea in his head.

    I think it is because he speaks in a serious style and looks serious (perhaps the baldness helps – I certainly hope so, being bald myself).

    This may be why the crap Mr Cable comes out with it treated seriously.

    Unless of course one believes (as the Economist magazine does) that demanding ever more taxes and regulations is being “serious and sensible” about economic policy.

    Now the Economist will wrong foot me by comming out against Obama tomorrow.

    Actually that is possible – they have lost so many American readers that they (unlike their sister publication the Finanicial Times – the take over of medical care and education is a “long overdue centerist reform”accoding to those Soviet trained “journalists”, and no I am not making up the bit about “Soviet trained” with some of them), have been edgeing away from Comrade Barack.

    True they declared the life long Marxist Obama the “Renewal of America” – but they are also whores who will do anything for money.

    So it will be interesting to see which way the Economist jumps (most likely they will fudge things).

    However, I do not see them comming out against the noble Vince Cable.

    No – Cameron and Cable, that is the Economist magazine vision for Britain.

  • My problem with the Taxpayers Alliance is that they strike me basically as a bunch of politicians and/or lobbyists, who want to play politics from offices in Whitehall. They are coming at politics from the right direction, and are good at PR, and I agree with most things that they say, but I am not sure this is the point.

    However, the consequence of this approach is that they are only chipping around and the edges. All the things they recommend here should be cut, but ultimately they only save trivial to small sums of money compared to the size of the state. What we actually need are massive cuts at the heart of government. And I don’t see them in this list.

  • The size of the cut does need to be in the order of £150bln+ to even begin to make a dent.

    You can only close the Potato Council once.

    Go back 5 or so years and even with inflation, spending was dramatically down, headcounts too.

    The Socialist ratchet needs to be slipped or, if necessary, smashed to smithereens. I think it is now necessary.

  • jon livesey

    “The Socialist ratchet needs to be slipped or, if necessary, smashed to smithereens.”

    I don’t disagree, but the genius of the Labour Party is that it has found a way to hook into a pretty vast number of voters who benefits from Government overspending, at least in the short term.

    It was noted as long ago as classical Greece that once you give the masses a vote, then you are on a slippery slope as they vote themselves more and more benefits from the public purse.

    In the end, of course, the wheels come off and the masses suffer more than anyone, but they can’t distinguish short from long-term, so they keep doing it.

    They supported the Kaiser, then they voted for Weimar, then they voted for the Nazis, then for the “social market”. It’s just whoever promises them the most.

  • Peter Melia

    The Taxpayers Alliance second deletion is of so-called “Regional Development Agencies” . Which might have quite far-reaching effects. At first this appears to be a British thing, but Googling RDA’s leads one into ramifications all over the EU, for the RDA’s prime objective is to secure clear and definite constituency boundaries for the EU Parliament.

  • I’m surprised nobody seems to have yet suggested cancelling the 2012 Olympics.

    Given their economic history, we should never have bid for them, in the first place.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Jennings (as always) has a point.

    For example a typical Tea Party protestor approach to cutting government spending might run something like the following….

    In 1950 rearmament was well under way and government (even exculding the military) was HUGE by traditional American standards. Total government spending (Federal, State and local) was 24% of G.D.P. (I know that G.D.P is a rotten way of measuring anything – but it is the favourate measure of the establisment so to “be nice” let us use it).

    However, now total government spending (again Federal, State and local – but it is mostly Federal) is way over 40% of G.D.P. (especially if one counts off the books government spending – the practice that is criminal if Enron does it, but somehow legal if government does it).

    So government spending could be just about CUT IN HALF and it would still only be at the levels (even as a share of the economy) that it was in the vast BIG GOVERNMENT days of 1950.

    Too complex for a Tea Party person to think up?

    Not at all – the above is (almost word for word) the position of Mr Tea Party himself (Glenn Beck).

    And the numbers?

    Accepted even by the establishment Economist magazine (see the Lexington article this week – where it quotes the numbers without citeing who has been talking about cutting the government’s share of the economy in half, as this only takes America back to the Big Goverment days of 1950).


    Because the Taxpayer’s Alliance would get a big yawn at a Tea Party event does NOT mean it is no good – indeed by the low standards of Britain (the standards of Brown, Cameron, Darling and little George) it is a wonderful group, deserving strong support.