Friday, 5 October 2018

End to Austerity Means More/Better Services? Don't Hold Your Breath.

It seems the single take-away point from the Conservative Party Conference for the BBC is the declaration that there will be an end to austerity.

Don't hold your breath.

Despite the "cuts", the national debt has spiralled. Controls on spending have failed to curtain the increase in the amount of debt the country as a whole has to service.

That people across the country still see reduced services means that there is something systemically wrong happening with public finances. We are taxed more than ever as a proportion of GDP, yet the debt is rising, public service wages have flatlined and services are reducing... how can that be?

The problem is the system. The system that controls spending and oversees expenditure is broken.

Take the NHS: I hate to bang on about this, but almost half the money being put into the NHS goes into settling negligence lawsuits and paying lawyers. That's half the NHS budget gone before deciding on priorities like wages and service provision.

The system allows this to happen because it fails to tackle the cause of the lawsuits. Doctors and nurses found guilty of negligence are allowed to continue to practice. It's just one of those things, human error, etc.

This systemic failure needs to be addressed. Quality control in the NHS needs to be stepped up and the bad apples rooted out. Otherwise the lawsuits will bleed the NHS dry like an infestation of ticks. When exactloy do we do something about it? When three quarters of the NHS budget goes to lawyers?

Exactly the same goes for MOD procurement. There is so much waste. Yes, I get that the military should have the best equipment going, but it can get the same capability at a far cheaper cost by being a bit savvy. First, by specifying better contracts with contractors so that the contractor takes the hit for any failures to meet specification. Second, by buying equipment already available rather than keep inventing brand new equipment every time it needs something. A little compromise can bring great savings. For instance making our new carriers suitable for cat and trap aircraft would have made them interoperable with other Navies and allowed us not to rely soley on the expensive F-35 to provide fixed-wing capability. For the 4 million (probably 8 mil by the time it had been implemented, such is the creep in costs) or so it would have cost had it been specified ofrom the outset, we could have had far greater flexibility and larger numbers of cheaper aircraft flying off their deck. As it is, we will have the humiliation of never being able to fly decent numbers of fixed-wing aircraft off the carriers.

When it comes to tax, there is lots to be done. The corporate abuse of tax havens needs to be stopped. Brexit will go some way to end that by forcing companies trading in the UK to pay tax in the UK and not in Luxembourg, Lichtenstein or Ireland.

Making tax simpler by reducing tax at source rather than collect it and pay someone to administer it being paid back is just a more intelligent way of doing things. Instead of tax credits, a universal family tax allowance will stop the tax credit job creation scheme. Abolishing the IR35 tax rule will free up investigators scrutinising endless tax returns for small discrepancies so the HMRC can jump on the self-employed. Lets free up that sector and get back the freedom, ingenuity and entrepreneurship that produced such a boom in I.T. across public and private companies back in the 90's. it will also put an end to the persecution of agency workers in the NHS, mission creep using IR35 as a tool it was not envisioned for.

In local government a cap on earnings can keep ludicrous salaries to a minimum. These are public servants and there should be no need for them to be paid six figure salaries. The person doing the job needs to be aware of their position as a servant of the people and should not take the piss by paying themselves 100 times the national average wage.

There needs to be a big push to rationalise national and local government. It's not about cuts, it's about doing things smarter, cheaper, freeer, it's about stopping practices that cost the puiblic money, it's about cutting the dead wood from the public purse.

Cutting the EU payments from the buget will be a big boost, but the impact can be magnified if we do things smarter and better.

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