Saturday, 22 October 2011

It's all John's fault

This year, our government plans to spend £710 billion. That’s the figure that was published by Her Majesty’s Treasury when the Chancellor presented his Budget last March.

£710 billion. It’s a lot of money. Where does it come from?

£158 billion of it is our income tax and another £101 billion is the take from national insurance. It’s our money coming out of our pay packets. The government gets its cut when we earn money and when we spend it – they expect to collect £100 billion in VAT this year and a further £46 billion in excise duties on cigarettes, alcohol and road tax. They get another £26 billion out of us from Council Tax, and £73 billion from businesses, in the form of corporation tax and business rates.

When the figures don’t add up, when there’s a budget deficit, the government borrows money to close the gap, leaving us with new debts to pay off. £50 billion of the £710 billion above goes straight out of the door on interest payments. This year they’re planning to borrow another £121 billion.

All this money is public money. It is spent for us, on our behalf, by Whitehall. By civil servants. By officials.

Public money deserves to be spent extra wisely. How good are Whitehall at deciding how to spend it? How much public money is wasted? And how could the waste be reduced?

Friday, 14 October 2011

WrinklesInTheMatrix: Francis Maude 1

There it is, right on the gov.uk website, Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, Cabinet Office minister, his biography, under Directorships:
His other jobs outside politics include non-executive director of ASDA Group, director at Salomon Brothers, and managing director of Morgan Stanley & Co.
Let's make sure we've got that right. Catechism:
Q What was Francis Maude's job at Morgan Stanley?
A He was managing director.

Q Who was managing director of Morgan Stanley?
A Francis Maude was.

Q Where was Francis Maude managing director?
A Morgan Stanley.
Now here's a wrinkle – there is no managing director of Morgan Stanley.

WrinklesInTheMatrix: Oliver Letwin 1

Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, has been caught by the Daily Mirror throwing state secrets in a rubbish bin in the park:
David Cameron's right-hand man Oliver Letwin has been caught dumping secret papers in park waste bins.

The PM's blundering policy adviser was seen on five separate days throwing away sensitive correspondence on terrorism, national security and constituents' private details.
Now here's a wrinkle – four years ago, Mr Letwin said in the Times that:
Cameron Conservatism puts no faith in central direction and control. Instead, it seeks to identify social and environmental responsibilities that participants in the free market are likely to neglect, and then establish frameworks that will lead people and organisations to act of their own volition in ways that will improve society by increasing general wellbeing.
The suggestion then was that Mr Letwin was just the man to establish the framework within which people would behave responsibly. Now it seems perhaps that he isn't.

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Psychological note: Everyone including Tony Blair had a good laugh at Mr Letwin's "sociocentric frameworks" and "econocentric paradigms" but his article was actually a bit serious and had something to do with "nudging", i.e. getting people to behave properly without passing laws all the time, an unimpeachable objective which somehow becomes sinister in his hands.

Obituary: his article was also intimately linked with the death of the Conservative party.

WrinklesInTheMatrix: Ian Watmore 1

Eight days after the publication of Whose bust is it anyway?, Sir Gus O'Donnell announced that he would stand down as Cabinet Secretary at the end of the year. According to the Telegraph, so it must be true, Sir Gus's job as permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office is to be taken by Ian Watmore:
His third job as permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office will go to Ian Watmore, a former chief executive of the Football Association who is currently chief operating officer of the Whitehall efficiency group in the Cabinet Office.
Now here's a wrinkle – eight months earlier, on 1 February 2011, Mr Watmore appeared in front of the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) to give evidence in the Committee's enquiry into good governance and civil service reform. At Q154 he was asked by the Chair to identify himself and said:
I am Ian Watmore, Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office ...
Does Mr Watmore have second sight? If so, what else can he tell us about the future?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Less for more

First Katie worked for James and Ian. Then Ian left and so did Katie. When James left as well, Katie stopped working for Ian and went to work for James. Then James left and Sarah took over. There was no room for Katie so she went back to working for Ian. Until Christine left and now Katie finds herself working for David. Or is it the other way around? Will Ian's will prevail? Just how much are we paying CSC? And for what? How did the Daily Mail get themselves suckered? And where does Andrew come into it?

All of that and more – including Sir Anthony Blunt – in the latest edition of the long-running programme, Whitehall in control ...

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Efficiency and reform, Whitehall-style

Take a look at this CV:
Managing Director (age 42) of the UK arm of a global management consultancy – Chief Information Officer of the UK government – Head of Tony Blair’s Delivery Unit – Permanent Secretary at the Department of Innovation Universities and Skills – Chief Executive of the Football Association – Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office – Chief Operating Officer (age 52) of the Efficiency & Reform Group – and it’s not over yet.
Enviable. By any lights, that is a successful career.

Or is it?

Monday, 3 October 2011

Whose bust is it anyway?

In 1970, when Augustine Thomas O’Donnell started his economics degree at Warwick, Ed Balls was three years old.