Thursday 19 March 2015

Budget travel to Estonia

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his 2015 Budget report yesterday.

The media have clocked all the good jokes, please see for example How George Osborne's Budget jokes cost Britain £81m.

A selection of press release jokes issued by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills some time ago without anyone laughing:

• 1.11.12 More than £1 billion to be invested in UK science and research
• 5.11.12 New powers for courts to improve justice for wronged consumers
• 6.11.12 Government to care homes sector: help us improve enforcement of regulation
• 8.11.12 Fallon to big businesses: Commit to paying suppliers on time, or be named
• 8.11.12 Use of Civil Sanctions Powers Contained in the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008
• 9.11.12 UK space industry set to rocket with £240 million of investment
• 9.11.12 Government to invest £20 million in synthetic biology
• 13.11.12 Mums and dads will share parental leave
• 14.11.12 Business Secretary’s statement on European Commission’s proposed directive on improving gender balance on Europe’s corporate boards
• 15.11.12 Business Minister hails North East Regional Growth Fund success
• 16.11.12 Business Minister announces £40 million boost for high growth SMEs
• 17.11.12 New power to boost consumers’ access to data
• 20.11.12 £150 million for businesses to build skilled workforce
• 21.11.12 £400 million boost to England’s colleges
• 21.11.12 UK secures £1.2 billion package of space investment
• 22.11.12 Government sets out steps to change culture in UK equity markets
• 23.11.12 Bureaucracy busting boost for street traders
• 23.11.12 Emerging technologies to drive growth identified
• 26.11.12 Multi-million pound boost for UK manufacturing supply chains
• 28.11.12 Green bank opens for business
• 28.11 12 Lord Currie sets out vision for new Competition and Markets Authority
• 30.11.12 Business Secretary urges headhunters to seek out new female talent
• 3.12.12 Boost for UK automotive supply chains
• 4.12.12 Groceries Adjudicator to have new power to fine supermarkets
• 6.12.12 Vince Cable launches schemes for skills and jobs on South Coast
• 6.12.12 New £550m capital investment programme will transform FE colleges
All po-faced, they say: "While Tory MPs cheered a series of one-liners aimed at Ed Miliband and Labour, taxpayers will be covering the bills". Taxpayers cover the bills whenever politicians open their mouths. Yesterday's announcements were no different.

And while they were busy being all reproving, the Puritan press missed the bad jokes, see particularly p.27:

1.76 Budget 2015 announces that the digital ambition will extend beyond central government and arms-length bodies, to consider local services. HM Treasury, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Government Digital Service will collaborate with partners in local government, as the sector develops a set of proposals that will enable more customer-focussed, digitally-enabled and efficient local services in time to inform future budget allocations.

1.77 In this Parliament the government has delivered significant savings from centralising the procurement of goods and services. Budget 2015 announces that, following a successful trial, the government will implement ‘GOV.UK Verify’ – a new way for people to prove their identity online when using government services – across central government. This means that departments will use the same tool for their digital services, reducing duplication. Further, to prevent individual departments paying different amounts to either build their own data centres or outsource this service, the government will create a joint venture to host departments’ non-cloud based servers, which could save up to £100 million.

And p.37:

1.108 Building on these foundations, Budget 2015 announces that the government will transform the tax system over the next Parliament by introducing digital tax accounts, removing the need for annual tax returns. By the end of the next Parliament over 50 million individuals and small businesses will be able to see and manage their tax affairs online.

We have noted this government's green ink fascination with Estonia before, please see for example Francis Maude seeks future in Estonia and RIP IDA – The Road to Estonia.

Estonia provides all or most of its public services on-line. So we are to have digital-by-default in the UK.

Estonia only needs one website. So we are to have one website in the UK for all of central government and for all of our 450 or so local authorities (para.1.76 above), never mind the fact that the entire population of Estonia is little bigger than the London Borough of Ealing.

Estonia relies on issuing everyone with a central government ID. So we are to have GOV.UK Verify (RIP) in the UK (para.1.77 above):

The UK should be more Estonian

Estonians can complete their tax returns in 19 seconds. So we are to have digital tax accounts (para.1.108 above) in the UK:

There will be all sorts of promises about the security of these systems. You can't put them in the bank but never mind, the Chancellor must have his little joke, let's go all the way, Tallinn here we come, for "Estonia", read "the UK": Estonia hit by 'Moscow cyber war'.

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