Public spending we could do without: the civil list

15 06 2009

Public spendingGeorge Osborne has responded to claims that the main parties are failing to own up to their public spending plans by admitting that , apart from abolishing ID cards, they do not actually have any specific plans yet. He admitted that up until now he has ‘tip-toed’ around the issue. In the face of sustained media criticism, including from this blog although one is fain to deny any credit of course, Osborne has now admitted that something will have to be done, he just does not know what yet.

It is likely that the whole process from now will be like this, weak and faint-hearted, reflecting the political weakness of the main parties. Rather than giving a lead , politicians will shilly shally and end up responding to whoever shouts the loudest.  It would be better at this stage to conduct a rational public debate about the state and which parts of it we need to keep.

Let’s start by abolishing subsidies to the royal family

In that spirit I am inviting contributions about which parts of the public sector we could do without. I am not interested really in ‘efficiencies’ or ‘productivity’ as these are almost always euphemisms for sacking people, usually ‘middle management’. Besides applying usual standards of productivity to welfare for example is often a nonsense.

Instead I would like to know which big chunks of the state and the accompanying funding we should get rid of. To get the process started I suggest we abolish the civil list and other subsidies to the royal family. While this figure is in the millions rather than the billions it is a bizarre leftover from the past and should be abolished. Readers may infer an anti-monarchy current here and they would be right. The continuance of the monarchy in the UK is one of the hangovers from the past we could do without.

We should have a presidency instead. At least then if we ended up with a buffoon like Berlusconi it would be because we elected him. Under the UK system we could end up with the unelected buffoon Prince Charles as head of state instead.

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16 responses

15 06 2009

What can be do without?
1. Trident (estimates vary from £7-8bn to £20bn)
2.ID cards (£1bn – officially)
3. Flog the Falklands to Argentina, offering all residents £1m plus a house out of the asking price
4. Buy out PFI whilst the market is bust – a bit of short term pain but a long term saving
5 bring the troops back from Afghanistan

Every little helps…

16 06 2009

1. Eliminate all subsidies to private businesses (from farming to banking). (This will likely mean selling off or closing Northern Rock and RBS.)
2. Stop any cheques being paid to the EU until the auditors OK the books.
3. Renegotiate the UK’s commitment to the EU taking into account the elimination of subsidies to agriculture, fisheries, etc.
3. Make the NHS means-tested and available only to people earning less than £20,000
4. Introduce fees for GP visits, which can be refunded if the GP’s service is genuinely required.
5. Announce that state pensions will end in 2020 and require everyone in employment to save 5% of their income in a private pension plan.
6. Make public education means tested and available only to people earning less than £20,000
7. scrap all non-research based subsidies to universities
8. substantially reduce research grants to universities and convert the remaining ones into prizes subject to open source vetting

16 06 2009
Sean Bell

Scrap the Central Office of Information, the government’s publicity department that pays Adland agencies to scare and misinform us (it’s the UK’s biggest advertiser and publicity client!).
Then scrap all the central, regional and local government departments whose function is to send the right messages, raise awareness and invite consultation.
And finally, scrap the same functions in relation to the National Health Service, education and criminal justice.
Everything must go!

16 06 2009
Steve Nash

Through the fog of spin you can just about fathom Government thinking. Maintain State spending in areas where most are employed eg Health and Education and cut spending in infrastructure. The point about the NHS is that it is the largest Employer in Western Europe and the Government sees the employees as tacit supporters even if this is a delusion. We need a new vision for the future that can inspire people based upon a shift away from maintaining State employee pay and conditions and towards investment in infrastructure and technology. It means an end to the apartheid system of pay and conditions whereby State employees are receiving better terms and conditions than those achievable to the private sector, if you exclude the City. And yes this means teachers, doctors and the police. And yes this means cuts in pay and conditions.

16 06 2009
James Woudhuysen

1) Cut out the money that the UK’s 42 universities spend on a total of 84 courses in subjects such as reflexology, aromatherapy, acupuncture and herbal medicine, all beginning this September. Of these, 51 are courses leading to BSc degrees, meaning graduates will be entitled to assert that they are scientifically trained to the highest standards.

2) Close down Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, Cotham Hill, Cotham, Bristol BS6 6UJ; Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, 1053 Great Western Road, Glasgow G12 0XQ; Liverpool Department of Homeopathic Medicine, The Old Swan Health Centre, Crystal Close, Off St Oswald’s Street,Old Swan, Liverpool L13 2GA

3) Department for International Development (DFID), Ofcom, Ofgem, Ofwat, Ofqual, and another quango, the Young People’s Learning Agency for England (the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, now before the Lords, gives ministers 153 new powers and establishes a new exams watchdog, Ofqual,plus the YPLAforE quango)

4) The Energy Saving Trust, Renewable Fuels Agency, Sustainable Development Commission, Office of Climate Change

5) English Heritage, Business Link, Learning and Skills Council, all Regional Development Agencies, the House of Lords.

16 06 2009
Jane Sandeman

Any anti-obesity awareness campaigns, well-being campaigns, Sure Start, any initiative that is about interfering in people’s lives and bossing them about and is not about organising social resources for practical social good (e.g scrap the Every Child Matters database and any expense of input and service that that involves).

16 06 2009
Dan Travis

1. All funding to the professionalisation of the child rearing process, including surveillance by state professionals and parenting classes. CRB’s should be scrapped.

2. All the agencies dedicated to increasing ‘participation’ in sport and abolish all ‘community sports officers’. Instead, loads of cheap kit and facilities.

3. Licensing bodies and staff that restrict the supply of alcohol, culture and food. I’ll take the risk personally thanks very much.

4. Speed cameras and traffic control initiatives – in the most part are useless.

16 06 2009
Brid Hehir

Developing some of the suggestions above would lead to the abolition of Public Health departments. Their agenda has become so moralistic, regulatory, intrusive and dictatorial, that they deserve to go.

Add to that the mushrooming Counselling industry who are trying in their faux-caring ways, to dictate to us the ‘right’ way of thinking and doing.

Scrap the NHS Choice agenda.

Abolish all charges for NHS and Social Care and scrap the personalisation agenda.

17 06 2009

Looking at the 2009 budget breakdown (, the top three areas of spending are (in order):

– Social Protection (169bn) (used to be Social Security: is ‘protection’ more or less good than ‘security’? Anyway…)
– Health (111bn)
– Education (82bn)

which amounts to nearly 60% of the total budget of 618bn. So, I’m not making any policy recommendations here, but if you serously want to remove “big chunks of the state and the accompanying funding”, is there any way of avoiding tackling these areas? Isn’t that how to tackle a budget – start with the big ticket items and work down?

Bear in mind though that the problem is not that these numbers are too large in any absolute sense but only in relation to the economy as a whole. If profits were considerably larger then we might be saying that not enough is spent on these areas: the underlying real imperative must be always to expand productive capacity rather than to trim expense to fit budgets.

17 06 2009
Libby Goldby

– Close down all tax havens and restore recent cut in income tax
– Abandon Trident and ID cards (obviously)
– Abandon \’choice\’ agenda for NHS and schools (and remove tax benefits for private schools)

17 06 2009
Michael Massey

Abolish the Regional Development Agencies and drastically slim Business Links and Learning and Skills Council. Abolish the Sustainable Development Commission. Shut down all “diversity/equality” units and processes in central and local government. Reduce all “communications” units in central and local government by 50%. Ban all bonus schemes in central and local government.

18 06 2009
Paul Reeves

Drastically reduce the authourity of, reduce spending on, or consider abolishing altogether, local and national ‘planning’ (so called) authourities- whose primary purpose seems to be to stifle the will of any individual or organisation to make an actual proposal for a project let alone actually get to the stage of actually making a plan and carry it through to completion.

Airport terminals (eg T5) take years to get approval, nuclear (and presumably now coal and even wind and tidal) power schemes even longer – massively increasing the final cost as well as the cost of the planning enquiries themselves.

Similarly, abolishing green belt planning regulations would provide a stimulation to the construction sector, as well as politically clarifying as to whether people are for the future or for the past.

Even on petty planning issues such as house extensions do we always want to defer upto a higher authourity to decide what our local environment is like?

18 06 2009

Well so much for bashing the Civil List. I guess its an easy target for some. But Britain seems to be in a socialistic soup and going down fast. If you keep bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator nobody will want to get off their butts and make something happen. The business class and risk takers will give up and go somewhere else unless its to crime which is the ultimate free enterprise system. So dear Britons, give Labour the boot’s, pull up your socks and DO SOMETHING ! And oh yes give Liz back her yacht and make Briton proud to having a Queen with the classiest boat in the world. Its not for her, its for you. Be proud of what you are as a country, show off your monarchy, its you it represents. Who else can show off that they have what it takes and no matter who is king they have the guts to flaunt it.
BTW monarchies are way cheaper to run than elected Presidents. You want another bunch of crooks to feather their pockets every time the regime changes? Didn’t think so.

27 06 2009

Angus has hit it on the head. Many of the suggestions cited by others are just asking for tinkering with the costs of [peripheral] things they find objectionable on a cultural rather than economic level. They may be politically significant campaigns, quangos, etc, but ultimately marginal in terms of fiscal expenditure.

The fact that commenters here have latched onto these is not dissimilar to the chattering classes’ fascination and outrage with UK MP’s expenses – small, tangible amounts that people can relate to and discuss in relation to their own lifestyles, compared to say, the trillions forked out to bailout the banks [without any adjoining democratic oversight]; a largescale policy of far greater ramifications which however seems to provoke less fervid discussion.

I guess that means that – at the moment – largescale spending or change isn’t likely to become a “social object” in the parlance of Jyri Engstrom []; whereas chatter and socialising around micro-management and micro-manifestos is.

More inegnuity is required 🙂

6 07 2009
Dave Clements

Unlike Libby and Brid the last thing I want to do is advocate ‘abandoning’ or ‘scrapping’ the choice/personalisation agenda – at least not with regards social care.

For me, this is all about advocating a welfare model that is more conducive to our sense of ourselves as autonomous and robust individuals. It is only by promoting people’s Independence, Choice and Control – as the rhetoric goes – that we can establish a new, fair and just welfare settlement and balance the books too.

So unlike the other contributors I would like to see not just cuts, but the extension of a government agenda that funnily enough goes against its own risk-averse, intrusive, paternalistic grain. Sadly, despite its potential for making savings to the public purse and helping individuals escape dependeny on the State; in the current climate of anxious managerialism and abuse scandals, giving people greater control over their lives needs all the support it can get.

14 04 2010
The prince or the pauper - Lorraine Murphy - The Celebrity Industrial Complex - True/Slant

[…] Honestly! “Royal goes to bar, drinks moderately, goes home quietly.” What, I ask again, is the point? For this Britain pays £7,900,000 a year? […]

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