It's not just schools forced to play the system

January 08, 2010 5:30 PM

The Times today leads with a report on how many of the nation's schools face punishment for the heinous crime of - get this - prudent financial planning.

Our concerns over such an action are obvious - it utterly deters efficient spending, and dissuades schools from sensible economic management - but it's not just schools that are forced to play the 'spend it or lose it' game.

While studying, I held a part time job in a local bookstore, who were often contacted by frantic council departments facing similar interference.

As the end of the financial year approached, and with the threat of having surplus cash removed from the next year's budget hanging over them, they turned to buying up thousands of pounds worth of national book tokens merely to use up what money remained.

Now, this is not to say that they wouldn't later be able to make good use of the book tokens - a trusty staple of prize-giving everywhere - but that this manner of forced spending merely exacerbates the very wastfulness the government is trying to avoid.

The bizarre bureacratic burden was so acutely felt that on more than one occasion I found myself hopping in a taxi to ensure that their book tokens - and, more importantly, their invoices - were hand-delivered in time to be processed before the budget cut-off.

Government interference like this is not only widespread but, as the TPA warned, seems merely to encourage the spending of every possible penny, whether it's necessary or not, and damn the consequences.

The Times today leads with a report on how many of the nation's schools face punishment for the heinous crime of - get this - prudent financial planning.

Our concerns over such an action are obvious - it utterly deters efficient spending, and dissuades schools from sensible economic management - but it's not just schools that are forced to play the 'spend it or lose it' game.

While studying, I held a part time job in a local bookstore, who were often contacted by frantic council departments facing similar interference.

As the end of the financial year approached, and with the threat of having surplus cash removed from the next year's budget hanging over them, they turned to buying up thousands of pounds worth of national book tokens merely to use up what money remained.

Now, this is not to say that they wouldn't later be able to make good use of the book tokens - a trusty staple of prize-giving everywhere - but that this manner of forced spending merely exacerbates the very wastfulness the government is trying to avoid.

The bizarre bureacratic burden was so acutely felt that on more than one occasion I found myself hopping in a taxi to ensure that their book tokens - and, more importantly, their invoices - were hand-delivered in time to be processed before the budget cut-off.

Government interference like this is not only widespread but, as the TPA warned, seems merely to encourage the spending of every possible penny, whether it's necessary or not, and damn the consequences.

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