After the publication yesterday of our Bumper Book of Government Waste, I have a piece in The Times today with a couple of helpful suggestions as to how to ensure that waste in the public sector is rooted out.
You can read read the article in full if you are a Times subscriber, but if not, my two key recommendations are as follows.
Firstly, while Francis Maude has done commendable work at the Cabinet Office in saving taxpayers’ money across Whitehall, there ought to be one minister with a roving brief specifically to wage war on waste with their salary entirely performance-related. The same kind of role could also be replicated in local councils too.
Secondly, and crucially, it is vital that the good practices introduced by the current Government in terms of publishing how politicians and bureaucrats spend our money are made as irreversible as possible. As I write in the piece:
What has helped to expose waste in the public sector has been the coalition’s insistence that central and local government publish detailed spending data online. This transparency is vital if we are to hold politicians to account for how they spend our money.
However, the coalition won’t be in power for ever and a future government may not share its commitment to transparency. So, with ministers scrabbling around for items to include in the Queen’s Speech, I have a simple proposal: a short Bill to enshrine in law that all government departments, quangos and local authorities have to continue publishing how they spend our money. That way, any attempt to row back on transparency would require primary legislation, which it would take a very bold politician to introduce.
I don’t propose new laws lightly, but this small measure would make it as difficult as possible for ministers in any future administration to take away from taxpayers the right to see how our money is being spent.
We can today reveal that the Government wasted £120.4 billion in 2012-13, the equivalent of £4,560 per every household in the UK. The astonishing sum is identified in a new edition of the Bumper Book of Government Waste (BBGW) which identifies potential savings in government expenditure.
The research is published to mark the launch of our new War on Waste campaign as we celebrates our tenth anniversary.
The TPA’s first Bumper Book of Government Waste, published when we launched in 2004, identified £50 billion of taxpayers’ money being wasted. This total has increased dramatically due to greater scrutiny, large improvements in government spending transparency and a large increase in overall spending.
Here are just some of the ways politicians wasted our money in 2012-13:
The Cabinet Office has embarked on a major programme of efficiency and reform. This has led to improvements in Whitehall procurement and contracts, but far too much taxpayers’ money is still wasted at local, national and European levels.
Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
“We need a War on Waste if taxpayers are to secure a better deal from the endless layers of government which are spending their hard-earned money. Politicians and bureaucrats are still squandering our cash while families struggle with punishing levels of taxation. Rooting out that wasteful spending once and for all will mean that more money can be left in the pockets of taxpayers, who are by far the best judges of how their own money should be spent.”
Bath shopkeepers and restaurateurs are up in arms over Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) council’s dramatic rise in on-street parking charges—up by 41% in some places!
Streets in central Bath are now part of a premium zone where the parking charges have rocketed. In Laura Place, next to the historic Pulteney Bridge with its plethora of small independent shops, the charge for an hour of parking has risen steeply from £2.40 to £3.40- a 42 per cent increase.
‘Now there is greater park and ride capacity, there is less need for motorists to drive their car into the city centre for an on-street space,’ says a Bath council spokesperson. ‘We also want to encourage people to use on-street car parking for shorter terms. This helps businesses in the immediate vicinity due to a greater turnover of cars that results in a better chance for their customers to find a parking space.’
Local traders disagree. Whereas Laura Place used to be a busy parking area, it is now virtually empty of cars. The nearby shopkeepers are incensed by what they see as a move that is putting off shoppers from coming to their part of Bath—not encouraging them. In response, the Independent Shops of Bath have started a petition calling for an end to the council’s increase of parking charges.
‘The price increases are large and unjustified especially at this time of year when post-Christmas people don’t have a great deal of disposable income,’ says Rajen Doshi, owner of A H Hale Chemist on Argyle Street. ‘It’s going to prevent people from coming to shop in Bath.’
‘For our customers they want to quickly park up and grab something—this will put them off,’ says Charlie Tanner of nearby John Moore Sports. He fears this increase will have a detrimental effect on local business.
Hitting the pavements to help support the petition in other parts of Bath, I rapidly got the best part of a hundred signatures from local shopkeepers who told a similar story.
‘Our customers ask us to post their purchases to them now, rather than drive into Bath to pick them up, because the parking is so expensive,’ said the manager of a doorknob shop in Broad Street. ‘That’s a pity because those customers used to pop into other shops when they came in and they aren’t doing that now.’
B&NES is seriously misunderstanding the dynamics of shopping in their city and as result of their fixation with expensive park-and-ride schemes are putting off many other customers who would frequent Bath’s independent shops.