Jan 2008 07

Near the end of last month the European Services Strategy Unit released a study (PDF) looking at cost overruns in outsourced government IT projects.  They looked at 105 contracts and found:

"The average percentage cost overrun is 30.5%.

57% of contracts experienced cost overruns."

Compare this with the results of our study Beyond the Dome:  Government Projects £23 Billion Over Budget which looked at 305 big government projects of various kinds and found an average overrun of 33.7 per cent and that 57 per cent of projects overran.  The evidence that we are paying a substantial price for endemic overruns becomes stronger by the day.  These overruns are a result of the politicians and civil servants responsible failing to properly specify what is desired from a project before the project begins, underestimating costs to get the project approved and paying over the odds in an attempt to solve the problem.

Jan 2008 07

The Better Government Initiative, a "grouping of top civil servants, ambassadors and former local government chief executives" with no relation to our own campaign, are set to report today.  The Financial Times describes how they will argue that:

"Gordon Brown’s proposals for revamping the way Britain is governed address neither the issue of "sofa government", nor the erosion of both cabinet responsibility and parliament’s ability effectively to scrutinise the executive."

These problems are described as contributing to the number of "failed and flawed" initiatives in recent years.  Their report will be released later today but at this stage it looks like they have confined themselves to too narrow a remit to address the root causes of public service failure and the resulting collapse in trust in politics.

The recommendations mentioned so far, parliament setting standards for the preparation of legislation, select committee members and chairmen being paid and select committee appointments being brought under the control of MPs, are pretty minor adjustments.  With administrative chaos and endemic failures in the public services more serious reform to end attempts by ministers without management experience to manage public services from the centre is needed.

Jan 2008 07

Which just leaves death and taxes

Some waste stories from Christmas and the New Year:

Outsourcing overruns cost £9bn- "Research by the European Services Strategy Unit shows that 105 outsourced public sector ICT contracts have significant cost overruns, delays and terminations. The unit examined large outsourcing contracts, PPPs, PFIs and strategic service delivery partnerships in central government, the health service, local authorities, public bodies and agencies over the last 10 years. It found that cost overruns amounted to £9bn for the 105 projects, with an average percentage cost overrun of 30.5 per cent. It also revealed that 30 per cent of contracts were terminated and more than half (57 per cent) had cost overruns." (Kablenet 24.12.07)

Mrs Martin blows £4,280 on cabs- "Michael Martin, the Commons Speaker, will be asked by MPs to explain why his wife has claimed about £1,000 a year in taxi expenses even though she is not employed by Parliament. Mary Martin claimed £4,280.20 for taxis since May 2004, which were “entirely in connection with household expenditure that supports the Speaker’s duties”. According to the Speaker’s spokesman, she needs to take taxis to shop for food for official functions… [but] a large Sainsbury’s is close to Parliament Square and the Oxford Street branch of Marks & Spencer will deliver food to the front door." (Times 29.12.07)

Scouse wedding already £20m in hock- "ON the eve of Liverpool’s year in the spotlight as European Capital of Culture 2008, the city has run up a £20m debt, leading the head of its arts programme to liken preparations to a “scouse wedding”. The deficit is so large – almost as big as the entire £22m budget for arts projects for the year – that Liverpool council has asked the government to bail it out." (Sunday Times 30.12.07)

£150m wasted on teenage sex campaign- "Every year, almost 50,000 girls under 18 fall pregnant, leading critics to claim that government-led efforts to encourage safer sex are backfiring. The number who conceive is at its highest level since a multi-million-pound teenage pregnancy crackdown almost a decade ago. As a result, Britain tops the league table of teenage mothers in western Europe, despite also having a record number of school-age abortions. This comes despite the Government investing more than £150 million in an attempt to stem the tide of conceptions – and pledging to cut teenage pregnancy rates by half by the end of this decade." (Sunday Telegraph 30.12.07)

£30m for wannabe pop stars- "More than £30 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent on a government scheme to help aspiring pop stars to make it in the music industry. Since its launch in 1999, a total of 13,463 unemployed musicians have taken part. But new figures show only 3,880 of them went on to "sustained employment" in the industry. That works out at £7,731 for each job found. A further £269,000 has been spent on producing workbooks on subjects such as jobs in the music industry, recording, copy­right and performing. Critics last night dismissed the scheme as a "bureaucratic waste of money" and said Britain’s booming music scene would have enabled most of the participants to find jobs without the Government’s help." (S Telegraph 30.12.07)

Total for the season to be jolly- £9,200,004,280.20

Dec 2007 21

The OECD’s new Health at a Glance statistics paint a picture of the poor value for money we get from the NHS.  We spend almost exactly the OECD average amount on healthcare.  The OECD average is $2,759 PPP wheras the UK’s is $2,724 PPP.

However, we don’t get average amounts of a number of key healthcare inputs:

  • Acute beds per 1000 people, the OECD average is 3.9 but in the UK we only have 3.1.  This feeds into higher occupancy rates with 84 per cent of UK beds occupied against 75 per cent in the wider OECD.  These high occupancy rates contribute to high rates of hospital infection.
  • Practicing doctors per 1000 people, the OECD average is 3.0 but in the UK we only have 2.4.  This relatively low number of doctors means that they are stretched which will make seeing a specialist more difficult and could leave doctors overworked leading to a lower standard of care.  This feeds into lower doctor consultations per capita, the OECD average if 6.8 but in the UK we only get 5.1.

We do have slightly more nurses than the OECD average, 9.1 per 1000 people in the UK against 8.9 in the OECD but the difference is slight and could represent a greater tendency to have nurses perform tasks that would be performed by a doctor in another country.

Relatively low numbers of doctors and shortages of beds aren’t created by a lack of resources but by inefficiency.  They contribute to low healthcare standards.  Mortality rates within 30 days of a patient has being admitted to hospital following a heart attack are 11.8 in the UK against 10.2 in the wider OECD.  This rate is particularly crucial as heart disease is the biggest killer in most industrialised countries.

Dec 2007 20

From today’s Financial Times:

"German industrialists have urged Alistair Darling to rethink his “highly regrettable” tax changes for foreign residents. German Industry UK, which represents 250 companies in Britain, wants the chancellor to postpone the new tax measures and allow a period of thorough consultation…

"Some German businesses have been angered by the changes, announced in the pre-Budget report, because the tax break had been used as an incentive to attract Germans to the UK. Without it, the UK’s disadvantages, such as the climate and high cost of living, would weigh on managers’ considerations, Mr Atenstaedt said. It was “not only the super-rich who would be affected, but also hard-working industry people”. He estimated that 10,000-20,000 Germans were working in Britain."

It comes to something when tax rises by Alistair Darling are criticised by high-tax Europe!

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