Sep 2011 02

Far from the rhetoric of “savage cuts” hyperbole being bandied about by commentators and politicians, in the real world staff numbers in the Department for Work and Pensions rocketed last year.

A Freedom of Information request by the TaxPayers’ Alliance has revealed that staff numbers rose from 96,066 in 2009-10 to 108,856 last year. The figures speak for themselves, and the contrast with the hot air about cuts could scarcely be more stark: 12,790 more staff, a 13.3 per cent increase in the headcount. George Osborne should mull over these figures the next time he wonders why the UK’s growth rate is so disappointing and then read the point Daniel Hannan MEP made yesterday in his Telegraph blog.

Here’s the thing: the relative prosperity of the South East comes, not despite the fact that it is getting less public subsidy than the other regions, but because of it. Government subventions can become like narcotics, debilitating their recipients, encouraging them to arrange their affairs around the next fix. In parts of the country where the state controls most of the economy, school leavers who might otherwise have become entrepreneurs instead join the public sector. A vicious circle is established.

The Government should start to cut overall spending now. Britain’s faltering economy needs less regulation and lower taxes. But with the deficit at such an unsustainable level, the Chancellor has no room to cut taxes without matching spending cuts. It’s time for the Government to find its reverse gear and bring back down swelling departmental staff numbers.

Rory is the Research Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance. Rory’s work is focused on tax policy and economics, with a particular emphasis on tax simplification.