Gordon's "Achievements" - Costly and Questionable

He forgot to mention this one

Yesterday, the Prime Minister listed the key achievements of the Labour government. Well, he actually told us how Britain would have suffered had the Tories remained in power:

"No paternity leave, no New Deal, no bank of England independence, no Sure Start, no devolution, no civil partnerships, no minimum wage, no new investment in the NHS, no new nurses, no new police, no new schools."

It's a stunning list, because virtually every one of Mr Brown's items has featured regularly in BOM as being clear cases of government failure, and a serious drain on taxpayers and businesses. Let's run through them:

    • Paternity leave and the minimum wage - these are part of Labour's mega-package of labour market regulation, which has imposed such heavy additional costs on British employers. Even during the good times they have had a seriously damaging effect on employment in depressed low productivity areas such as Dewsbury (see this blog), and in low-wage occupations like agriculture, cleaning, catering where "protected" domestic workers have been displaced by hundreds of thousands of less well protected migrants. The problems are about to get much worse in the economic downturn.

    • New Deal - As the Public Accounts Committee discovered last year, the government's welfare-to-work programme, the New Deal, has been an expensive fiasco (eg see this blog). Despite costing us some £6bn, we still have 4.2m people of working age living in workless households, the vast majority of whom are supported by taxpayers. That costs us an estimated £12.7bn pa, including £3.4bn pa on benefits for lone parents (source: NAO Report). It's equivalent to nearly 4 pence on the standard rate of income tax. Even worse, most of the individual New Deal programmes cost taxpayers far more than simply continuing to pay the benefits - one especially daft programme costs an eye-watering £76,540 per job.

    • Bank of England independence - as we've blogged many times, BoE independence in terms of monetary policy is A Good Thing, and the Tories should have done it when we crashed out of the ERM. But the way that Labour - and more specifically, Brown himself - actually implemented independence, has been An Unmitigated Disaster. For reasons known only to themselves, they packaged independence with stripping the Bank of prime responsibility for bank oversight, and transferred it to the half-baked low-skill FSA. The new arrangements have been slammed by everyone, including the Labour dominated Treasury Select Committee (eg see this blog). Their failure will cost us billions.

    • Sure Start - frankly it's baffling that Brown still mentions this £5bn+ fiasco, when virtually everyone, including Tony Blair, admits it has totally failed. It has not helped the bottom-of-the-pile children it was designed for, but has largely gone to better-off families who didn't need the help in the first place (eg see this blog). But there are now so many public sector jobs dependent on it, it's taken on a life of its own.

    • Devolution - this is another complete mess. As we've noted many times (see here for all BOM Scotland blogs), by devolving spending authority without devolving tax-raising responsibility, Labour has given us the worst of all worlds. English taxpayers are increasingly resentful of Scotland's higher public spending allocations, and the Union is under threat as never before.

    • Civil partnerships - hurrah! One item on Brown's list that he actually can boast about. But let's not get carried away - after a flurry during their first year, the number of civil partnerships halved last year to just 8,728.

    • Minimum wage - see above

    • Investment in the NHS - first, let's revert to calling it spending on the NHS, shall we. And yes, Labour has massively increased spending - it's almost tripled since 1997-98, a 70%+ increase in real terms. But the results have been dismal. We still lag Europe on most measures of health outcomes (like cancer survivorship), and according to the Office for National Statistics, NHS productivity has been falling by 2-2.5% pa (see this blog).

    • Nurses - yes nurse numbers have increased - from 320,000 in 1997 to just under 400,000 now. But there are increasing doubts about the way nurses are used, from "too posh to wash", through to the amount of admin work now landed on them, through to so-called nurse quacktitioners supplanting doctors. Moreover, during the giant recruitment splurge earlier this decade, many overseas nurses were employed, some of whom lack the necessary language skills, and who subsequently blocked the recruitment of newly and expensively trained British nurses. Finally, because of initial over-recruitment, nurse numbers have actually fallen since 2005. In reality, it's another expensive shambles (see many previous posts, eg here).

    • Police - yes again, numbers have increased - from 127,000 in 1997 to 140,500 now. But when the Home Affairs Select Committee probed this last year, they pointed out that police numbers had increased far less than police budgets - only one-quarter as much - and they reported a depressing catalogue of inefficiency and mind-boggling paper mountains. Police on the beat, it isn't.

  • New Schools - yes, Labour has spent a packet of our money on new school buildings - many funded via over-priced PFI contracts. Moreover, they are planning to spend a further £50-70bn over the next decade in a crazed binge to rebuild 3,500 secondaries and half our primary schools (see this blog). But of course, what matters is not the school buildings, but what happens in them, and on that we have endured another decade of dumbing down and social engineering. Among other things, A Levels are now two whole grades easier (see this blog), and we have crashed down the OECD league table of educational achievement (see see this blog).

Look, Labour governments always spend vast amounts of our money. That's what they do. We all surely know that when we vote for them.

We also know they always confuse spending with results.

But rarely have we had such a clear illustration of how they can see success in a record of unmitigated failure.

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