Yesterday in a speech to Demos, David Cameron said that the recession has “hammered the final nail in the coffin” of big government. He went on to claim that Gordon Brown had allowed the financial crisis to develop by accumulating exorbitant amounts of public debt. He called for more restraint with regard to “setting up an extra centralized government response” to the crisis and raised questions about uncontrolled government spending, poorly executed public services, unnecessary state intervention and rapidly expanding government.
These questions come at a crucial moment; every child born in the UK now starts out with over £17 thousand of government debt written on what should be a clean slate, and the state faces up to two million jobless people in the coming years. As people lose their jobs and government seems more and more willing to spend public money, the logical question is whether or not all that spending is getting taxpayers anything in return.
Countless government projects and services simply aren’t performing, the banks are still failing and people are still losing their jobs. And yet the bill keeps rising. Questioning the value of government programs and whether or not the government is doing its job is now more important than ever. Government needs to reassess which programs are essential and whether their spending will do more harm than good in the long run. Being born with massive debt hanging over your head doesn’t appear to be in anyone’s interest.
But that is why groups like the TaxPayers’ Alliance ask the questions, why transparency is vital and why government accountability is so important. Yesterday, Cameron asked one of the questions I think others are asking as well; “...how can we improve things by spending as little taxpayers’ money as necessary?”
The TaxPayers’ Alliance’s Council Spending Uncovered series focuses on these issues of accountability and transparency, by raising the questions about how local authorities spend public money. In December we asked such questions about the amount of money spent on publicity by local government. Today, in our report Council Spending Uncovered II: Middle Management Pay, we ask if a growing government and a higher paid government is necessarily a better government. Does the rising tax burden mean a more effective public body? At a time when getting the most for our money is on everyone’s mind, when the job market is shrinking and people choose to be more careful with their cash, is it unreasonable to ask that our leaders do the same? With less money in their pockets, how can taxpayers be expected to bankroll pay rises that run against present financial conditions? For more information and to see our findings, click here.
So ultimately, raising questions is important, and we applaud those that do. But that is only the first step. In the end, it is only results that count.