Monday, 27 September 2010

Like rats leaving a burning quango

Will the Coalition's recently-announced quango cull actually result in smaller, cheaper government? Richard Wellings isn't convinced:
a significant proportion of quangos are very difficult to abolish. Some perform the basic functions of government, such as HM Revenue and Customs and HM Courts Service, while others are effectively required in order to implement European Union directives. It was instructive that the coalition was unable to remove an unnecessary tier of government by abolishing the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). Instead, it is replacing them with Local Enterprise Partnerships and transferring some of the RDAs' responsibilities to the Department of Business Innovation and Skills.

This pattern is likely to be repeated across government following the CSR. Quangos will certainly be abolished and ministers will speak of radical action being taken to tackle the deficit and reduce the role of the state. But in practice most of the staff and nearly all of the functions will be transferred to other agencies. There appears to be no genuine appetite within the coalition for the kind of attack on red tape necessary to slim down government bureaucracy significantly.
Wellings also echoed the observations of John Redwood:
The fine print of George Osborne's Emergency Budget reveals that government spending in real terms will remain more or less steady over the next five years. Indeed, when ministers speak of cuts, they often mean a reduction in previously planned increases in expenditure. The Treasury's optimistic forecasts for economic growth are the key to the coalition's deficit reduction programme rather than any dramatic scaling back of public services.
According to my calculations, we'd need annual inflation of 2.9% for the 'cuts' to be real. That's actually not looking too unlikely at the moment, and it seems assured if we have another round of quantitative easing, but we lose either way.

Wellings concludes,
The coalition's lack of radicalism may be reassuring to government workers, as well as the millions dependent on welfare benefits, but it also means that policymakers are doing little to create the kind of low-tax, low-regulation environment where entrepreneurship can flourish. The deeper issue of Britain's rapid relative economic decline is not being addressed and as a consequence both public and private sector employees will be poorer in the long run.
The whole article is well worth reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment