Friday, July 14, 2006

A Good Day To Bury The Marx Brothers

Treasury Questions

Under cover of the Middle East crisis and Lord Levy's arrest, Gordo Marx used the end of yesterday's Treasury Questions to serve up another dollop of his trademark surrealism: a 71 page plot outline for his forthcoming laughathon Comprehensive Spending Review 2- The Joke's On You.

Stripping away 70 pages of cross-cutting mumble strategic waffle, the best jokes are:
  • The money really has run, really, ALL THAT MONEY HAS GONE. IT'S RUN OUT
  • In future, to fund the sharp-end, all admin budgets will be cut by 2.5% pa for ever: a fantastic plot device, because of course such "efficiency savings" only exist in Gordo's head anyway (see many previous posts on Gershon Delusion, starting here)
  • Four departments- Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs, HM Treasury, and the Cabinet Office- have been singled out to deliver expenditure cuts of 5% pa in real terms from 2008-09 onwards. As madcap plotlines go that's terrific- DWP and HMRC are already in meltdown, and are already losing billions to tax and benefit fraud (see many other posts, including this week's on VAT fraud) . Losses will escalate wildly as staffing levels fall
  • The Home Office budget will be frozen- that "not fit for purpose" guardian of public safety that is already incapable of keeping foreign murderers in clink or controlling our borders, will now need to cope with No 10's torrent of crazy new ID cards/police mergers/cashpoint fines/respect agenda/headline grabbers on a frozen budget. Hilarious
  • Public sector pay increases will be held to 2% pa, the Bank of England's inflation target. Clearly that implies a cut in real pay relative to the private sector which will go on getting 2-3% above inflation. So stand by for laughs a plenty as the public sector unions crank up for the Decade of Discontent
  • Since the family silver's already gone, they're now going to flog off the land- £30bn's worth: whole swathes of Surrey and Hampshire will lose those Army ranges and disappear under concrete. Watch out for more high jinks as "Mad" Major Frobisher and his band of vigilante nimbys strike back

Gordo's plot outline also gives us an insight into his current mental state vis a vis Gershon Delusion. The poor chap's obviously deteriorated further since the Budget, and you really shouldn't laugh, but I'm going to blog that separately.

Update: A couple of comments have suggested this post is confused- I claim to want small government but don't want cuts at HMT or land what do I want? Just to recap, what I want is government to get out of areas it doesn't need to be in and is pretty hopeless at. I'd like to see public services- including health and education- fundamentally reformed along the choice and competition lines set out by the excellent Reform; I'd like to see fiscal decentralisation, and locally elected law officers, along the lines set out by Direct Democracy. What concerns me about the Gershon cuts- to the extent that they're real- is that they're arbitrary, a cosmetic exercise that is getting out of hand, and for example, further undermining the ability of DWP and HMRC to prevent tax and benefit fraud. The knock-on costs are likely to far outweigh any supposed savings. (For a lengthier and altogether weightier critique of Brown's paper, see Reform)

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