Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Week In Big Government

Decisions, decisions

The wacky world of Big Government is constantly banging into the real world inhabited by the rest of us. Four good examples this week:

One: tax credits. The Gordian Knot continues to defeat all-comers. The National Audit Office reminds us it has qualified the HM Revenue & Customs accounts for the fourth year running because of its shambolic implementation. Last year- once again- HMRC overpaid nearly £2bn and simultaneously underpaid £0.6bn. Remember, this is not some tinpot Nu Labour quango; this is Her Majesty’s tax collector. Gladstone must be spinning. But then Gladstone never asked the tax authorities to confiscate anything like 40% of our incomes, still less to implement ludicrous dollops of wishful thinking like those tax credits.

Two: NHS “reforms”. The twin horrors of top-down targeting and payment by results have combined to drive many local health providers into deficit. The Audit Commission reckons this is down to "weak management" and has published a "name and shame" list of 25 providers. Yes, the management is undoubtedly struggling, but the real problem is a top-down system that delegates responsibility without power, and believes it can drive tractor production through ever more complex administered pricing systems ( see previous blogs)

Three: ID Cards. Blair may still claim the lunacy goes on, but everyone else has ditched it (see this excellent post at the Register). Tendering has been postponed indefinitely, as presaged in those leaked emails. Thank God we've escaped the main cost, but how much time has already been wasted at the dysfunctional Home Office?

Four: Police mergers. The police didn't want it and we didn't want it But the commissars did. Now Blair admits it's a non-runner. Fine...except for all the wasted time and money getting here. We know the Home Office spent another £1m on consultants, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. When they should have been out catching bad guys, 40 police chiefs and their staffs were working 24/7 to fend off this rubbish.

All in a week's work for our high-spending, low-achieving Big Government.

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