Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Overcooked Red Tape Haircut


The Red Tape Reduction Industry in action

The improbably named Ed Humpherson of the NAO has just given us an update on Brown's ludicrous red tape drive - the one to cut red tape, that is.

As we blogged here, the £20bn figure the government quotes as being the annual red tape burden, was pulled out of a dark orifice by consultants PWC and KPMG for a fee of £17m. It's completely meaningless.

Assistant Auditor General Mr Humperson has now confirmed BOM's conclusion. He says:

"You have to be much more wary, much more cautious, and give a haircut to the numbers.

He warned that the exercise was “not something where the numbers themselves are the be-all and end-all and can be relied on”. Asked if the £20bn total was in effect random, he said: “It’s a little bit more [accurate] than simply plucked out of the air.”

Mr Humpherson highlighted the need to be “questioning” of the claim, originally produced by a government taskforce, that red tape cuts could increase productivity by up to £16bn. “The £16bn figure . . . is probably a bit overcooked,” he said. “It’s an extremely difficult assertion to make.”

“The risk is all of this good work is done by departments . . . and business does not really notice the difference.”

Business does not really notice the difference.

£17m in consultants' fees, and God knows what other costs inside Whitehall, yet business does not notice the difference.

Gah.

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