Review of Public Admin is missing the point…

Critiquing the Review of Public Administration, David Liddlington, the Conservative’s Northern Ireland spokesman edged a little closer to the DUP’s position, when he questioned the separate working of the Human Rights and Equality Commissions and suggested there needed to be a formal oversight of efficiency in government in Northern Ireland. It’s a deft and largely uncontroversial (in Westminster terms at least) departure from the Westminster opposition:

Yes, there are protocols that are supposed to delineate the responsibilities of the two commissions but there is no avoiding the fact that every time we politicians create, usually with the most benevolent of intentions, a new department or agency or commission, we oblige businesses, charities and individuals to get to grips with yet another hierarchy of officials, another set of targets and inspection standards, another batch of forms to fill in and boxes to tick, and another set of rules to bid for money.

The PA report notes that “overall administrative costs for the Northern Ireland departments and the Assembly, which stood at £760.5 million in 2001/02, had risen to £893 million by 2004/5”.

In the light of this kind of evidence, I believe that there is a compelling case for a more thoroughgoing review of departments and agencies that goes beyond the Gershon plan. It could be a formal Efficiency Commission, as Ian Paisley has proposed, or more bespoke arrangements, department by department. Either way, I would hope that money saved from such additional efficiency gains would either be ploughed back into frontline services or else used to reduce the need for higher local taxes within Northern Ireland.

  • pakman

    Hear,hear. Less devolved departments, fewer devolved legislators, minimal quangos and a handful of local councils is only the start of what is needed. State and welfare dependency should also be exposed and tackled as should the level of governmental meddling in every day life. There is a marvelous quote from the cute Republican (!?) in the West Wing which suggests government should only be about clean water and safe borders. Big government does not sit easily with either personal freedom or a culture of enterprise.

  • pakman

    While I’m in the mood for “proper” politics what about a debate on tax ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Usually I find the people who complain the most about tax are the ones who can most afford to pay it.

  • barnshee

    “Usually I find the people who complain the most about tax are the ones who can most afford to pay it. “

    Really Usually I find that people have no idea how much “tax” they pay. Most people have neither the knowledge or the capacity to work out the total tax paid.

    No!! well how much do you pay in

    1 Income Tax
    2 Nat Insurance
    3 Car Tax
    4 Rates
    5 Value Added tax
    6 Excise Duty
    7 Insurance Pemium Tax

    The government has no wish that its citizens easily see the tax burden they carry -especially the PAYE brigade. It is quite reasomnable to assume that you –joe public -are paying 50% or more of your income in tax. Are you getting value for money??

  • bertie

    For me it is more of a value for money thing than the actual ammount. I actually resent the tax I pay because I beleive a lot of it is wasted. I would advocate better use be made of it than it be reduced (although that would be nice). All too often “efficiency savings” man that easy short term savings are made in places that actually pay for themselves in therm of long term effectivness and cost savings (spend to save) but fail to deal with the continuous reinventing of the wheel, the silo thinking and the time and effort put in to hiding that there is a problem in an area that actually solving the problem.

  • pakman

    Comrade Stalin

    if taxation is about funding an efficient state then reducing the individual tax burden will increase the total tax take. If taxation is about wealth redistribution then I have every right to complain about a system that penalises (and therefore disencentivises) my ability to earn a living.

  • Joe, Canada

    The press (via the government statistics department?) in canada, publish each year when people are now working for themselves. that is, their total income to date equals the annual tax they have to pay (income plus VAT and other taxes). for most provinces, the date is usually in early July.

  • aquifer

    An efficiency commission is a good idea.
    Too many petty empires have been built over the years, with too little oversight.

    A functioning democracy and talented politicians would sort out value for money relatively quickly, but expect to wait a while for that. Neither the parties nor the media retain enough policy specialists to put the mandarins in their place, as government has become more complex.

    Public Sector waste costs millions while many scratch by here on very low incomes.

  • pakman

    aquifier

    “Public Sector waste costs millions while many scratch by here on very low incomes”

    are you suggesting the two points are related?

  • IJP

    I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Liddington’s sentiments, but in practice it is a lot trickier than that.

    Firstly, the terms of reference for the RPA are too limited, but one should not that is not the Review Team’s fault – they have to play the hand they’ve been dealt. Therefore the Review, unfortunately, assumes a functioning Assembly among other things. This is what went wrong with McRory 32 years ago, and it bodes ill this time too. The result is certain to be a confused fudge.

    Secondly, the debate is the wrong way around. It is not about the technicalities of boundaries, it is about what powers should be given to local councils, and what powers should be given to regional government. From there you can then work up to the most efficient local council boundaries and also, let’s not forget, the most appropriate modus operandi for the new councils.

    Thirdly, it is simplistic simply to say ‘Oh the public sector’s too big, let’s reduce it’. Currently there are two basic threads running through all public policy which need overturned to achieve this: 1. the assumption that a segregated society can be managed eternally; 2. the acceptance of a basic culture of ‘where we can GET money’ rather than ‘where we can EARN money’.

    All of this requires tough choices, some of which will cause quite traumatic change (for the greater long-term good). But do YOU think your politicians will put words into action to achieve this?

  • pakman

    IJP

    are YOU the politician to put words into action?

  • IJP

    pakman

    Given half a chance, my friend, given half a chance… 🙂

  • Alan

    “The press (via the government statistics department?) in canada, publish each year when people are now working for themselves. that is, their total income to date equals the annual tax they have to pay (income plus VAT and other taxes). for most provinces, the date is usually in early July.”

    I remember PWC doing this last week – I think the average wage/tax ratio was reached last Wednesday – however, it may only have been on income tax.

    On the Efficiency Commission, ramping up the Assembly PAC would achieve this, if we had an assembly. Otherwise it’s poachers catching poachers.