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Cheers - AE

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Nice work if you can get it.

Also on the subject of filthy lucre, and once again from the Telegraph: Quangos: the runaway gravy train. It make interesting if depressing reading. It's not as if it isn't common knowledge that there is indeed a gravy train and that many people have managed to get themselves season tickets on it. So no actual new news there. But the Telegraph's Rob Watts brings up something that should be carved into the street outside Number 10 so Gordon Clown has to look at it every single fucking morning of the rest of his hopefully-not-too-long stay there:
It was January 12, 1995 in Westminster: a fresh-faced shadow chancellor, who would one day be prime minister, stood up and delivered a speech shot through with confidence - a speech that is about to come back and haunt him.
"The biggest question… is why our constitution is over-centralised, over-secretive and over-bureaucratic and why there is not more openness and accountability," said the younger Gordon Brown. "The real alternative is a bonfire of the quangos and greater democracy."

Mr Brown's words were not spoken in isolation. Back in the mid-1990s, culling quangos was at the heart of the New Labour project. The party's 1997 manifesto railed against the Tories for supporting "unaccountable quangos" that were "opposed to the idea of democracy". Shortly before entering Downing Street, Tony Blair even boldly pledged to consign "quango state to the dustbin of history".

Well, we shouldn't be too shocked that he was bullshitting us all in opposition since he's been bullshitting a fair bit since, and besides he's hardly the first politician to make promises from the safe zone of the opposition benches and then kind of forget about the actual delivery in office. But after more than ten years in Downing Street and over a year of that in Number 10 far from have merely done fuck all he's at best allowed the situation to get worse, if not actually encouraged it.
But more than 12½ years later the great "bonfire" Mr Brown spoke of remains unlit. In fact, the cost of executive agencies, advisory bodies, independent monitoring boards and other quangos has mushroomed under New Labour. Spending on such agencies soared to £167.5billion in 2006, up from £24.1bn in 1998.
Sweet Jesus Christ - how much??? I mean £24 billion was a shitload of cash to start with but to increase by a factor of nearly 7. To put it into perspective the new aircraft carriers the Royal Navy has ordered are expected to cost £4bn or so (it'll probably go up as usual but they'll have to go some to overspend by a factor of 7). For what gets spent on quangos the Royal Navy could have a dozen of the bloody things and still have plenty of change left for the support ships, planes and things that go bang. In fact they could probably just buy a substantial chunk of the US Navy. £167.5 billion! How the fuck did that happen?
Research revealed for the first time this weekend shows that over the past two years ministers have created 200 quangos. The new study, which will become available online to the public this week, has been put together by the Economic Research Council, Britain's oldest think-tank. By trawling through a forest of government accounts, the ERC has created a database that allows users for the first time to see how the quango state has grown since 1998 and how its payroll - and its pay - has grown exponentially.
Ah. The fucktards have created a load more quangos, that's how. On top of which, the article goes on to say, they've increased spending on some of the pre-existing ones. Couple of examples given: in 1997 the Milk Development Council had four people working in a little London office and now has 44 staff in new offices in Cirencester, a construction quango called Construction Skills has grown from 900 staff in 1998 to 1400 or so today, and numerous quango bosses get far more pay than they did before NuLabour came to power. Six times more in the case of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority - yes, the very same QCA that oversees what passes for school exams. Six times more money for achieving square root of fuck all, though since probably no-one under 25 can work out what the square root of fuck all actually is the cunt will probably get away with it. Not only that but these overpaid underachieving busybodies are getting in the way. Watts points out that the Milk Development Council
...spends £7 million a year extracted from dairy farmers, plus a further £5 million from taxpayers and businesses.
The most visible manifestation of the council's work is a high-profile, long-running advertisement campaign featuring celebrities sporting milk moustaches. The model Nell McAndrew, the tennis player Andy Murray and the teen pop band McFly have all featured in its adverts. The posters are part of the MDC's market development work, which is, apparently "all about making people feel good about milk, putting milk back on the agenda and in a positive light".
...At a time when dairy farmers are being squeezed by supermarkets, the Government obliges them to pay the MDC an annual levy, typically about £466.
So for a compulsory fee of £466 each dairy farmers got a bunch of celebs that looked like they'd just given blow jobs and not swallowed. Between tax payers and farmers this bunch blew (haha) £12 million and this was the best they had to show for it.

Some interesting opposing views from different sides of Parliament:
"Cutting quangos isn't very difficult - the problem is that ministers get initiative-itis," says John Redwood, the former Tory minister and architect of the Conservatives' new plan to slash red tape and regulation by £14 billion.
"They have an idea, and they set up a quango to implement it. They have one idea, then they have two, then 20 and then 100 - and 100 new quangos to make all these ideas happen."
"Public bodies are only established where this is the most effective and efficient method of conducting government business, and they are closed down when they are no longer required," said a spokesman for the Cabinet Office. "Ministers are accountable to Parliament for the setting up of such bodies. In turn, public bodies are subject to robust and transparent governance and accountability arrangements."
Make your own mind up who to believe - John Redwood who thinks that every other half baked idea a minister has generates a quango or a an unnamed spokesman who would have us believe that quangos are effective, efficient, transparent, accountable and closed down when no longer needed. Despite him being a politician I agree with Redwood and sound the bullshit alarm on all five points, particularly since his comments are largely echoed by Corin Taylor of the Tax Payers Alliance:
"Often we are seeing quangos created just to give the impression that the Government is serious about doing something," says Corin Taylor, head of the pressure group the TaxPayers' Alliance. A good example is the School Food Trust. In 2005, the school dinners media storm served up by the television chef Jamie Oliver goaded the Department for Education and Skills into establishing the trust with the aim of "transforming school food and food skills". It employs 10 civil servants, including a chief executive paid £85,000. At least £60 million has already been allocated to the trust.
"It's as if ministers feel that they can just make a situation magically better by setting up a new quango," says Mr Taylor. In reality, he says, the running costs of quangos eat into the limited government funds available to solve such problems.
How fucking true. I hope Watts is correct in his prediction that Gordon's words are about to come back to haunt him. In fact I hope they bite him somewhere painful.
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