Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Cameron Wants to Slash the Cost of Politics

I have just had a quick skim-read of David Cameron's speech on cutting the cost of politics. He rightly observes that the cost savings produced are but a mere pinprick on the total amount of government borrowing. But you know what they say about a lot of pricks :).

In his speech Cameron proposed...

  • Forcing every quango to justify its existence by judging against 3
    criteria
  • Publishing online every item og expenditure over £25,000
  • Publishing online all salaries above £150k in the public sector
  • Abolishing the £10k communications allowance for MPs, saving £5
    million
  • Increasing the cost of food and drink in the Palace of Westminster to
    commercial rates, saving £5.5 million
  • Cutting the size of the Government Car Service by a third
  • Cutting ministerial salaries by 5% and freezing them for a lifetime of a
    parliament saving £250k
  • Abolishing the Standards Board for England saving £9.5 million
  • Abolishing regional assemblies saving £18 million
  • Slashing the budget of the Electoral Commission
  • Eliminating the ability of quangos to employ lobbyists who lobby the
    government for more money
  • Cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 585 saving £15.5 million
  • Demanding a cut in the cost of running Parliament of 10% saving £50.5
    million
I agree, as you might imagine, with all of that. But there is one area where I think he could have gone further. When he outlined the fact that there are 169 government ministerial appointments I was hoping to then read that this number would be cut by at least 20%. But he didn't say that. All he did was announce a salary cut and then a freeze. I hope this can be revisisted. We do not need 169 ministers to run a country when we only needed 74 to run the Empire.

All in all, this will save £120 million. It's a start. But at least it gives a lead and gives a clear indication of the direction in which Cameron is heading. I wonder when we will get some detail from Gordon Brown. I am not holding my breath.

65 comments:

Mitch said...

The £ saving is irrelevant compared to the symbolism. These proposals are ok as far as they go, but they need to be much, much more radical.

Bill Quango MP said...

Knowing Gordon's scorched earth policy he will probably announce that he is cutting the Prime minister's salary to £30 to help combat public debt.
Then, when he is unemployed, at least he can still say he earns more than Dave.

Thats News said...

Not keen on the idea of less MPs.

Larger areas = less representation, in my experience

Mark Reckons said...

So Cameron is planning to get rid of 65 MPs. The Lib Dems would get rid of 150 (amongst other measures to make things fairer). Of course the reason Cameron wants to do this is because it would help him gerrymander the electoral system back towards the Tories. I note there are no plans from him for a fair electoral system, just partisan fiddling. How is that supposed to restore trust?

The other measures he announces are all well and good but are a drop in the ocean. There are still many Tory MPs with huge clouds over their names such as Bracknell MP Andrew MacKay who has not even been made to pay anything back despite double claiming second homes allowance for at least 8 years with his wife probably amount to over £100,000 worth of wrongly (insert your own word) claimed allowance. Bill Wiggin whose claims seem as egregious as MacKay’s isn’t even stepping down at the next election because he managed to stuff his “public” meeting with local Tory flunkeys.

Why isn’t Cameron doing something about the rotten MPs within his own ranks? Until he does this will just seem like fiddling at the margins.

Matelot said...

DC is definitely missing a trick by not cutting ministerial appointments. Huge amounts of money would be saved by not having to cover lifelong ministerial pension commitments and also give us all a break by stemming the tide of "new" government initiatives from some junior minister trying to justify his position.

Oliver Drew said...

Agreed Iain - all of that is good but cutting the number of ministers would also be a good thing. It's a good start though, and I think a policy (or set of) that a lot of people will agree with...

Anonymous said...

This is very predictably partisan (and patrician) stuff.

The quango justification thing is already Cabinet Office policy, so there's nothing new there (and attacking 'quangos' has to be the most tired and dishonest bit of political rhetoric in history).

Abolishing the comms allowance just gives Ashcroft-funded Tories a huge advantage, and cutting the salaries of rich old Etonian cabinet ministers who can easily afford it is gesture politics of the worst kind. Likewise taking away government cars from people who can afford their own chauffeurs.

Abolishing the Standards Board - presumably this is so that local councillors can put their hands in the till with impunity.

And cutting the funding of the electoral commission - is this really the way to restore confidence in the integrity of our electoral system? Seriously, it looks like your planning something underhand (perish the thought!).

The only thing I'd agree with is cutting the number of MPs - and even here you don't go far enough. 450 is nearer the right number. Anything more is just jobs for the boys.

Lady Finchley said...

As usual is it MPs' staff who work the most hours and make the least money who will be penalised if cost of food increases. Not to mention the cleaners, attendants, clerks, waitresses etc. Our salaries won't rise nor will our hours be cut so we can get home to cook a meal.

David Lindsay said...

In the great scheme of things, the cost of the subsidised food in the Palace of Westminster is below negligible.

But with this, the cuts in Ministerial salaries, and the rest of it, Cameron is dropping broad enough hints.

These are not within any context of tackling income disparity, including the gap between Westminster insiders and the rest of us.

Rather, this is about re-restricting office to the independently wealthy.

Anonymous said...

There never used to be that many ministerial appointments. I think it used to be at least 30% smaller. ZaNULab increased it as a backdoor means of increasing MPs pay.

Come on Cameron cut the number of Ministers; or you will be accused of the same thing.

Pete-s

JoeF said...

Just about a start

Number of seats in House of Commons= 427, so how about cutting number of MPs to 427 or so (about same as House of Representatives in USA, and Senate only has about 100, so Lords reform...). That would also imply less "make-work" Ministerial jobs.

This is all nice example setting, but real cuts will be needed in bureaucracy (target say 30% of all admin posts in all departments), ending all public sector final salary pensions (including MPs), etc.

Purple Man said...

How about leaving the European Union so we save £45 million a day. Just a thought.

Che Grav-ara said...

It is all a drop in the water compared to the spend on Trident which will cost billions and which Cameron supports. If he is serious about saving money he should withdraw support for what is an obselete weapons system

Anonymous said...

sigh....its populist politics with no purpose other than currying favour with voters. Its hollow, pointless and a sad indictment of what politics today has become.

Grumpy Old Man said...

All good stuff.especially abolishing regional assemblies. A bit worried about cutting the Electoral Commission budget, Is this really a wise thing to do when electoral fraud is a real and ever-present danger to the Democratic process?

Graham said...

I wonder where the 65 MP cuts will come from. I'd hazard a guess at Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Um, yes, well, it's a start of sorts. Doesn't it however fall into the same trap as Labour's 50% tax rate - possibly quite an effective populist gesture, but only a drop in the ocean when it comes to raising real money to reduce the huge UK deficit?

David said...

I agree that we need to substantially reduce the number of ministers and in particular junior ministers. This is powerful patronage and will not be easy for a leader to give up but each Minister seems to create a need for staff etc.
I have to say that some of the proposals are astonishing. Who thought it was ever a good idea for Government bodies to spend public money to lobby the Government?

Mark Senior said...

If the budget of the Electoral Commission is to be slashed , how will the electoral boundary review be conducted to cut the number of MP's ?

Paul Halsall said...

I would rather hear his ideas for the reform of the Lords, which at the moment is indefensible.

There is no way 650 MPs will vote (one what sure has to be a free vote) for a reduction to 585. While I don't object to this measure (assuming it is party neutral), nor do I think it that important.

But the Lords is important. Labour at least has done a good job in establishing a Supreme Court.
\
Now we need to decide if we need a Second Chamber. If we do, how should it be organised?

[PS: I am disappointed you do ot seem to find Armenian monasteries that interesting: I would love to be there.]

Anonymous said...

shouldn't the number of MPs be based on need rather than cost? Isn't the question "how many MPs do we need?" rather than just to cut them arbitarily because of cost. Maybe we should have fewer but I'd rather a decision was taken on the basis of objective need.

Anonymous said...

Its a bit of disingenuous to talk of how many ministers we needed to run what was arguably a less complex empire than the country we now live in. But the general point remains correct: we don't need that many Ministers.

Anonymous said...

there will be riots in 2 years time with the cuts that will come in,the media talk about Mps wages etc its a smoke screen.the next party in power will be lucky to last a full term.

jimmytidey said...

Just back of envelope, I'm sure someone will correct me, but isn't this about 1/4000 of government expenditure?

Perhaps the kind announcement you need to make to your party if your substantive policies for the next election won't really be anything to do with the politics of the right?

Childprotector said...

If he thinks these proposals - all on the face of them good - will restore trust he is wrong. It doesn't matter how much or how little politicians are paid if their conduct does not change. The pathetic tribal party games are what turns people off, and there is no sign that any of the parties have grasped that politics must grow up.

David Lindsay said...

This is only the start. Cameron and Osborne do not know what it is to *need* to work for a living. Even the PM’s salary is peanuts to them, because they are so abnormal. We already have rich people given peerages and then made Ministers for no pay.

Whatever happened to “the rate for the job”, to “the labourer is worthy of his hire”? And while Cameron may know the first of those quotations, he has never heard, still less is he steeped in, the second. If even Brown can set aside these things, then what hope is there from Cameron?

And I don’t rate Cameron’s chances with the wider public sector, either. He and his have not come up through it and do not understand it. Its managers and union leaders will run rings around them. They saw off a public sector union-based Labour Government, so a dilettante Tory one will be a doddle.

I would happily ban any company from paying any of its employees more than ten times what it pays any other, declaring the public sector a single entity for this purpose, pegging its median wage to that in the private sector, and making that the MP’s salary. But Cameron is not the man to deliver this. I’m not sure who is. But I’m sure that he isn’t.

trevorsden said...

We have far too many MPs but one issue is that in the main the govt is drawn from MPs which is not the case for instance in the USA - where the states also carry out a lot of the work of government.

Compare the nr of seat in the legislatures of California (80 lower house) and Scotland (129) also the relative economies. The nr of seats in the Scottish parliament is a joke.

Darling now seems to be implying that 'well we don't REALLY need to make that many cuts really - the economy will grow and that will fill the gap and any way we will only cut things that won't hits - honest'

The reality is that even in periods of alleged growth we ran up big deficits. A return to growth will NO WHERE NEAR generate enough income to support the bloated state.

BUT hey all the weekend news was that the Tories were not being clear enough on cuts, 'financiers' were worried.
Hah - just look at Darling's junk statements if you REALLY want to see a politician both unable and afraid to express what really needs to be done.

Anonymous said...

"We do not need 169 ministers to run a country when we only needed 74 to run the Empire."

Just as well we don't have 169 ministers, then. The Ministerial and Other Salaries Act of 1975 caps the number of ministers at 109, including Lords, whips and people like the Attorney General.

Where did the 169 figure come from? Who knows.

But, as usual, lazy journalists are simply re-printing what DC put in his press release...

Penfold said...

And what about reclaiming the extra moolah paid to the EU, for the review that St Tone claimed was due on CAP, that has now been backburned and will never, ever take place.
That has got to be the biggest bit of wasteful squandering by anyone ever.
Blair should be hung out to dry and personally made to repay this surcharge on British taxpayers.

Jabba the Cat said...

Gosh, a whole £120 million.

Can someone remind me how much the country is overdrawn? Are we still talking billions or are we firmly into the trillions?

Anonymous said...

How much could he save by not paying election officials overtime to stay up all night counting votes, but instead getting them in at 9am on a Friday morning?

Stepney said...

It's a start.

I just hope it's the little bit of the nunatak* poking out through the snow and that within a year we can see the mountain of vicious, slashing cuts required.

General knowledge question.

Q: How many people work in Public Services?

A: About half of them.


* Look it up you "higgernerant swine"

trevorsden said...

"it would help him gerrymander the electoral system back towards the Tories."

The present system is massively 'gerrymandered' to Labour. Making it fair is not gerrymandering - so go wotsit yourself Mr Mark!

Liberal Democrats are still spending money given to them as a result of proven fraud.

Its right to say that all the extra junior ministers and other things like PPSs add to patronage and are difficult to give up
BUT
Just where has all this got us these last 12 years? Have we had better govt? Are Labour more popular, have they fewer political problems?

I contend that doing things PROPERLY; doing things RIGHT; doing things HONESTLY will bring better rewards than the CORRUPT behaviour we have seen from Labour these last 12 years.

To The self servingly 'Anonymous' @ 3pm
... well this post
http://www.markpack.org.uk/david-cameron-targets-the-electoral-commission/
points out
"the Electoral Commission spends more each year than the total expenditure by the Liberal Democrats on the four general elections since merger."

The LibDems also want to abolish the Standards Board.
From what I understand its being used maliciously anyway - guess what, by Labour to muzzle their opponents.
Its a sledghammer to crack a small nut. A piece of dog poo pushed through our letter box by the egregious Prescott.

Engage brain before hitting keypad Mr Anon.

Uncle Bob said...

Paul Hallsall, 650 Mps don't have to vote to reduce the number of them (only 646 can vote at present anyway) only 324 need to vote to get it passed. I would imagine the tories would vote for it wholesale and if the liberals back a reduction so should they. I welcome these proposals and though it's not going to automatically eliminate the defecit it is more than just gesture politics, it is 'Do as I do' not 'Do as I say'.

Cameron has understood the public's anger over expenses better than the other leaders and is implementing what will be sea-change in attitude to the public purse from all MP's and I am sure there will be more to come.

Oh and Mark Reckons, it isn't gerrymandering to correct an imbalance which favours one party at present (Labour) over the others, it's levelling the playing field.

Anonymous said...

So he plans to reduce the House of Commons from 650 seats to 585.

This worries me or rather , the lack of detail does. There is alraedy a serious imbalance against England in the HofC. certainly reduce Scottish numbers from 59 to 43 as in the Act of Union. Wales should go down from 30? to about 18. NI needs to lose a few too. That leaves the proportion of MP's for England about right so any reduction must be in England further damage English representation.

BUT

Northern Ireland Wales and Scotland have thir own devolved parliaments and Egland has none so they should have even LESS MP's in the British parliament.
Since there is no sign of cameron wanting an English parliament this proposal sounds like an attack on England just like BlairBrown.

MikeyP said...

A drop in the ocean, but nothing like what is needed all round. Still, I suppose Dave cannot afford to say what is really needed until he has won the election and made sure the constituency boundaries are fairer!

David Lindsay said...

This is only the start. Cameron and Osborne do not know what it is to *need* to work for a living. Even the PM’s salary is peanuts to them, because they are so abnormal.

We already have rich people given peerages and then made Ministers for no pay. Whatever happened to “the rate for the job”, to “the labourer is worthy of his hire”? And while Cameron may know the first of those quotations, he has never heard, still less is he steeped in, the second. If even Brown can set aside these things, then what hope is there from Cameron?

And I don’t rate Cameron’s chances with the wider public sector, either. He and his have not come up through it and do not understand it. Its managers and union leaders will run rings around them. They saw off a public sector union-based Labour Government, so a dilettante Tory one will be a doddle.

I would happily ban any company from paying any of its employees more than ten times what it pays any other, declaring the public sector a single entity for this purpose, pegging its median wage to that in the private sector, and making that the MP’s salary.

But Cameron is not the man to deliver this. I’m not sure who is. But I’m sure that he isn’t.

Jamie said...

I'm interested in the idea of cutting the number MPs. Time is flying now, but surely something could be done this parliament. Turkeys don't vote for Christmas, but with so many MPs leaving at the next election surely it would be like lemmings voting for a clifftop walk...or something.

alan scott said...

Dead right. We do NOT need 139 or whatever number it is "Ministers". It is completely OTT. About 45 wd be sufficient. And then we could re-deploy (cant word for sack) all those civil servants and special advisers who are corralled in to serve and support them. Now THAT'S a real saving. To say nothing of the cars, entertainment allowances etc etc.

Anonymous said...

Cutting MPs by 10% isn't enough. We have devolved Parliaments in Scotland, Wales and NI. Huge areas of legislation no longer applies to these countries/regions. The House of Commons could be cut by 25% and a rule brought in that only MPs representing English constituencies can vote on English matters.

We also don't need so many 'Lords' in the upper Chamber. 350 would be ample.

Nigel said...

>>Publishing online all salaries above £150k in the public sector...<<

The only point of any potential significance.

Publishing online a searchable database of all details of all government expenditure above £150k would be more to the point.

Anonymous said...

Cutting ministerial salaries by 5% and freezing them for a lifetime of a Parliament saving £250k....

Lovely stuff. After Sir Christopher Kelly and the "independent" (Committee on Standards in Public life) review which, according to sources, will raise the MPs salary to £100k?

More disingenuous spin from our so called (and this time Tory)servants

Iain Dale said...

Nigel, you clearly can't read. They are going to do exactly what you want - a public database of all expenditure over £25k. Not £150k.

Charles said...

MP pensions would be an important area. Announce now that if the Tories win all MPs will enter into a direct contribution scheme (assuming that their 'employment' under the old final salary scheme ended under the old parliament).

That will give them the moral authority to go after other public sector pensions - until the MPs suffer it, it will be tough to get anyone else to accept it and you need to make that statement upfront and in public so that no one has grounds for complaint later on.

For everyone complaining that £120m isn't much, £100m here, £100m there and you are soon talking about serious money [to paraphrase Senator Dewey]

John Moss said...

So, not closing the MP's final salary pension to all members then?

Pity. That would give MPs the moral authority to push the process out across the rest of those in the public sectorearning more than £50,000.

True Belle said...

I suppose I could be pushed to including a stamped self addressed envelope if I am looking for a reply from my MP!

In return I will expect tea on the terrace as a guest, but I will pay for my own!

Joe Public said...

Why only a 10% cut in the number of MPs?

Now we have Scottish, Welsh & NI Governments/Assemblies, 3/4 of the buggers should be made redundant. Now. Not at some future time.

trevorsden said...

Wake up Annon 5.58

.... NO ONE but the Tories are offering to cut the numbers of MPs etc.

Are you really so short of things to whinge on about?

jailhouselawyer said...

How about slashing the cost of MPs expenses fiddles?

The problem with Cameron's proposals is that he conveniently forgets to mention into whos pockets these savings will end up. Certainly not the public purse!

Anonymous said...

A start could be made by abolishing the regional committees. Complete farce in Bedford today when the East of England Grand Committee was supposed to sit. Civil servants duly travelled to Bedford at public expense, the town hall was hired and equipped and, guess what, there were not enough MPs present to provide a quorum. A similar event in Leeds was cancelled before the recess.

trevorsden said...

Off topic.

The Labourgragh ran a story the other day saying the Tories were doing badly in the north

this poll
http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/2245/comment-page-1#comment-587534
shows a massive swing TO the tories in the north.

17% swing quoted in NE
11% Yorks

Can someone advise me - what qualifications do you need to be a journalist? Can you get away with not being able to read? Pete Warterman was on TV the other day saying he could not read and write until recently.

NoOffenceAlan said...

Why cut the budget of the Electoral Commission ? - I would argue they need more teeth, not less, to combat postal vote irregularities etc.

McSweeney said...

Did anyone actually read the bit of Cameron's speech on the Electoral Commission?
So back in the day (the glorious, sunlit past) apparently everyone voted and "no-one cheated". Is that really what Cameron thinks? And even if it was true, it isn't true now. Is this the extent of Tory thinking?

True Belle said...

I suppose slashing the cost of politics will mean the slashing of high paid jobs which will mean the cutting of votes!

Who will vote themselves out of a well paid quango job?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, you're right Iain. I wish we had an empire again. Dick.

Iain said...

Cameron's speech was so boring I almost wanted Sky to go back to covering the crud the Milibands were coming out with.

Cameron ought to start with the EU. Tell them that the money we waste to that corrupt institution will be diverted to our war effort. Needs must.

Anonymous said...

Travel costs should be looked at, particularly as relates to Brussels. Like many, my company has an economy travel rule for anything under 12 hours and I know of no private companies that allow business class travel on the Eurostar (it is, after all, only 1hr 50 long). Yet Eurostar business class is consistently full of UK civil servants going to and from Council of Minister meetings and committees. 1) Ever heard of video conferencing or just being on the end of a phone? 2) What is so special about them to go business for under two hours? And, of course, a couple of nights at Meridien Hotel.

For Ecofin meetings, for example, there would often be over 20 cs's travelling (plus UKREP already there). Some travel every day and business class is £600 a ticket, plus hotel and meals. Complete waste. Most stuff can be done between UKREP and the Private Office on the phone. And say it again, CSs always travel in business whilst the productive and accountable workers do not.

chris(m) said...

One saving could be brought about by telling Speaker Berkow that he should not employ a PR at a salary of £100K.

Stephen Gash said...

This is just shuffling the Celtic Tiger-striped sporrans around the cash-elephant in the room called England.

Vlad the Inhaler said...

"Cameron Wants to Slash the Cost of Politics"

Doesn't this just sit so well with Trougher Bercow (is he Tory or Labour??)hiring a new SPAD at £100k plus another 50% costs & benefits.

THIS COUNTRY CAN'T AFFORD IT.

Gary Elsby said...

I've always known where dave is heading! Gordon will drop you a bombshell about four weeks to the run in, probably in the last set or in extra time.
Tax the rich, let the poor off, national debt reased.

Seems fair to me.

PS. your primaries gimmick also cut the idea of democracy and so don't be too surprised of other gimmicks coming out of Cameron HQ.
Yes, we know it's a sell on MORE democracy, but hey, we aint stupid are we, even if we are the enemy within.

DespairingLiberal said...

Interesting that the Electora Commission is in that list. I assume this has come from on high in the Party. I wonder if there is some sort of hidden agenda - are the Tories perhaps planning major alterations to the electoral map when they come in and wouldn't want too much expert scrutiny around when they do it? Doubling the number of Tory safe seats for example?

Iain Dale said...

Don't be so pathetic. Have you actually read what he said in his speech. he spelled out in great detail his reasons. The Electoral Commission costs £24 million, more than three times what it cost on 2001. Why? It has been empire building. Personally I'd abolish it completely and put it all back within the Home Office.

dazmando said...

I would be happy for a 10 percent cut im MP's if this included Single transferable vote for simple fairness and to reduce the bigger majoritys for some

DespairingLiberal said...

Yawn. What's really pathetic is that the Tories are obviously not going to focus on the real issue - countless billions handed over to private contractors for contracts ranging from dubious value to downright fleecing of the taxpayer - and why? I feel sure it's totally unrelated to the large donations recently given by the major consultancies to Conservative Party funds.

I think we will all find that the Age of Graft will continue to run on untroubled rails when Cameron wafts into office on a wave of comically misplaced euphoria.