Government Efficiency? Calling 118 Directory services when you can get the same service for free

Government departments wasted at least £60,000 over the past three years making 59,874 calls to 118 Directory Enquiry numbers, when you can get the same service online for free. I know it’s not much, but it does seem fairly ridiculous for civil servants to be using an expensive service (over a pound a time) when you can get the same thing for free. The BBC’s ‘You and Yours’ consumer programme found this out through a series of FOI request – the full table of results are below (published with their permission). The research was done by reporter Adrian Bradley @adebradley). I appeared on the show to discuss with presenter Winifred Robinson (@wrobinson101) why this might be happening…..(it’ll be on the BBC iPlayer shortly). Continue reading

BUDGET 2015 – The Big Picture on Public Spending

When is a “Long Term Economic Plan” not a “Long Term Economic Plan” – when there’s an election coming.

Last November Chancellor Osborne announced spending cuts throughout the next Parliament that would have reduced spending to 35.2% of GDP – which as the OBR pointed out would be the lowest since the 1930s.

In Budget 2015 the total spending plan for 2019-20 has suddenly jumped – to 36% of GDP (a whole 0.8%).

This has been achieved by a sudden £17.4bn jump in spending in 2019-20 (see below), but a significant drop in spending earlier in the Parliament compared to the Autumn ‘Long Term Plan’.

This extra £17.4bn in 2019-20 looks very much like a deliberate sleight of hand purely to ensure the 35.2% of GDP is tweaked upwards.
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The Bust Up after the Budget?

Most of the commentary in the build up to the last Budget of this Parliament will, predictably, focus on the contents of George Osborne’s little red briefcase on 18th March.

Few will focus on what might happen afterwards – the Parliamentary procedure for implementing Budgets. That’s because these are usually pretty uncontroversial – Budget announcements usually get ‘rubber stamped’ through Parliament with little fuss and bother. But maybe not this time….. as I have speculated before. Continue reading

Labour’s Tutition Fees Blunder?

If ever there was an example of a policy that appears to be driven exclusively by narrow, tactical, political considerations it is Labour’s pledge to cut student tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000.

It will produce the opposite of its supposed intention: being fairer to poorer students/graduates. It is ill thought out in terms of University financing. It reduces to almost zero competition on price amongst Universities (one of the main reasons for introducing supposedly variable tuition fees). It is an administrative nightmare. Continue reading