…so let’s all have a massive refund.
Yes – I had another of my blinding revelations – huge cosmic insights and general headache-inducing flashes of brilliance (or maybe it was something I ate?)
I was mulling over the rash of un-elected ‘government’ organisations, drain blocking number of public inquiries and the wholesale outsourcing of government services and it hit me like a big, wet, rotten fish.
We no longer need politicians. Government itself is outsourced. From contractors doing cheap jobs on road maintenance to companies found to be abusing vulnerable and elderly people in care homes – outsourcing is a known disaster but continues to grow exponentially. The only possible benefit to the public is a massive tax rebate – funded by eliminating clearly irrelevant ‘government’.
In the face of the horror of Grenfell tower – for example - there was the initial deluge of information about what had not been done – which local politicians had never in fact visited a high-rise – the crazy catalogue of safety issues that had been blatantly ignored for years and so on. Instead of an honest indictment of the whole bloody shower of local and national politicians who allowed or helped create the environment for this to happen, including ex-chancellor George Osborne – see my letter to the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/sep/17/local-community-should-set-up-their-own-grenfell-fire-inquiry we got another inquiry at huge public expense. An inquiry – to find out what happened which has become the standard euphemism for kick the ball down the road to a time politicians hope public anger and shock will have subsided. Because – for some reason – even though its bloody obvious – it’s better not to reach conclusions and set about putting things right – it is, politicians decided, much better to get a posh establishment figure – who (see blog 240) may not be the most appropriate person for the job – to spend months and millions of public money (that could have been spent on public services) so that he can tell the public a fraction of what we already knew. And do inquiries into disasters result in serious reformative action? Iraq inquiry anyone?
Companies such as G4S and SERCO are awarded huge and long-term government contracts despite acknowledged crap service, dangerous practice and poor value. They are the problem.
In June 2012 UNISON published a report showing that bringing services back into local government control could improve quality and lower cost. It is hard not to conclude that the only remaining reasons for outsourcing is to slough off responsibility and have a third party to blame when things go wrong while also channelling tidal waves of public money into private hands.
Way back when I was a city councillor in Newcastle – councillors did not get paid. An allowance of sorts could be applied for – though for people like me – with children – when there was little or no childcare provision – even claiming for the odd allowance left me out of pocket. Unlike many, I would not just turn up to the first 5 mins of a meeting so that I could collect multiple allowances as was common. I did get sent to Coventry by the then leader Jeremy Beecham for publically complaining about the abuse of the allowance system and the ludicrous expenditure of some senior or favoured councillors. However – now councillors do get paid; in part – I suspect – the stop that kind of abuse. Aint it odd that for people in power – when they do wrong they get more. It works the other way round for everyone else. But now –huge swathes of public goods and services are out to tender with private firms. Many not based in the UK – so much for the Brexiteers re-claiming our borders...
In 2013-14 (47th report) the Public Accounts Committee stated –
More and more public services are being contracted out to private and voluntary providers. Government spends £187 billion (estimated at 242 billion by January 2017) on goods and services with third parties each year, around half of which is estimated to be on contracting out services. Government retains responsibility for ensuring value for money and we, on behalf of the taxpayer, need to be able to follow the taxpayers’ pound, wherever it is spent.
This conjures up an image of some grey civil servant wandering the corridors of power aimlessly whistling and shouting ‘here poundy poundy – where are you?’ Is this what government is in 21st century Britain? Do we simply let public money leak into private hands with diminishing returns, less accountability and less value for the taxpayer while employing people to tell us which sewer our money has been flushed down? Meanwhile we are paying politicians and civil servants to GOVERN, to MANAGE. When did it happen that we were paying them simply to pass the buck and tell us where it went?
Obviously we’d keep a couple of spare politicians for the obligatory photo opportunity. Last week – for example – dead woman walking Theresa May and creepy polished git Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt turned up unannounced (to staff at any rate – I wonder why) at the trust where my middle daughter is an overworked doctor in an understaffed hospital. They were there for a self-congratulatory photo shoot in an NHS building – proving that there is no level of incompetence, shame, irony, no self-questioning, no humility, no depths to which some politicians will not sink for self-aggrandisement. Hunt can get his, I’m-alright-Jack self, photographed in an increasingly privatised public service institution that probably hates his guts more than I hate dog shit on my shoe. So ok – we’ll keep a couple of politicians in an old cardboard box in a musty cupboard somewhere for occasions like that. But otherwise – as I’ve said – why keep them?
Maybe our young people could use their refunds to pay off their life-crushing student debts?