Nick Clegg’s (woefully under-reported) initiative in seeking to save taxpayers’ money is yet further evidence that the LibDem leader is taking the party in the right direction.
Thousands of party members will have received a plea for advice from public sector workers on how savings can be made from bloated, excessive and increasingly unaffordable departmental budgets. Nick is honest and up front – money is going to be tight for years, if not decades. Without dramatic cuts in some areas, other services will falter and/or taxes will rise yet further.
But I wish that the consultation had also been directed at the private citizens who use public services, not just the staff who work in them. Customers and consumers are often a better guide to where products and services are going wrong than employees, who obviously have an interest in emphasising their own vital role in whatever-it-is-they-do.
We also need to ensure we don’t buy the “waste myth”. Yes, there is monumental waste in the public sector, but there’s not much reason to believe a government of a different political colour will be successful at weeding it out. Only limited savings can be made by finding cheaper wholesale suppliers of paperclips.
What we need to do is admit that we’ll completely eliminate whole swathes of low priority projects.
I have no doubt that many public sector workers will bemoan the huge amounts of money frittered away on failed IT systems – especially if they are asked to withstand a wage freeze. Fair enough.
But how many public sector workers are going to say “The whole project I’m working on is just not worth the candle. We chew up large amounts of taxpayers’ cash for very limited output. To be honest, you should sack the lot of us and close the whole thing down. Don’t trim us, don’t audit us, don’t set new targets for us. Just kill us off.”
Not many, I’d guess.