New Labour has brought this country to the brink of bankruptcy and yet, even now, when everyone else can see it, they remain in denial. How on earth can any pollster find people that are daft enough to believe that Darling and Brown are best placed to get us out of this mess? Never have I felt such utter despair. Up and down the country, people are having to tighten their belts and reign in their spending, only then can they hope to get themselves out of debt or survive a period of reduced income. Ask anyone and they will tell you this is simply commonsense, anyone that is, other than a ‘New Labour’ MP or the recipients of New Labours redistribution of taxpayers money. New Labour believe that they have discovered the secret to dealing with reduced income and spiralling debt, just borrow more! If that were not enough, they elect to lie to themselves and their masters, by suggesting that things will get better by the end of this year and by 2011, we will be in the money again as a consequence of a boom, the like not seen since the ‘dotcom era’.
Our government tells us that the economy will shrink by 3.5% this year, whereas the International Monetary Fund suggests that it will be 4.1% and the the Centre for Economic and Business Research, 4.5%. Even taking account of the Governments hugely optimistic and unlikely forecast, they will have to borrow £175bn this year. In my view, the governments forecast is a lie and I believe they know it is, but rather than give it to us straight, they would sooner treat us like idiots. If the governments figures are wrong and most economists believe they are, then borrowing will be even higher, something our government, your government, doesn’t want you to know until it is too late to do anything about it. Even when it was announced that the economy shrank by 1.9% in the first three months of this year, the government still insisted that their figures were accurate, in other words, we (the government) are right and everyone else is wrong. Early estimates suggest that if the IMF figures are more accurate that those of the Government, then borrowing will increase by around £30bn per year, no wonder this Government doesn’t want us to know the truth.
Next year, the government is forecasting growth of 1.25%, yet in spite of this, they still need to borrow another £173bn. Once again, others, such as the IMF, suggest that the growth figures are vastly optimistic, suggesting instead a contraction of 0.3%. In spite of this, the government then tell us to expect a dotcom like boom in 2011, with a forecast growth figure of 3.5%. Utter fantasy, but even with this spectacular figure, the government will still need to borrow £140bn. Followed by £118bn in 2012 and £97bn in 2013. In other words, even taking this governments completely unrealistic contraction and growth figures, we still need to borrow more than £700bn over the next 5 years. Even to a Cabinet simpleton, this has to indicate that we, as a country, are living well beyond our means. It is also worth noting, that even before the property slump and the recession, we were still borrowing well in excess of our income, with further fancy footwork taking place to move other government debt, such as the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) off the government balance sheet. So, no matter what Gordon Brown will have us believe, we were heading for a fall even without the recession. If he denies this then he is either a fool or a liar..perhaps both! We must not be surprised that this government is lead by liars either, after all, it was they who made a manifesto commitment not to raise the higher rate of income tax and they who promised a referendum on the European Constitution and then denied us the right by falsely claiming that the renamed treaty was not the same. Two manifesto promises, two out and out lies, why should the electorate ever trust any party again over manifesto promises?
The government has decided that anyone earning over £113,000 per year must lose all of their personal allowances, which will cost them around £50 per week and anyone earning over £150,000 per annum, will face a tax rate of 50% on all earnings above the threshold. This governments justification is that these people have gained most during the boom years and should, therefore, pay more now. The truth is somewhat different. Over the past 11 years, the people that have benefited most from the boom, in relative terms, is the lower paid, funded in no small part by those on middle and higher incomes. This was as a direct consequence of the governments programme to redistribute wealth. The government has also said that those that earn more must pay more. But they already do. Someone on £113,000 per year pays, in cash terms, seven times the tax that an individual earning £25,000 per year does.
It is also worth noting that anyone lucky enough to earn over £100k per year has not been gifted it, they have earnt it through promotion, success, hardwork and/or entrepreneurial risk taking. No employer would pay someone over £100k per year if they weren’t worth it. It is also worth remembering that these people are resident here, which means that they spend the majority of their money in the UK, therefore, they will be contributing substantially to the economy in the form of other indirect taxes as well as helping to create employment through the purchase of goods and services. The money that the government takes from these people won’t be handed straight over to the poor as they imply, instead, it will be used to plug a huge gap in government finances…which has become something of a bottomless pit. I would sooner have the taxpayer keep more of their money which, if they spend on goods and services, will be the best natural stimulus this country could possible have. If the government could not fleece the taxpayer so easily, they would be forced, as the rest of us are, to ensure that available funds are spent wisely and are only used on what is necessary, rather than desirable.
The bottom line is, that the only way we are going to get ourselves out of this mess is if we reduce our spending, this is basic economics and most 8 years olds could tell you that. Increasing taxes reduces the amount of money in the economy and it is this that will prolong the recession. The government is asking us all to believe that it can spend our money better and more wisely than we can, is there anyone out there, other than those that do not contribute, that would agree with this statement? For those that believe this government has its priorities in the right place, then they should consider the following; According to the government, the increase in tax announced for higher earners is worth up to £7bn per annum, although other experts believe the actual figure is much, much lower, but taken at face value, this tax increase pales into insignificance when set against government spending on databases. The government intends to spend, in spite of the recession, some £105bn of our money over the next 5 years on databases and other largescale IT projects, that is equivalent to over £20bn per year, or half the defence budget. These databases are designed to allow the government to drive a coach and horses through our civil liberties, monitor our every move and spy on our every deed. How can that be a priority at anytime, let alone during a recession, the databases are far from an essential spend?
The government has failed to grasp the nettle of public sector pension schemes which now costs us £2.7bn every year and rising. Even though the government has hammered private sector pension schemes with a tax take amounting to more that £100bn over the past 10 years, they have done nothing to deal with the public sector pensions, where the gross liability has been estimated to top £800bn. This abdication of their duty is simply breathtaking. For those that are not aware and, in the interest of putting things into perspective, 20p in every £ of our council tax goes directly towards funding local government pensions (source: Taxpayers’ Alliance). With public sector pay now above the levels of those in equivalent jobs in the private sector and better job security, little wonder that questions are being asked. Some MP’s have been whining in recent days that they should not be expected to vote for less money in relation to their lavish expense allowances. Why not, the rest of us have not been given a choice?
Alistair Darling noted in his budget speech that there will be £15bn of “efficiency savings”. Note, these are not cuts, but efficiency savings. What I don’t understand is why they have only noted them now, any well run business would have an ongoing programme of efficiency measures designed to save money. If they are genuinely efficiency savings, then the government must hold its head in shame, because that is the equivalent of admitting that this government has presided over a massive programme of excess and/or waste. But lets call a spade a spade, it is not just efficiency savings that are needed, but cuts, real cuts. The Conservatives lack the courage to outline what they would cut, which leaves them open to any charge the Labour government wants to send their way, such as cuts in health and education. They (the Conservatives) should have the courage of their convictions and tell us what they will be, we know they are necessary, but scrapping the ID Cards system, whilst wholly sensible, does not cut the mustard. By contrast, the LibDems have highlighted some 8 or 9 areas they would cut. We all know that the LibDems won’t get enough support to form a government, but based on the fact that they are willing to put their stake in the ground and then fight their corner, they are demonstrating considerably more moral courage and conviction than their Conservative counterparts.
Because I don’t want to be accused of highlighting the problems, but not putting forward any solutions, the following would be my first port of call in terms of saving money. And, for the record, I would not be looking to increase direct taxation, since as I have already argued, the best stimulus this country could get, is the natural one provided by people spending their own money in the way they so choose.
- Scrap all database/unnecessary IT projects, including, but not necessarily limited to; the Communication Database, ContactPoint, the Travel Database, the NHS Database and the ID Card Scheme. Saving £105bn over the next 5 years. It is worth noting that over-runs on this Governments 8 largest projects total a staggering £18.6bn (source: Times & Computer Weekly). That’s right, this is just the over-runs, not the total cost!
- Scrap the ‘Tax Credit’ system and return to a simplified tax and benefits system that does not see people pay a higher rate of tax simply so they can fill a form in a claim it back as a tax credit. The same objective can be achieved by using personal allowances and a simple tax system. Minimum savings of £4bn per annum as a result of less fraudulent claims and errors (currently £2bn per annum), plus savings in process and administration.
- Can local council’s publicity machines, saving £430m per annum.
- Cancel the Child Trust Fund (Baby Bonds) programme, saving £470m per annum.
- Reduce International Development Aid budget by half. At this time, we can ill-afford to offer £billions in aid to other countries. Saving of £2.5bn per annum.
- Close down the Regional Development Agencies that have delivered little, if anything, for businesses in the UK. Annual saving of £2.1bn
- Reduce funding to the Scottish Assembly, the current ‘Barnett Formula’ is outdated and the amount paid allows people in Scotland to benefit from services that those in England cannot, such as free prescriptions and free care for the elderly. This is neither fair, nor equitable. The budget should be trimmed by at least 10% saving £2.6bn per annum.
- Withdraw automatic right to ‘sick pay’ for public sector workers. Savings £1.7bn
- Reduce the number of consultants used by various government departments by half. Saving £1.5bn per annum. Use the balance to recruit the skills that are necessary rather than pay inflated costs to outside companies.
- Reverse the increased cost of Quangos in the UK, which has risen by £41bn to £123bn. Saving £40bn per annum.
- Close tax loopholes which cost the UK Exchequer £8.5bn from High New Worth Individuals, £3bn from large companies and a further £7bn as a result of tax evasion and other activities. Total: £18.5bn
There are, of course, many other areas where our money is squandered, my particular suggestions would save approximately £70bn. Any halfway competent government, or government in waiting, could come up with a set of plans that could easily trim 5%-10% off government expenditure without necessary affecting front-line services. This could lead to savings of up to £60bn per annum. In fact, the European Central Bank found that if the UK’s public spending was as efficient as say, the USA or Japan, we could realise a saving of 16% without any cuts in front-line services, that is a whopping saving of £93bn per year. Throughout government there is duplication, waste, excess and abuse, this area should be tackled well before cuts in essential services are considered and this is what the opposition parties should be focusing on.