01 October 2009

What to cut? Here’s a conservative list

With the party conferences of the Socialist Liberal Democrats and the Nanny Labour Party out of the way here in the UK, next comes the Conservative Party. Can it inspire so that instead of Labour simply losing the election to it, that it positively wins? I have to say it is unlikely.

However, with First Past the Post, the realistic alternatives have extremely remote chances of getting anywhere. UKIP is a party that is welcome on scepticism about the European Union grand state collectivist project, but also painfully stupid on economics with a protectionist streak. The embryonic Libertarian Party UK on the other hand is so limp wristed with its “libertarian” policies, that it looks to the left of Thatcher.

So, given the UK’s enormous public scepticism about politicians, the widespread belief that the state has grown too much and the understanding that the budget deficit must be drastically cut and eliminated, so that the huge burden of new Labour inspired public debt can be cut, I thought I’d pull together a list of spending cuts that any half arsed decent Conservative government ought to have the courage to implement:

1. Scrap the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and terminate all subsidy, loan and other forms of state support for businesses. The best support British business can get from government is to cut taxation and get the hell out of the way. No picking winners, no corporate welfare. Phase out all schemes to give money to employers to recruit and train people.
2. Lead a determined campaign at Brussels to cut the size of the EC budget substantively. Declare that the UK will cut its contribution regardless, and that if other EC member states don’t like it, then they can be reminded of their own widespread breaches of rules regarding budget deficits and the Euro. A first priority should be an immediate suspension of all export subsidy schemes, and a nominal freeze on the growth of agricultural subsidies.
3. Start a new round of privatisation. The Royal Mail and Channel 4 should be the top of the list. However it is time to be really bold and include the motorways. Don’t do the lot in one go, start by selling the tolled crossings separately, then regional networks of motorways, for extended lease periods. You’ll have to find a way to pay the new owners from taxes you collect, but give the owners a period to introduce electronic tolling, then cut back on fuel tax.
4. Cut spending on unprofitable railway projects. No new high speed railway. Let projects proceed only if Network Rail accepts full risk of borrowing and paying it back from track access charges. It is time the railway started paying for itself. Crossrail should be the last big taxpayer supported rail project.
5. Scrap the ID card scheme. It might only save £40m says the Home Office, but it is unnecessary and immoral. Write it off.
6. Scrap a wide range of major IT projects, like ContactPoint, NHS National IT Programme, the expansion of the DNA database to include innocents.
7. Scrap subsidising rural broadband. In the meantime, restore BT’s property rights over its own network. It is increasingly seen as a legacy system anyway.
8. Abolish all regional development agencies and suspend further funding of regeneration schemes. There isn’t the money to spend on state property investment.
9. Charge people on the NHS who are “no shows” for any appointments, charge all people who visit A & E with anything less than an urgent emergency, introduces charges for more than 1 GP visit a year for everyone 18-65 who is not below the poverty line. Freeze NHS spending in nominal terms.
10. Radically reform funding of the Scottish Executive, so that funding is proportionate to actual taxation raised from Scotland. Let the Scottish Executive cut what it can.
11. Eliminate extra welfare for people already on welfare who have additional children.
12. Negotiate an end to EU welfare tourism that entitles EU citizens to claim welfare in each others’ member states. The UK will withdraw from such provisions, meaning UK citizens cannot claim welfare elsewhere in the EU, and vice versa, except for old age pensions on a like for like basis.
13. Freeze all public sector pay until the budget is in surplus.
14. Terminate immediately all new taxpayer contributions to public sector pension schemes and announce that there can be no new members. This is exactly what New Zealand did in the early 1990s.
15. Abolish all new agencies created in the past 12 years. From those regulating childcare to those regulating the postal sector. Britain lived quite happily without them before, it can do so again.

Meanwhile, do not increase any taxes. Prepare for a simplification and general reduction in taxation once budget deficits have been eliminated. Announce what these are likely. Don’t cut defence. It is your core role and the mission in Afghanistan is hamstrung by appalling management and budgeting. Whilst Iran and Russia continue to sabre rattle, now is not the time to cut Trident.

Oh and really, this list is shamefully short. I have barely touched welfare, housing, health or education. This should be the easy stuff politically, although some (like Europe) will take some backbone.

What are the chances even a third of this list could be adopted?


Sus said...

Hi Scott .. why don't you send this in the form of a letter to the Chairman of the Conservative Party?

And The Daily Telegraph?

Anonymous said...

I have to ask, when did you become so passionate about money? I don't mean the acquisition of money but government spending it? Was it a concern to you at say age 12? 15? when? I look at a Libertarian and see someone slightly odd, seemingly obsessed with subsidies, welfare and the like. Another thing I find quaint about you is your attitude to socialism. This is a time when when the socialist influence has never been weaker and yet you bang on endlessly about it. It's like you read "151 Days" not realising that it all took place nearly sixty years ago. The waterside workers are not out to nationalise your lawn mower. Yes I've read your profile but that is pretty standard fare, love of life and all that (you didn't mention Mario Lanza but perhaps you have to be an older libertarian to appreciate him). Don't jump down my throat Liberty it's just that I can never quite get my head around what drives libertarians. It seems to be a case of money above all else though dressed up as a concern for personal freedom, whatever that is in todays complex society.

Libertyscott said...

Anonymous: Money? My concern is more subtle than this. It is those who use other people's money. I grew up hearing about Think Big. Rob Muldoon's grand plan borrowing money for my taxes to pay off to do great things, and it flopped. That man and the sheep who were in the National caucus destroyed wealth of future generations, they made people who didn't vote for them pay for their speculation of money that wasn't their's.

It's simply immoral.

Money per se, is not the issue, although it is the most remarkable medium of trade and exchange. What is the issue is the use of force to take money from others, waste it, and not be accountable. The beneficiaries of subsidies have received unearned money from those who were forced to pay them. How is that moral?

For me it is about the initiation of force. I get just as passionate about those who want to ban and regulate behaviour that doesn't initiate force or fraud against anyone.

I disagree that the socialist influence has never been weaker. The mainstream view is the state should engage in major transfers of wealth and be the dominant supplier of education and healthcare, and provide for everyone's retirement. Having worked for the state sector in the past, and dealt with innumerable politicians, I cannot fathom why anyone can trust these largely mediocre people to make judgments about your healthcare, education or indeed the economy.

After all, it is not libertarians that want to spend other people's money, but those on the left (and not a few on the right) who have pet projects they could never convince people to CHOOSE to pay for. That is why I'm intrigued by your comment on money. Some on the left often say "people before money" and then want government to take more money from people, and spend it. Indeed, the left is characterised primarily by materialism, dressed up in terms of "social justice" (a euphemism for taking money off some to give to others).