Frank Field MP
Your MP for Birkenhead
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More for Less

Productivity in the public sector fell by well over three percentage points between 1997 and 2007. This finding, published by the Office of National Statistics is the starting point of the new politics that will dominate the next ten to fifteen years.

Most politicians are still singing from the same old hymn sheet which is now irrelevant. The theme music has been an ever expanding public budget.

It was obvious this time last year that Britain faced a major budgetary crisis. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimate that by 2012 public expenditure even after taking into account the changes the Government have announced for after the election will come in at 48% of GDP. By then the Government estimates the economy will be again booming, but the tax revenue from this booming economy will come in at 'only' 38% of GDP.

How are the public accounts to be balanced? That is the big central question which needs to come centre stage if the debt market is to be convinced that Britain is worth lending to.

The ONS report is the most useful of pointers to the politics of the new era. Not only has the central assumption of social democracy - that increasing gains can come from increasing public expenditure - been tested to the point of destruction, but the new politics needs to pick up the debate from this very point.

Each of the major public budgets must be set the task of winning those non-existent productivity gains that should have been forthcoming as undreamt of sums money were allowed to slosh around the public sector. New skills will be required for the new politics.

The key people that have to be promoted in the public sector are those whose eyes are firmly on the new agenda of delivering more for less. Job security can only come if public sector workers embrace change to deliver those productivity gains which have failed to materialise since 1997.

Politicians too will need new skills. Move one is to tear up the old hymn sheets. Move two is to write the new music. The idea that one is a good Minister because one successfully defends ones budget against attack has to become old hat.

Ministers should only be promoted because they start delivering more services with a smaller budget.
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Showing comments 1 to 5 of 6

It is unfortunate that we never had the "great debate" taht Gordon Brown called for before the 2001 election. That debate could have been about the "how" rather than the "how much" of public policy, allowing the delivery of services to matter as much as the cost.Even now, we see Brown and Balls lying, blatantly lying about Labour spending plans to create a false difference between them and the Conservatives over "how much", all based on £1 off tax = £1 off spending.Efficiency gains are made by changing the way things are done to delivery better service at lower cost. In the world of Labour and the mandarins, even the possibility of this is denied and any arguement about improving delivery at lower cost in drowned out by the cry of "TORY CUTS!"Frankly, it's pathetic.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
We might make some progress towards getting more for less if Westminster and Whitehall were both to recruit some talented IT people over the heads of the puffing old guard. As one who made his living for a quarter of a century writing commercial and technical software I know what tremendous gains in productivity are possible, but we shall never get them here as long as Government ministers and Whitehall mandarins are all alike far too ignorant of the technology to achieve them. There is a saying in Whitehall that "Experts should be on tap, but not on top." As a quotable quote it was one of Churchill's good ones, but it's nevertheless a recipe for disaster. High productivity demands high technical skills, but no expert wants to work for somebody who isn't; ergo the old guard have to go. There is no alternative, and nothing will change until it's done.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Unfortunately it is not just the politicians who need to change. I worked in Whitehall for 7 years and the people who run the government machine just do not care about spending money. It's not theirs is it? Only when a government has the guts to sack Whitehall mandarins who don't deliver will things improve.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Well said! Unless something is done about the ballooning public debt, we will get downgraded to AA in a couple of months' time and then all hell will break loose.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
But how will this come about?From what we are currently witnessing, the political parties have been attracting people with little experience of life and a 'big brother' attitude to moral law.I am ashamed to say, Mr. Field, that it has been our generation who by 'conditioning' our children rather than 'educating' them have created this shortfall in talented ethical human beings who would understand the concept of serving others less fortunate than themselves.'Has he drawn false boundaries?' (Babylonian. List of Sins. ERE v. 446) 'To wrong, to rob, to cause to be robbed.' (Babylonian. Ibid.)
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011

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