Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Brown's Squandered Billions

James McConalogue reviews a new book by Matthew Elliott and Lee Rotherham ‘The Bumper Book of Government Waste 2008’, published by Harriman House, 2007, 332pp, ISBN 1-905-64148-6 [The European Journal offer: £6.49]

--Full text from The European Journal --

Matthew Elliott and Lee Rotherham – both of whom have a healthy relationship with the European Foundation – have written a superb update on government waste for 2008. They set themselves an ambitious task by attempting to discover how much of the government’s current £587 billion budget is being wasted. Through their research, they have uncovered £101 billion of government misspending. To put that in perspective, and to assure you that this is not merely a groundless cynical attack on the Labour Government, the book estimates that with that money the Government could cut the tax burden of every household by over £4,000 a year. Thus, it is substantial and it translates the uncovered burdens into the everyday cost for each individual. This is important since not even in “expert” Government analyses is such waste or cost in expenditure ever converted back into what such multi-billion state expenditures mean for the taxpayers.

It entwines the styles of each writer – Lee Rotherham, with jovial wit emphasising the ludicrous and disastrous nature of public expenditure whilst Matthew Elliott, presses his focus on what this unbelievable waste means to the British taxpayers’ – delivering a truly compelling guide which is not only able to bridge the personal and political facts of misspending schemes, but directly indicates what government misspending has amounted to in Britain and how this hits your pockets. The examples of where the money has been misspent are breathtaking and leave you first, stunned, second, hacked-off and third, wanting to do something about it. Of course, there is nothing you can do about it – until, possibly the next election – so it tends to leave you with a cynical and morose feeling well after you have put the book down. The jacket of the book even advertises this painful feeling: ‘If you’re a British taxpayer, you need to read this book – even though it will hurt!’

Tragic examples of misspending, included within the book, include:

• £280,000 on a conference addressed by Blair and Brown on value for money in the public services
• £400 million on 'cost control' for the Olympic Games
• £3 million by tax inspectors at HM Revenue and Customs on flights, including £2.1 million on flights to Scotland
• Over £16 million on the creation and upkeep of VIP lounges in Heathrow and Gatwick despite the fact they are not government-owned
• £100,000 on assessing whether £400,000 reportedly spent on modern art for seven hospitals was money well spent

This makes very interesting reading by itself, before we even make it onto the taxpayer contributions towards the failing European Union. As this fifth section clearly states, the EU Industry Commissioner had already admitted that that the overall burden of regulation was costing the EU approximately €600 billion a year. The British Chambers of Commerce estimates that red tape has cost British business £55.66 billion; and that 72. 5 per cent (£40 billion) of this is derived from EU red tape. They discover how the Commission miscalculated the asset value of its buildings by €188 million, total lease liabilities by €254 million and an accumulated depreciation value by €23 million. Nothing escapes the precision, analytical accuracy, methodological exactitude or the authors’ devotion to uncovering the financial failures of the European institutions throughout their research. They also report the €26 billion pension burden in the EU which, so far, has not been accounted for. (And all this comes, rather embarrassingly, at a time when the EU Court of Auditors’ failed the accounts for the thirteenth year running). Within this context, Rotherham and Elliott provide plenty of damning examples on the degree (cost) of waste and the outrageous use of resources within the European institutions. What it does achieve on the way to convincing the reader that Brussels is very much a wasteful socalist machine that Britain would be better off without, at least in its current state, is provide an effective bridge between the personal and political through the use of anecodotes and experiences to show exactly how the governmental machinery of the European Union bureaucracy is “skewed to suppress.” Rotherham and Elliott are rather adept at pushing those issues to the forefront, with details of Brussels form-filling, staff credit card fraud, through to the dumping of 800,000 tonnes of dead fish under the demands of the Common Fisheries Policy, which all becomes part and parcel of the Orwellian lunacy, that is the ideology of the European Union.

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