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Thursday, June 30, 2005
Risky Government

Two recent initiatives bring home how risky large government is for taxpayers.

First, the proposals for increasing the role of paramedics working for the ambulance service. Yes, the roles are laudable and the outcomes may or may not be more efficient, but think about how this change is being market tested. Because the innovation is being proposed by a monolithic nationalised industry it becomes a major political item; with all doctors, all health service workers, all the media, lots of patient groups and vast cohorts of administrators having their say. What a stupendously inefficient way of making change happen. About fifteen years ago I can remember a report about paramedics in Orange County California bringing in portable defibrillators on trial. There was no fuss, just a few dedicated doctors and paramedics working together to see if they could save more patients' lives and crucially, no extra cost to local taxpayers.

We're going to pay through the nose for the debate about paramedics - and this tax money will go nowhere near any paramedic or patient, it will go into endless meetings as each interest group tries to second guess what part of this change might affect them badly. Operational efficiency and patient benefits are more than likely going to be a very small part of this gabbling.

Second, the same process is at work in the identity card debate. This monolothic proposal brings in the mighty monster of the IT procurement process inside government. This is a never never land of special interests that has a track record of cost over-runs second to none. Once again, the taxpayer becomes the fall guy as arcane debates about the requirement, the technology and the useage processes see government stumble into the unknown at our expense.

That big government is risky is a notion we should all be remembering - the worst part being that they take risks with our money.

Eben Wilson, Editorial Director

Posted by Matthew Elliott | Permanent Link

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Tory tax debate

Tax has taken centre stage in the Conservative Party leadership election today as David Cameron makes the case for restoring the married couples allowance a key policy in the(unofficial) launch of his leadership bid.

Ahead of his Policy Exchange lecture, David Cameron told the Daily Telegraph that he would like to reintroduce a tax break for marriage. "You can't bribe people to get married but the Government ought to ask the question: Are we making it easier for people to stay together or more difficult?" This would be a welcome development in Conservative Party policy. More worrying, however, are his views on the level of taxation.

Tax cuts should, he believes, be a long term aspiration rather than an immediate priority. "I would hope that any Conservative government at the end of its time in power will have reduced taxes but if the first thing the Conservative government has to say is tax cuts and the smaller state then we haven't 'got it'. If we're all in it together then we have to have well-funded public services."

Alongside David Cameron's interview was a report on Shadow Chancellor George Osborne's research visit to Estonia which appears to put him at odds with his political soul mate. George Osborne called for the Conservatives to "make a bold case for lower and simpler taxes". Like David Cameron, Michael Howard said earlier this week that tax cuts were not "a silver bullet" and that public services should come first.

George Osborne said to the Daily Telegraph: "I am not disagreeing with Michael Howard; tax cuts are not a silver bullet. But we ought to make the case for lower and simpler taxes right at the beginning of the parliament, and it needs to be part of a broader economic strategy. I don't think we can just come up with a few tax cuts three weeks before the election."