At the End of the Day

‘Fear not, fellow citizens, for we are all at it together’

Quietly in the background of endless tediously circular debates about cuts, stimulation, debt reductions and bailouts, the Department for Work & Pensions has been chugging along.

That’s it. Although chugging along with welfare reforms it largely doesn’t like (and briefing Labour’s Shadow Cabinet about the hidden bits) the DWP hasn’t been doing any of the cutting of its own staff, as such. I mean, none at all. When fingered by the National Audit Office earlier this week about its zero reduction in costs, and the need for ‘a more robust savings strategy’, DWP mandarins haughtily replied that there was “little or no possibility for a department such as ours to plan savings”. You see, so busy are they going slow on the IDS reforms while leaking like a bunch of colanders to Opposition MPs and rebellious Tories, well, I mean – they simply haven’t had a second to even think about cutbacks in their own patch.

But there’s an important bit the press have so far largely missed. In the NAO report, there is a sentence which completely blows the gaffe on the DWP’s savings strategy. Get this: the NAO warns that (my italics)…

‘…the department’s tactic of basing its plans on budget restrictions rather than “robust” running costs data was flawed. In DWP-speak, ‘budget’ means the actual budget for spending on welfare benefits.

Isn’t that a belter? The DWP’s ‘tactic’ (great word for a scam this big) is apparently to put cutting welfare for its citizen clients before even considering cutting any of its own kind. Now fair enough, cutting a £150 billion budget will produce greater savings: but could you sleep at night if you weren’t putting your own house in order too? Well you could if you worked for the EU in Brussels, because they awarded themselves a 5% budget increase while ordering the Greeks to sell their citizens at the next Chinese slaves market.

In Brussels or Whitehall, Washington or Berlin, functionaries always have Number One as the number one priority. Isolated example? Try this one: Burton MP Andrew Griffiths has uncovered, through a written parliamentary question, how staff from public spending watchdogs have been wining and dining each other at the taxpayer’s expense. That’s a cracker too. “Well you see Minister, um, to er understand why civil servants go to lunch all the time, we had to research the product”.

The Sun, meanwhile, ran an expose saying that Ken Clarke has spent £27 million on outside consultants at the Justice Department. This is a story aimed at Suedey Ken because the Sun objects to Clarke’s militant Leftie preference for reading the data on crime reduction – rather than reintroducing the rack, which is what the Currant Bum would prefer. (Currant Bum, Scum, gerritt??!!??)

In fact, I doubt if Ken has hired any of them. These will be reports and studies commissioned by the Humphreys are are too unworldly/incompetent/classicist/idle/thick to undertake the research themselves. There are a million ways to hide the rate of spending from a Minister. And almost as many ways to leak the overspend to the Scum once the Minister has decided to ignore your advice.

When Camerlot came into office, there was much talk of “no more external consultants beyond legal and accountancy, period”. Advertising has been slashed by 60%, and the COI which coordinated most of it disbanded completely. Yet somehow, the Department of Justice experts need consultants on crime. Why do they need them? And how have they been allowed to get away with it?

And so we return wearily to the subject of the MoD, and its vicious cuts to the pay, conditions and numbers of Armed Forces personnel. Yes, I’ve been saving the worst until last.

The squaddies may be having a tough time, but the Top Brass and their Mandarin chums are not stinting themselves. Last September, they moved into a new Army Headquarters’ building costing £44m. The MoD’s own site proudly announces that  the facilities will ‘provide a modern working environment that is more efficient, economical and environmentally friendly, with open plan offices, a gym, cafes, shops and landscaped gardens’. You know – just like you get in Helmand Province.

While this fun palace was being built, in October 2009 the MoD cancelled the entire Territorial Army training budget for six months, ‘in order to save money’. This was because the previous year, they had installed new IT ‘to cut costs’….and as a result, overspent the entire MoD budget by 10%.

Anyway, there’s been a few more red faces now that the Telegraph has splashed the news of MoD officials blithely sending internal emails calculating that the department is at least £10 billion short of what it will need in the coming years. The financial “mismatch” is larger than all the defence cuts announced in last year’s Spending Review, and has raised fears of another round of painful reductions in the Armed Forces.

Once again, how did it happen? It’s a blunder – who is to blame? Will anyone except another five regiments lose their jobs? I wouldn’t mind if we had only just discovered that the MoD is peopled by clodhopping, greedy lovers of palatial buildings, but we’ve known about this for years.

In a still ongoing fiasco, the Mod spent £240m on eight Chinook helicopters. Ordered in 1995, they were delivered in 2001. But they only started to enter service in 2010.

A National Audit Office report has revealed that the helicopters were stored in air conditioned hangars in Britain for nine years, at vast expense – while troops in Afghanistan were forced to rely on helicopters with safety faults. The NAO humanely omitted to point out that we had also invaded and occupied an entire Arab nation during that time. To this day, it is unclear why some idiot thought the copters would be more use creating an ozone layer hole over their storage hangar than flying through the air trying to avoid friendly fire.

Hastily, the Chinooks have been updated ( a lot moves forward in aeronautics over a decade) at a further cost of £90million, but the rush to get them in service means that some key features will be missing. The total cost for eight sub-standard Chinooks supplied to the forces ten years late is in excess of half a billion Pounds.

Enough already. The point is easy to make, and the evidence crystal clear. The civil service is run and largely peopled in the administrative section by self-seeking, pension-snaffling, arse-covering, blunder-making lowlife who care little for the country and even less for their charges.

Even if we had a determined political Administration in power, it would be an uphill task to clear out the greedy, Luddite, blinkered dead wood that runs and executes the roles of social welfare, justice, the armed forces and education in our society. From obstructive cost-cutters and a top-heavy officer corps all the way through to clueless teachers and lazy justice officers, not just a whole generation but a whole attitude set needs to be swept away. I suspect the likes of Gove and Duncan-Smith are up to it. But I can’t believe the Magnificent Two can do it on their own. Not in Camerlot.

And the bottom line? That public spending cuts are falling miles behind, the economy is dead in the water, and bond yields are set to rise. We are screwed, but the gold-plated Sir Humphreys have nothing to fear.

Not yet, anyway.

Related: How the Whitehall Mandarins illegally bumped up their pensions after 2006