Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Impotent Government?

Yesterday in Parliament, Labour leadership hopeful and standard bearer of the hardcore socialist-wing of the PLP, John McDonnell posed a question to the Department of Transport about cuts.

He was clearly hoping for an answer that would provide a line of attack we can expect across the board over the next next few years having asked "what assessment has been made of the impact of planned reductions in his Department's funding of rail in 2010-11."

The response however was, I must admit, rather worrying, as it seems to imply that the Government, at least in some cases, may not actually have the power to cut some budgets (or at least not cut them until they scrap certain quangos). Philip Hammond, Transport Secretary said (emphasis mine),
My Department has agreed to contribute a total of £683 million to the £6 billion of in-year budget reductions sought in the emergency budget.

As part of this Network Rail has indicated that, subject to the consent of the Office of Rail Regulation, it will reduce its requirement for Government funding by £100 million.

I am clear that similar efficiencies can be driven from the large organisations to which the Department for Transport makes grants, such at Network Rail, as can be found by the Department.
So, not only do we currently have a £538 million shortfall still to be found, but it also seems that the Office of Rail Regulation has to provide consent for budget cuts at Network Rail.

Ted Heath famously asked "Who Governs Britain?" in relation to industrial relations and the unions. Looks like the question may still be relevant 35 years on, the only difference is that it's not about crazy trade unions but rather Government created quangos.

Talk about being hoist by your own petard, huh?

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