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An issue of freedom and economics - Cut the costs of Parliament by half

Economist Anthony Scholefield, who last wrote us about putting Britain's financial house in order, has sent us a paper on cutting Parliamentary costs by 50 percent.

Economic times are tough, and Parliament increasingly is all sizzle and no steak. The three major parties falsely and treasonously led the British people into the European Union. As a result many laws are not written in Westminster but in Brussels. Consequently, large overhead costs for a Parliament that is all pomp and no circumstance are excessive, to say the least. That Parliament has ceded the independence of the British people is also tragic.

However, some laws are written in Parliament, and these increasingly reflect the Orwellian instincts of the bureaucratic class. It is therefore in the interests of free people to reduce the size of government and the number of bureaucrats.

Scholefield lays out the costs and his proposal -

CUT THE COSTS OF PARLIAMENT BY 50 PER CENT

There has to be massive cuts in public spending which will have to be proposed by ministers and approved by Parliament. The numbers being proposed by outside commentators are creeping upwards towards the realistic figure of 20 per cent plus.

It is a necessary part of this reduction in public spending for Parliament to lead by example and a cut of 50 per cent in its costs is quite feasible. The present costs of Parliament illustrate the way that public spending has got out of proportion.

From 3,000 employees to 29,000 in 30 years

It is quite astonishing that, despite the expenses scandals, there are at present no concrete plans put forward by the Government or Opposition to reduce the costs of Parliament, although George Osborne has said the Tories are committed to reducing ‘the cost of politics’. This has now (26/7) been echoed by David Cameron but his only concrete proposal is to reduce the number of MPs. This, of course, has no effect for another five years.

The recent figures obtained by The Political Club, and broadcast on Radio 4 on July 13th, show the number of salaried political employees has risen from 3,000 to 29,000 in the last 30 years. (This includes councils, devolved assemblies and Brussels.)

Additional to The Political Club estimates, there are the official Parliament staff, such as clerks, police, catering, support staff, etc., which have mushroomed in line with the number of political staff on the taxpayers’ payroll.

Contrast this out-of-touch feather bedding with the actions of the new English Democratic Mayor of Doncaster who has slashed his salary by over 50 per cent, got rid of his chauffeur and introduced many other cuts in wasteful spending.

Parliament’s costs are as follows for 2007/8. (It was estimated that 2008/9 would see an increase of 4.2 per cent.)

Mushrooming Parliamentary expenses

PARLIAMENT - COSTS 2007/8

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Members & expenses & staff

£169,310,000

Administration

£227,885,000

Total

£397,195,000
(of which Members’ pay is £40,245,000)

HOUSE OF LORDS

£121,500,000
(no breakdown of Members & expenses & staff available)

The total cost of the House of Lords and House of Commons was, therefore,

£519 million in 2007/8
and
£540 million (est.) in 2008/9.

Out of this amazing sum, only £40,245,000 was spent on paying MPs (peers do not get paid) with no less than £478 million, or about 91 per cent, spent on overhead costs. This ratio of overhead to operational costs is quite absurd.

One should remember that Parliament is only open for business for about 150 days a year.

The cost of paying some MPs a hotel allowance to stay in London for 150 days a year is quite trivial, say, 500 MPs at £100 per day for 150 days totals £7.5 million.

The actual salaries of MPs are not the problem but a reduction in pay would go down well with the electorate.

Academic studies in bureaucracy show that this wasteful outcome with a high overhead ratio is not unusual. The actual operational expense, that is MPs’ pay, is not particularly costly, but all sorts of time honoured add-ons in pensions, allowances, party subventions and support staff, have grown up over the years.

Bloated overhead costs

As the number of people employed one way or another by Parliament increases, greater administration costs are required to pay and control extra staff. New offices are required to house them, pensions have to be paid, etc.

Just consider the House of Commons. Total costs in 2008/9 were about £410 million. If one sets aside £40 million for MPs’ pay and another £7.5 million for their accommodation expenses, is it unreasonable that the House of Commons could get the rest of its spending down to £152 million a year in overhead’ costs? This would save £200 million.

As for the House of Lords, there are no direct operational costs as peers are unpaid. It sits even less frequently than the Commons, yet it managed to generate overhead costs of £121 million in 2007/8. Could the House of Lords get by on £60 million on year?

If these bodies cannot control their own overheads and show no sign of cutting back their costs in the face of the massive public deficit, how can one have any faith that their members will exert their role to control the spending of government departments?

Moreover, the electorate will only respond to a programme of cuts in public spending if Parliament cuts its own costs the hardest.

This can be done – quite easily.

But none of the major parties has taken this seriously and the electorate is, therefore, rightfully cynical about any real intention to get the public finances in order.

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