Value for money needed (Billy Fox)

Twelve billion pounds, give or take half a billion – that is what the latest decision by government to abandon the NHS computerised system is costing the taxpayer. Not that it is really their fault; the previous Labour government initiated the scheme against expert advice to the contrary.

Add to this the £469 million cost to the taxpayer on the similarly abandoned scheme to centralise 46 local fire and rescue centres down to nine regional centres across England. Plus the Edinburgh tram fiasco, now estimated at £776 million, more than double the original, although it is likely to cost nearer £1 billion when interest payments are added in.

These are just a few examples of recent incompetence to cost the taxpayer dearly, the list is endless. How will we ever get the services we deserve when such a level of incompetence is being displayed right, left, and centre?

The NHS fiasco will cost more yet as a system still has to be put in place. The current loss of £12 billion works out at approximately £200 for every man woman and child in the UK, £800 for an average couple with two children. It could have paid the salaries of approximately 60,000 nurses for 10 years.

Now I don’t mind paying a reasonable amount of tax, although I have issues with the levels of VAT and fuel tax on top of what we pay in income tax, not to mention tax on insurance premiums, air fares etc. But a reasonable level of tax is okay if we are getting value for money, but we are not.

Instead we have a failing education system, health service, transport network – you name it, we are losing it – and we are facing public sector cuts because our banks and government regulatory systems caused a global economic meltdown which we have still failed to turn the corner on. This in no small part due to the banks conducting business as usual despite most being majority owned by the taxpayer through £850 billion worth of bail-out measures.

Then there is the human cost. Within all these sectors there are millions of dedicated people doing a very good job for not a great deal of money. However, with such ill-judged measures hanging over them, morale and future prospects dip to very low levels. Increasing levels of unemployment undermines an economy and places further burden on the welfare state. What we are losing in the public sector is not being taken up in the private.

We face an uncertain economic future, one where we must learn to curb our expectations to one of make do instead of must have. However, I do not see that it means we must lay waste to large areas of infrastructure and services which form our economy and which we will never regain once they are gone. Savage public sector cuts are not the answer; there will be irreparable damage if we cut too deep.

As UK citizens, and indeed global citizens in this global village we now inhabit, we must begin to make demands of those who form the policies which shape our lives.

We could make a start by getting rid of those accountable for such mistakes, instead of rewarding and allowing them to go on to pastures new for a repeat performance.

We also need to listen to people at the coalface for the correct solutions, rather than pay huge sums of money to consultants for the wrong solutions.

Billy Fox


Add Your Comment
  • P Fraser

    • October 13th, 2011 13:44

    As I am sure Mr. Fox will know, blundering incompetence and waste occurs at local level as wells as at national. Indeed Shetland over the last decade or so can be seen as a microcosm of the national tragedy. The litany of incompetence and waste exhibited by Shetland Islands Council is equally as great, in terms of scale, as that of the Westminster government and the Scottish regional government.

    The Shetland Islands Council’s dismal record certainly cannot claim value for money for repaving Commercial Street or The Bressay Bridge litigation or Smyril investments. Bungling and blundering by the leadership of the SIC in appointing the last three Chief Executives far outshines any governmental incompetence. The final tally for the cost High School fiasco still has to be revealed and even now the SIC cannot present properly audited accounts.

    On the horizon the Viking Energy project may easily equate to the Edinburgh Tram fiasco with the difference that there will be nobody to bail out a bankrupt Shetland Charitable Trust. Under the threat of scrutiny the SIC leadership in a panic reaction has called for a referendum that my ultimately loose the Trust its charitable status.

    Nationally the cost of incompetence and waste falls on those least responsible and it will be the same story in Shetland when the £26 million axe falls. An axe due in no small part to decades of SIC waste and incompetence. Mr. Fox is right is saying we should get rid of those accountable for such mistakes and this is true locally just as it is nationally.


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