This will be an excruciating afternoon for many quango chief executives sitting by the telephone. Many of them will be praying they don’t hear from Francis Maude, whose call will be as welcome as hearing from the angel of death. This is the afternoon when Britain’s arms-length bodies find out if they are to be thrown on the bonfire.
The official announcement will be made to parliament tomorrow. But expect some leaks this afternoon as chief executives break the bad (or good) news to staff. There is likely to be quite a few changes from the draft list, which was published in the Daily Telegraph some time ago.
David Cameron and his team will be doing some post-match analysis after his first prime minister’s questions against the new Labour leader. They will be wondering how and why he came off relatively badly against Ed Miliband.
This first encounter may not set the pace for the many years ahead, but it was a good result for Labour. Miliband performed well because:
a] He picked a topic, cuts in child benefit for those in the top income tax bracket, which makes many Tory MPs feel uncomfortable and which resonates in Middle England. He stayed on the subject for as long as he could. And he had two awkward statistics up his sleeve. 1] That the policy hurts families where only one person is working on £45,000 but doesn’t hit families with two earners on just under £44,000. 2] That a family with three children taking home £33,000 after tax would effectively pay an extra 6p in the pound on the basic rate of income tax.
b] He sought to maintain an air of calm, only raising his voice at one moment. Gordon Brown was so aggressive as prime minister that he eventually turned himself into fair game for Tory abuse. Miliband’s tactic is to try to sound like the reasonable politician only wanting to know the truth. Cameron, for all his skills in oratory, may struggle to hit exactly the right note when dealing with the younger, less polished leader of the opposition.
Another day, another salvo against public waste from the communities secretary, who seems to be relishing his assault on needless state spending. Today he claimed in a speech that councils were overpaying invoices to the tune of £147m a year – based on an estimate by Experian.
“£147m would pay the wages of nearly nine thousand care workers. And more importantly, it betrays a particular attitude. A lack of respect towards public money.”
I’ve had a read of the Experian report, or at least the eight-page PowerPoint presentation of its results. The credit checking group carried out research on 11 local authorities, looking for invoices that had been paid twice. Its research found that there was 0.16 per cent duplication for “a well-run local authority”, equating to £600,000 of waste from an authority with a £400m budget. Experian then presumes that the figure would be “much higher” for many councils. However, it has used the 0.16 per cent figure to reach its total £147m estimate of “recoverable monies” from the sector as a whole.