Daily Archives: October 25, 2010

Jim Pickard

When Francis Maude said a few weeks ago that he was culling 192 quangos he couldn’t put a number on how much money the coalition would save. And no wonder. The cost of any government reorganisation can quickly mount in terms of redundancy payments, closing down offices and so on – before you get any net benefits.

Regional Development Agencies will require a further £1.4bn-plus of state funding over the next four years despite their abolition in the spending review, officials have just confirmed.

The nine regional quangos, which are to be replaced with a patchwork of “local enterprise partnerships” – loose networks of councils and companies – cannot be axed immediately and instead will be wound down gradually with heavy redundancy costs for staff. Read more >>

Jim Pickard

It would be a volte-face to prompt an angry backlash from the right. But there are a few smoke signals emerging from above 10 Downing Street that a rethink of the immigration cap could be underway.

David Cameron’s spokesman insisted this morning that no decision had been made over the cap, which applies to the number of visitors from outside the EU. (The vast majority come from inside the free market and thus cannot be halted). Read more >>

Anyone walking past the main Treasury entrance today now will see a white sheet of paper stuck to the wall, which is supposed to cover up some graffiti.

A rather big and burly security guard has been given the job of fending off photographers and making sure no one sees what is behind it. Read more >>

Jim Pickard

Charles Walker, a Tory MP, is hoping to table an amendment today to the Alternative Vote bill which would limit the number of ministers in the next Parliament.

His argument is that ministers are the “only cadre” of public life which is not seeing swingeing cuts. And he proposes that there should be an 8 per cent reduction in line with the proposed shrinkage of the House of Commons. Read more >>

Jim Pickard

My colleague Fiona Harvey has dug out the fact that an array of flood prevention schemes could soon be culled – despite claims by ministers pre-CSR that flood funding would be protected.

There could be “dozens” of flood measures among the casualties of the spending round including a £100m flood prevention scheme in Leeds.

Caroline Spelman, secretary of state for the environment, said on Wednesday that although the floods budget would be cut by 20 per cent much of this would be found through efficiencies. But Defra has since admitted that proposed flood defence projects would be cancelled, although it has not yet offered any details.

The budget for building new flood defences and upgrading existing defences has been reduced from an average of £335m a year to £261m a year for the next four years.

You could say this is unsurprising in the context of wider cuts to almost all parts of government. But it flies in the face of comments by ministers: such as Ms Spelman’s insistence during the summer that she would ensure the protection of vital spending on the key areas of animal health and flood prevention.

 Read more >>

Jim Pickard

(I first published this last October but thought it could be of renewed interest).

The following documents, obtained by my freedom of information request, refer to a contract signed in early 2008 between General Dynamics UK (the British arm of the US company) and the Libyan government to supply a communication system for its military.

The $165m deal was the first major defence deal between a British company and the north African state since an embargo was lifted in 2004.

The letters provide an interesting insight into the way that the Foreign Office provides help in assisting British business overseas – which is one of William Hague’s top priorities.

The redactions are by the FCO, which did not provide the dates of the letter. General Dynamics confirmed that the correspondence refers to the communciations deal.

Letter from General Dynamics United Kingdom Ltd to His Excellency, Sir Vincent Fean KCVO, Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador to Libya

Dear Vincent

As I sit on the aeroplane back to London after my first visit to Libya, I wanted immediately to write to thank you, not only for your extremely generous hospitality, but also for your personal interest and support on the rocky road towards success in the […] programme.

I am convinced that we would not be in the optimistic position in which we find ourselves without […] that your involvement […] and neither would we be able to make suggestions to the Libyans authorities on […] without your advice. So – my warmest thanks. We are genuinely indebted to you. Read more >>