The Burning our Money blog reported last week on the truly amazing scale of waste at the Football Licensing Authority (FLA). This emerged as a result of Greg Clark MP's grilling of the department's permenant secretary Jonathan Stephens in select committee. Clark had ascertained that the FLA was spending ...(wait for it)... £180,000 a year to house its six employees in one one of the most prestigious addresses in west London.
Stephens was absolutely determined to avoid saying whether this represented good value for money. His pathetic evasions would have been comical if it wasn't for the seriousness of the matter. Let's face it, the best possible spin that can be put on it is that it's gross incompetence. It could quite conceivably be graft. It will almost certainly be forgotten by next week and the waste will continue unchecked.
Burning Our Money has been tireless in its reporting of this sort of incompetence and excess in the public sector - if you are going to be successful in the propaganda game you need to keep grinding your message out week after week. These efforts have been rewarded with a very respectable technorati rank, so we can hope that the message is getting out. But if you do follow that last link, you might like to take a look at who is linking to Burning our Money. In essence it's the right and the libertarians. The left (or indeed the LibDems) are nowhere to be seen. So the question is "Do the left care about waste in the public sector"?
Now it might be possible to argue that Burning our Money is a right wing blog and will therefore predominantly attract readers from the right, but my impression from the Labour blogs I follow (Kerron, Paul, Bloggers4Labour) is that public sector waste is not a significant issue to left wing bloggers. Kerron had a post last year about Portcullis House, and I also read a post somewhere which said the left ought to take the issue more seriously. And that's about it.
This is a pity, because if any issue should be able to get a cross-party consensus it's wasteful spending. The example of the Porkbusters campaign in the US is a case in point - left and right getting together to force the government to change its ways. And it's surely in the interests of the left to get to grips with this issue. The scale of waste will not go unnoticed by the general public forever, and if they ever do become aware it will be the left that will suffer.
At the end of the day, if we are to have "democratic accountabililty" there has to be real accountability. If someone cocks up there has to be some sort of sanction applied. Heads actually need to roll, including those at the top. For me, I think Jonathan Stephens should be summarily dismissed, as he would be if he were the CEO of a private company. I'm interested to know if those on the Labour or LibDem left share this view, and whether they feel that they hav spent too long arguing for higher spending while avoiding this issue of whether the money has been well spent.
Answers in the comments please.