In Gordon Brown’s day the word “cuts” was unmentionable. Now politicians talk of little else. Michael Gove has a new list for every day of the week. Civil service mandarins will be suggesting, in Yes, Minister style, cuts they know to be unacceptable in order to protect their own interests. For example, the MoD will be volunteering cuts in the armed forces while ignoring their own numbers. We have nearly as many civilians and elderly military personnel driving desks as we have active armed forces.

For a dispassionate analysis of how “Taxpayer Value”, i.e. better public services at less cost, can be improved see Taxpayer Value: Rolling back the State [3], published on line today. After some general principles it reviews the opportunities for departmental savings, primarily 265,782 staff (27% of the total), department by department and for quangos. Front line staff, devolved and local government are not included. This is just a reduction of bureaucracy. We do not suggest asking fewer people to do the same work: the key is to make bureaucratic involvement itself redundant. The improvement in public services will be even more valuable than the costs saved.