Consult or cut?


The Times reported last week that a management consultancy employed for its cost-cutting skills is playing a key role in helping the shadow cabinet draw up plans for power. The time-and motion crew have seconded a member of staff to the implementation unit run by Francis Maude, the paper says.

This will do no good at all. It will be like the time when Mrs Thatcher brought in a top businessman from the board of Marks & Spencer – then thought to be Britain's best-managed firm – to map out how to make the civil service and government systems more efficient. The civil servants listened politely as he explained how they could re-use the envelopes or whatever, and then after he had gone everything simply reverted to normal.

It was at this point, in 1982, that the Adam Smith Institute published its seminal report, Strategy Two. The first strategy, of trying to make government more efficient, had failed, it said. The second strategy, and the only thing that would restore the public finance, should be to make government smaller. It led, of course, to the great privatizations of telephones, utilities, carmaking and all the rest. Inside government, no amount of effort would have made them more cost-effective. Outside government, the chill wind of competition did the job in no time. Francis Maude should send the stopwatch bandits home and bring in a wrecking crew.

Dr Eamonn Butler's new book, The Rotten State of Britain, is now available to buy now. Click here to find out how.