Thursday, January 21, 2010

Surprise, Surprise

When a UK government announces a big spending programme, you can almost bet easy money on it that it will either be an existing programme sexed up to look new with a few bells and whistles tagged on, or it will run late and/or be over budget.


A programme to refurbish nearly two million council homes will cost more than twice the original budget and take eight years longer than planned, the public spending watchdog says today.
The National Audit Office says that the Government has missed its target to finish the programme to repair all social homes in poor condition by 2010. The initial budget of £19billion has been vastly overspent, with the total cost expected to hit £37billion by April next year, it says.
By last November 1.4million homes had been upgraded under the Decent Homes initiative out of the more than 1.6million originally needing work. By the end of this year only 92 per cent of the programme will be finished but the homes needing repair will have increased since 1997.
This would leave more than 300,000 homes still in a state of disrepair, with some not being refurbished till 2018-19. Part of the reason for the delay is Gordon Brown’s decision to pump £3billion into council house building at the end of 2008.
After a Treasury decision that most of the cash should come from existing Whitehall programmes. The Communities Department agreed to release £150million from the Decent Homes programme.
So, twice as much and 8 years overrun, not only that but they had to nab the cash from other programmes too probably making them less efficient and slower.
For the life of me I cannot remember ever a government programme that's actually cost less and was completed early, I'm sure at some stage there must have been one, I just can't seem to recall one in recent years, nor in the historical past either.
Part of the problem is (I believe) that those negotiating the contracts don't have a clue about what is needed or required for those contracts, having no business experience. The other is of course the politicians and their need to announce big new soundbite policies without looking at the whole picture, assuming they even want too.
Politicians clearly feel the need for good publicity, the pressure of losing popularity as a parliament goes on makes them look for anything at all that will make them look good in the publics eyes, even when it comes back to haunt them later, which in most cases it does.

Just once it would be nice to get a government that knows what its doing, knows when to do something, knows how to do something and knows the true cost of doing something instead of making up policy and projects on the fly and the say so of the Prime Minister.
I'm not holding my breath on the off chance of the Tories being any better either, they can't be any worse though.

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