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8 April 2010

Ten questions for Cameron and Osborne on state “waste”

But will they ever be posed and/or answered?

By Mehdi Hasan

1) How do you define waste in the public sector? Isn’t there a difference between making “efficiency savings” and cutting “waste”?

2) How, for example, does selling off valuable public-sector estates and properties at potentially knock-down prices, and in violation of existing contracts and leases, save the taxpayer money in the long term?

3) In 2005, the Tory report on planned savings ran to 173 pages but this year the statements produced by Sir Peter Gershon and Dr Martin Read cover just four pages. Why are they so much shorter, and less detailed, this time round?

4) Isn’t there a conflict of interest in having an adviser advocating spending cuts while chairing a private company that could potentially benefit from them?

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5) Why won’t you put Sir Peter Gershon and Dr Martin Read up for interview? With, say, Paxman?

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6) Why do the two two-page notes from Gershon and Read contain no detailed explanations or statistics, or any department-by-department breakdown? What happened to Tory transparency and openness?

7) How do you respond to the Standard Life chairman, Gerry Grimstone, who also happens to be advising the Trearury on its operational efficiency programme, and who says: “By the time the next government is ready to take detailed decisions, we will already be well into the financial year. It is just not credible to think that our savings can be almost doubled”?

8) Why do you pretend as if the government is not tackling “waste” in the public sector, despite the Treasury having announced £15bn out of a target £35bn in efficiency savings?

9) How do you respond to the OECD’s chief economist, Pier Carlo Padoan, who says that “the fragility of the recovery, a frail labour market and possible headwinds coming from financial markets underscore the need for caution in the removal of policy support”?

10) Having accused the government of “moral cowardice” in failing to deal with the Budget deficit adequately, isn’t it irresponsible, not to mention hypocritical, to use an imagined saving of £6bn to make a tax cut, rather than tackle the national debt?

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