Despite this good advice from such diverse sources as aircraft engineers, software designers, Disney animators and even Leonardo da Vinci there is little evidence that our politicians and public servants are taking notice.
Today’s example was a government proposal to save money by changing some existing pensioner perks from being universal to being means-tested. The public servants – and think tanks – argue that it’s unfair to provide free bus travel to millionaire pensioners. So even though it would be hard to find a millionaire – of any age – travelling by bus they want to assess every applicant’s income to see if they qualify. This approach would mean that a relatively simple system based on age would have the added complexity, and operating overheads, of being linked to the taxation and benefits systems. A bus travel concession being available on a variable basis depending upon income. Any change in income would need a reassessment. One year you would qualify the next year you might not. Plus its operation would become subject to the whims of politicians who would feel to need to vary the income threshold and rules for eligibility. This would make for an ever-changing administrative problem that would need more and more manpower to keep going.
The KISS solution would be to say – if money needs to be saved on pensioners’ bus passes then just end the benefit completely. This would save the cost of the concession and the pass administration as well. The same approach could equally apply to the other pensioner perks currently under discussion in Whitehall – winter fuel payments and relief from TV tax for the over 75’s. A KISS approach would be – if there aren’t enough taxes coming in then scrap benefits one by one, in priority sequence, until the books are made to balance.
But there are a couple of problems here. First the politicians don’t like giving out bad news. They don’t want to scrap anything that would impact the majority of voters. Millionaires and city bankers are ideal targets since there are so few compared to the total population. Second the public servants are unlikely to have the broad range of experience required to draw up a priority sequence of benefit cuts. To be effective this needs to be based upon accurate and reliable cost-benefit analyses.
So instead there will be a fudge. One that does not look too bad to the average voter. But sadly this will not achieve the savings needed to improve the nation’s economic prospects. Debt will continue to increase. And there will come a point where no one will lend to us any more …