Welcome to the Public Works blog.

Public Works is UNISON Scotland's campaign for jobs, services, fair taxation and the Living Wage. This blog will provide news and analysis on the delivery of public services in Scotland. We welcome comments and if you would like to contribute to this blog, please contact Dave Watson d.watson@unison.co.uk. For other information on what's happening in UNISON Scotland please visit our website.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Bumper Book of Government Waste

The tax cutting campaign group the Tax Payers Alliance have produced yet another one of their attacks on public spending. In their imaginatively title Big Book of Government Waste, they stick to their effective tactic of finding spending they don’t like at calling it waste. This year they have managed to reach a total of £120billion.

It’s a great laugh, mocking arts projects, awards ceremonies and councillor's lunches meanwhile, the Big Bumper Book of Private Sector Waste is still unpublished: The costs of failed privatisation, massive bonuses paid to chief execs for failure, billions wasted on PFI, private failures like Southern Cross and G4S and its Olympic security fiasco. As ever public sector workers terms and conditions are their first point of attack. Almost half of their waste total: £53billion comes from “overpaying on public sector pay and pensions”. This is not mistakenly overpaying. What they mean is that wages are too high in the public sector. So key to reducing “waste” in their eyes is reducing workers wages.

They claim that public sector workers are paid 8.2% more than private sector workers; this requires some deeper analysis though. The figures do not include bonuses or other perks which are far more prevalent in the private sector. Across the UK, particularly in England many of the lower skilled and paid jobs that were once in the public sector have been outsourced to the private sector. Outsourcing the lower paid jobs raises the average wage measure without anyone receiving any wage rise at all. This has also increased the number of low paid jobs in the private sector so decreasing the average wage point there.

Despite what the tax dodgers’ alliance claim the public sector is not where the fat cats are working. If you compare the pay of graduates, for example, in the public and private sectors then they earn less: 5.7% to be exact.

A trawl thorough their pages outlining figures from newspaper paper reports on council tea biscuit and train ticket bills can raise a smile but it’s not a serious analysis of public spending. It’s a shame that so many media outlets treat them as if they are producing high quality independent research. They are a right-wing body dedicated, not to value for money for tax payers, but to reducing the size of the public sector. They are currently campaigning to get rid of National Insurance, which no doubt suits their wealthy backers but may be a bit more tricky for the rest of us. “Behind the Mask” published by the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance shows exactly who they are. Backers include: Tony Gallacher owner of Gallacher UK who has given £3million to the Conservatives since 2001; Christopher Kelly owner of Keltruck : Sir Anthony Bamford, of JCB who has also donated £1million to the Conservatives. and Stuart Wheeler who having previously donated £5million to the Conservatives has now endorsed UKIP. Remember who they are what they are trying to do the next time you here them on the radio.

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