Thursday 27 May 2010

Waste and inefficiency

I can't say that I was ever entirely convinced about the Child Trust Fund which Labour introduced a few years ago. It seemed to me to be a well-intentioned idea, which hit some of the right issues, but there was never really enough money behind it to make a real difference. And it was always the case that those children whose parents were most likely to add to the fund were going to be the ones who least needed the potential boost at a later age.

The Welsh Government tried to partially address the problem by adding a top-up of its own, but it still didn't look to me like the sort of sum of money which was likely to be life-changing in the opportunity it created, particularly when compared with the imposition of huge fees for higher education when those children reached the age of 17/18.

That's not a case for scrapping it completely; but neither is it a case for retaining it unchanged.

No surprise therefore that I thought the reaction from Huw Lewis – who called it 'evil' and 'anti-child' - was a bit over the top. Amanwy's reaction was rather more measured – and it echoed a point which I've made a few times before. Politicians use words like 'efficiency savings' and 'cutting waste', because they sound like good things to do. After all, who'd want to argue in favour of waste or inefficiency?

But without defining what they consider to be inefficient or wasteful, the words are little more than a euphemism for cutting things that they don't think should be publicly funded. Allowing politicians to get away with referring only generically to waste and inefficiency throughout the election campaign meant that, in practice, none of them was forced to tell us what they really meant. And for all the huffing and puffing by Labour now, the key difference between them and the Tories boils down to what they would have included in their practical definition of those two key words.

No comments: