Can these ideas slash our deficit? Imaginative tips to cut Whitehall waste

Here is a tiny sample from tens of thousands of suggestions from government staff and the public, most of which the Treasury is now seriously considering

Sunday 22 August 2010 00:00

1 People with over £300,000 in assets should not get their pension.

2 Charge for Freedom of Information requests. Last month I received a Freedom of Information request asking how many times the council flew flags at its main office. To answer this took about an hour – cost: £25. The request came from a journalist on a national paper and he emailed his request to all 400 public authorities – thereby, at the press of a button, costing the public sector £10,000. FoI legislation was never designed to cater for this kind of lazy journalism. This particular journalist submits several similar requests each month.

3 Scrap Trident.

4 Stop smoking breaks. If seven smokers take four 15-min breaks in a day, that equates to a full time job!?

5 The elderly face the possibility of paying and contributing to the cost of care homes. I believe it costs approx £40k per prisoner per year. Charge prisoners for their upkeep.

6 Let's have fewer local councillors.

7 I work for the Pension Service, where the one thing that angers me more than anything else is the bottled water supplied throughout my department. Water costs less than 0.05p per litre out of the tap.

8 Tax foreign vehicles using our roads.

9 The Civil Service is ludicrously bloated. There are 525,000 employees, all on incremental pay scales that rise automatically. There are also hundreds languishing in non-jobs, because of the crippling cost of making them redundant. Civil servants have one of the most lucra- tive redundancy deals in the country. For example, a 46-year-old earning £40,000 who had been a civil servant for 25 years could enjoy a cash payment of about 6.2 years' salary on retirement, or around £300,000. Cutting this to one year's salary as redundancy payment would save £6bn over 10 years.

10 Force all Man U fans to live within 10 miles of Old Trafford.

11 Ban the spending of local authority money on publicity or advertising. They currently spend over £400m on this.

12 As a public-sector worker, working with teenage parents, I am regularly invited to conferences run by Capita. I don't attend as they charge me in the region of £300, and speakers are generally other public-sector workers who will share good practice from their area of the country. It should be shared for free.

13 Abandon the concept of Away Days.

14 Stop providing cheap over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol to patients as take-home drugs when they can buy these themselves.

15 Stop police forces creating brand messages like "Working for a safer community". That's their job. We don't need a slogan on a police vehicle to tell us what they are meant to be doing in the first place.

16 Give councils the power to treble taxes on derelict properties.

17 I teach on a part-time basis in a school in the South-west. I have a full, enhanced CRB [Criminal Records Bureau] check – funded by the school. I have a full, enhanced CRB check for the school where my children attend. I have a full, enhanced CRB check in a nursery where I am on the committee – paid for by the nursery. I was told I require a full, enhanced CRB check at two other local schools where I have been asked to do some supply work ... Each CRB check costs approximately £60. How does this make sense?

18 Many councillors were once happy to do their bit for their communities without the need for a massive increase in our allowances. My allowance has increased from £300 to nearly £5,000 a year!

20 Stop the child BMI survey.

21 Stop the overly generous sick pay provisions which are one of the key reasons for greater absenteeism in the public sector.

22 The UK Border Agency wastes huge amounts of money running a fleet of cutters and associated speedboats which patrol the coast and supposedly catch illegal immigrants and drug smugglers etc. When asked what success they had I was told that last year that they did catch some Chinese people attempting to cross the Channel at Ramsgate. I understand there are 12 staff on each cutter. Then, there is all the admin and support that would be needed to keep the fleet fuelled, and serviced. Annual costs must exceed £10m before depreciation/repairs etc.

23 Stop cutting the grass on roadside verges.

24 Many people who work evenings or weekends get an enhanced pay for working at this time. In most cases, they are working then because it suits them better. Why should they get paid more?

25 Save money by using Open Source software and operating systems like Ubuntu instead of paying Microsoft all the time.

26 Start children at primary school at the age of six or even seven, as in Scandinavia.

27 We work at a British embassy in the visa section. While we feel that the right to appeal is important, I would suggest charging a fee. The current system allows all applicants refused a visa to submit an appeal without any extra charge. A person who applies for a six-month family-visit visa, and who, for example, produces counterfeit or forged documents, is then able to exercise a right of appeal, which costs around £10,000 to hear.

28 Only plant perennials. No more pansies in flowerbeds.

29 Cut the salary of any government official earning more than the Prime Minister.

30 Reduce paper use. If a ream (500 sheets) of A4 paper costs £3.99 and your department uses 100,000 reams a year, that amounts to £39.9m per annum. The possible savings could be as much as 50 per cent of that figure ie, £19.95m per annum.

31 Cyclists who ride on the highway should have a licence.

32 Get people to work for their benefits. Even if it was for just one or two days a week, at least this would get people in the habit of working to earn money.

33 Increase employee contributions to all unfunded public-sector pension schemes by a third. Unfunded public-sector pension liabilities are now as much as £1.1trn, while the bailout of public-sector pensions could reach £335bn, more than £13,000 per household, over the next 50 years.

36 Cancel the high-speed rail link.

37 Get rid of, or trim, the number of managers. Example from Kent University: the members of the Equality & Diversity Forum are: Learning Manager skills for life and work; Learning Journey Manager; Equality & Diversity Manager; Accreditation & Administration Manager; PM Skills for Life Partnership Development Manager; KEY Quality & Development Manager; Partnership Team Manager; BSL tutor and E&D tutor champion; Teacher Training Manager; Marketing Manager. Who are they all? What or who are they actually managing? How much are they being paid? And this is just one forum's membership.

38 Legal aid should be dramatically reduced. People fight for things they wouldn't fight for if they were paying.

39 Immigrants should have to qualify for access to state benefits.

40 Get rid of BMWs for the Metropolitan Police service in London. Other police forces, such as the Transport Police, manage with less expensive vehicles.

41 Stop giving netbooks to primary schoolchildren.

42 Council housing should be given to those who need it for a set number of years, not as a prize for life.

43 Leave the EU.

44 My husband and I work in the public sector and are constantly frustrated by the fact that equipment and services have to come from a restricted list of suppliers. My husband needed to order a new cutting blade for a piece of printing equipment. From a recommended supplier it cost £120, plus £18 delivery. My husband did a Google search, and found the same thing for £25, plus £1.25 delivery. He was not allowed to order it, as the supplier was not on the list.

45 Stop paying young people £30 per week Education Maintenance Allowance to stay on at school. I know many young people who get this benefit and don't attend school. It encourages the notion that you an get money for doing nothing from an early age.

46 Stop civil servants' bonuses.

47 Those on benefits should not receive any more than the minimum wage, less tax and national insurance.

48 Increase tax on booze to Scandinavian levels. Add, say, £3 to 750ml spirits, £2 to 750ml wines and £1 to 300ml of lager.

49 Stop paying winter fuel allowance to people who live abroad.

50 Abolish road tax and put the duty on to petrol charges, thereby eliminating road tax dodgers and the cost of policing.

51 Many hours of police time could be freed up by scaling back the Statutory Pre-charge Advice Scheme, whereby police need to seek advice from the CPS prior to charge. It wastes a lot of time for minor offences. At present, there are a number of low- to medium-level offences that the police cannot charge, even when the suspect makes a full admission in interview. These include handling stolen goods, any fraud or deception, domestic offence or any crime motivated by racial hatred or homophobia ... I speak as a serving custody sergeant.

52 Compensation payments for unfair dismissal and hurt feelings should be subject to a cap on the amount that can be awarded.

53 The Ambulance Service continually attends drunk people on the weekend. They should be liable to an on-the-spot £250 fine.

54 My daughter who works in the NHS as a physio told me about a job to refurbish a small room: putting in a new sink, toilet, some tiling and new flooring. As a letting agent myself, I have a good idea what a good local builder would have charged – around £1,000. It actually cost £8,000. Her boss had no choice but to use the preferred contractor.

55 Street lighting in towns and villages outside the main conurbations should be turned off between midnight and 5am.

56 Completely remove all management consultants.

57 Parish councils should be abolished. I would say in excess of £270m could be saved.

58 Drastically increase council tax on second homes.

59 Having taught for 30 years, I've seen the textbook become, in the eyes of many students, a disposable item. Why? Because the school pays for them. I've seen French students' jaws drop when told that schools here provide these things for pupils. Why not make the pupils/parents provide their own text and exercise books?

60 Sell Cornwall.

61 Caravans have escaped the tax and MOT system for too long. How about an annual road tax and a four-year MOT? Tax per year £30; MOT £50. There are 498,000 touring caravans, so total raised every five years would come to around £200m.

62 The Land Registry provides too many services for free which other organisations would charge for. For example, it charges nothing for change of name or address.

63 The NHS should not be expected to provide vaccinations for travellers. If people can afford to travel to exotic places, surely they can afford to pay for their own vaccinations.

64 Scrap all unnecessary prison services such as acupuncture, Pilates, and massages like those provided at HMP Peterborough.

65 Limit benefits for extra children. Any children born into a family claiming benefits which takes the number of children in that family to over four should not be entitled to any additional benefits.

66 The Cold War is over. Close all UK bases in Germany.

67 Instal gateways into switchboards which significantly reduce the cost of calls to mobile phones.

68 Moratorium on the renaming and rebranding of all public-sector organisations and their internal departments. This will instantly save all the associated costs of new logos, mission statements, uniforms, stationery, promotional materials, lanyards, websites, systems changes, internal briefing sessions, and so on.

69 Every year, my TV licence renewal letter is in English and Welsh. I am English, and live in England.

70 Make schoolteachers do training days during their holidays. Inset days cost the nation an enormous amount.

71 Cut foreign aid to zero for the next four years.

72 The amount of paperwork sent to farmers is astronomical. One prime example: each cow needs a "cow passport". These are multiple pages and a very odd shape, making printing even more expensive.

73 Huge amounts of money are spent on trying to prevent drugs coming into this country. None of this is working. Nationalise the supply of illicit drugs.

74 Make all MPs use a hostel during the time Parliament is sitting.

75 I am astounded that people in prison can claim £110 a day if they are not let out of prison on their due date and have to wait for release papers.

76 Pay part of benefit payments in food and clothes vouchers, so it can't be spent on luxuries such as booze, cigarettes or Sky TV.

77 Withdraw from Afghanistan.

78 No child benefit unless the father is named on birth certificate and made to contribute to the child's upbringing. Make the absent father pay by increasing his tax code, or, if on benefits, reduce this.

79 Most NHS foundation trusts are required to take out working capital facilities with banks to provide against future liquidity problems. These cost the NHS millions in fees and are rarely used.

80 There must be thousands of items languishing in government attics and cupboards that are not needed. Let's have a giant car-boot sale.

Compiled by David Randall, Brian Brady and John Rentoul

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