Money down the Tube
Sir: Andrew Gilligan’s assessment (‘Chucking millions down the Tube’, 19 September) that for much of the public sector ‘the spending of money has become an end in itself’ is a timely one. Increased investment in public services is both the No. 1 thing Gordon Brown believes he can offer the country and the No. 1 thing he claims to have achieved. As Sir Humphrey put it in Yes, Minister, the Treasury does not work out what it needs and then think how to raise the money. It pitches for as much as it can get away with and then thinks how to spend it. Politicians selling themselves in elections need a way to quantify unquantifiable things, like how good our schools are, or how well our hospitals work, and billion-pound figures sound impressive. Civil servants keen to have bigger budgets to play with are only too happy to indulge their ministers. In the boom-time it was just about possible to get away with such profligacy. But with the nation in recession and in debt, we need not just cuts, but a profound change in our political culture. Simply raising the budgets of failing public services must stop being seen by politicians as the only way of improving them.
Sir: Andrew Gilligan may well mock TfL for spending £97 million on providing wheelchair users access to platforms (but not trains) at Green Park. But there is no reason why attention should not be given to other areas where a real difference can be made to the disabled. One of the best ways of viewing London is from the top of a double decker bus, but passengers in wheelchairs are excluded from this pleasure. It is time that lifts were installed in all buses to bring an end to this discrimination.