James Forsyth

Transparency in public spending

Transparency in public spending
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Steve Richards argues with his typical eloquence for higher public spending today. Unsurprisingly, I disagree with him. But, intriguingly, he endorses an idea that in the medium term would, I think, be incredibly effective in cutting down the size of the state.

Steve writes:

“The shadow Chancellor, George Osborne has proposed the equivalent of America's Federal Spending Transparency Act that enables US taxpayers to scrutinise online every item of federal government spending of more than $50,000. He has promised that anyone in the UK will be able to find out online, 'where their taxes are being spent and use this information to hold the government to account'.

This is a good idea. Nearly always such massive sums are highlighted in debates about public spending in which the arguments are close to meaningless for most people. But if the users of services are able to track how their money is being spent on specific services, I suspect that, again, minds would be focused in Whitehall and beyond.” Both Steve and I think that showing taxpayers just how their money is spent would lead to huge pressure for the money to be spent more effectively. But where we part ways is that I believe over time this would lead to people arguing for lower public spending on the grounds that they have seen how much money the state wastes, how ineffective much public spending is and that the amount spent is far from being the only factor that determines the effectiveness of a service.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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