Saturday 15 November 2008

Obnoxio's Manifesto

OTC makes the sensible case for scrapping large chunks of the quangocracy; buried away in the comments is his fuller manifesto, which is pretty much the same as my own:
First step would be to leave the EU.

Second step would be to repeal every law based on EU directives. We can always re-implement later. Mass repeal of every law introduced by Labour since 1997. (Probably a lot of overlap!)

Third step would be to shit-can every consultancy contract with the government and renegotiate.

Every single drop of government funding for quangoes and charities stopped dead.

Massive tax simplification: flat tax of 25% on everything above £12,000 per annum. Dividends untaxed. Corporate tax abolished*. All duties abolished**. VAT abolished. National Insurance either abolished or replace the current Ponzi scheme with actual insurance.

Sell off the NHS.

Renationalise the trains and resell them in such a way that you don't have oligopolies on routes. Same thing for buses.

Deregulate schools and introduce vouchers.

Introduce citizens income, end ALL welfare programs. Implement program to gradually phase out citizen's income***.

Sack the entire civil service, district and town councils. Review the entire governance requirement.

Go to the market to get us out of the bank ownership business.

* I'd quibble with this. It would be far better to have a 20% flat tax on all income, personal or corporate, than 25% on personal incomes and 0% on corporate.

** 'Duties' that equate to user charges, such as fuel duties to pay for roads; a modest tax of a few percent on new goods to cover refuse collection costs; or indeed taxes on land values seem like 'good' taxes to me.

*** I'm not sure where this is going. A higher effective income tax-free personal allowance is an important corollary of a Citizen's Income-style welfare system; as nobody can be sure which is preferable, why not give people a choice?

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Quangoes of the week

From AOLNews:

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo will announce the new Alcohol Improvement Programme at the National Alcohol Conference in Nottingham. It is hoped the £6 million* measures will help reduce alcohol-related harm.

They include establishing regional alcohol managers, pulling together local information, and increasing access to specialist treatments. Twenty of the most deprived primary care trusts (PCTs) in the country will share £3 million of the funding...

Another £2.7 million will be spent on regional alcohol managers and £450,000 will go to the National Support Team.

An extra £1 million will fund a new Alcohol Learning Centre.

Via The Fat Bigot, who sumarises thusly: "Perhaps £1million out of the 6 will actually go directly into something that might improve patient care, the rest will be spent generating and circulating paper. What better example do we need of the futility and wastefulness of government-led, top-down management of a service?"

* Maybe they'll fund this from the 10p tax on plastic bags that they are thinking of introducing in Wales? See previous post.

Monday 13 October 2008

Big Government f***s up, yet again (2)

The new contracts for NHS dentists which our very own government introduced* turn out to be a fraudsters' charter.

* Or indeed imposed, depending on your point of view. I know of nothing that suggests NHS dentists were actually lobbying for such changes, above and beyond the usual "Can we have some more money, please?"

Thursday 9 October 2008

"GPs paid more for working less"

This is hardly news, is it?

Average GP Partners salaries are now £114,000 a year, as against £56,000 in 2001. Adjust that for the fact the average working week is now 36.3 hours, not 43.1, that's equivalent to a payrise of 130%.

The generic headline "Government allows taxpayer to get conned out of billions by rent-seeking monopoly for umpteenth time" would cover it.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

"Smoking costs the NHS billions"

The bansturbators are at it again.

FFS, the NHS is a taxpayer funded public body. So what they are really saying is "Smoking costs the taxpayer billions". If that figure of £2.7 billion for the 'cost' of treating smoking-related illnesses is correct*, let's compare it with the taxes that smokers pay;

1. Let's kick off with £9 billion tobacco duties, stick on £1.5 billion for the VAT on top, makes £10.5 billion.

2. We pay for smoking out of our net income, taxable at around 30%, so before we can buy our smokes, we've paid another £4.5 billion in income tax/National Insurance.

3. Add to this the fact that smokers live ten years less than non-smokers, that reduces the number of pensioners by a 15 per cent or so, reducing the cost to the taxpayer by a further £12 billion odd.

Tot that lot up, and you'll find that smokers save other taxpayers about £27 billion per annum. Is it too much to ask that ten per cent of that is spent on treatment?

The much quoted ASH are of course yet another quango - they received a cool £320,400 from the Dept of Health and The Wales Assembly Government (see page 15 of the 2007 accounts), which is more than half their income. And is probably included in the £2.7 billion figure.

* And doesn't get revised up by a factor of four, like they did with alcohol related NHS admissions.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Alan Johnson's speech at the Labour Party Conference

Just caught the umpteenth rerun of this, yadda yadda, blah blah blah, but this stuck in the craw:

In the mid 1990s infection rates rocketed in understaffed and dilapidated hospitals. Last week I announced that NHS staff had succeeded in cutting MRSA infections, not by half as envisaged but by 57% in three years.

Woah! Fact check!

Deaths from MRSA increased from 51 in 1993 to 800 in 2002 (BBC)

Deaths from MRSA increased from 955 in 2003 to 1,168 in 2004 (The Torygraph)

Deaths from MRSA fell slightly from 1,652 in 2006 to 1,593 in 2007 "the first time the number of MRSA-related deaths has fallen since the ONS began keeping records in 1993" (BBC).

So we are still way above the numbers back in 1997, eh lads?

Meanwhile, the number of death certificates mentioning Clostridium difficile increased from under 2,000 in 2003 to over 8,000 in 2007 (BBC).

If you're going to tell Big Fat Lies, don't lie about things that can be disproven by scratting around for twenty minutes on the internet, FFS! Ah well, at least Tractor Production is up, I suppose ...

Monday 11 August 2008

"More people can choose to die at home"

I overlooked this fine article on a recent pronouncement by Health Secretary Alan Johnson MP (Lab, Kingston upon Hull West and Kessle).

Faced with headlines like these, a more accurate statement would be "More people will choose to take their chances at home".

Sunday 10 August 2008

Waste in the private sector

When you point out how wasteful and inefficient the State sector is, the traditional Leftie retort is "Ah yes, but there is waste and inefficiency in the private sector as well".

To which the counter-retort is "Ah yes, but the consumer doesn't pay for the waste; the consumer only pays what the goods and services are worth. Plus 17.5% VAT where appropriate. For example, 'Waterworld' may have been the most expensive film to make of all time, but the film was not that brilliant that cinemas could charge people double the normal price to see it."

In case that doesn't shut them up, or they ask "Who does pay, then?" or in the unlikely event that they say "Then the poor long-suffering shareholder must bear the cost", then is useful to look at a real life example; the Blu-Ray vs HD DVD 'war'.

Sony and Hitachi spent oodles of money in developing rival formats. If you were a shareholder in Hitachi, then you have paid an element of R&D and lost your money, and if you were a Sony shareholder, the gamble has paid off nicely*. But most sensible shareholders in Japanese electronic giants would own shares in both companies, so the only question is, do the gains (future income from licensing the Blu-Ray patents) exceed the cost of developing both formats? Almost certainly yes. So the shareholders haven't really lost out either.

So yes, superficially there is 'waste' in the private sector, but it doesn't really matter.

In any event, it pales into insignificance when you read about the NHS hospital wards crawling with vermin.

* When you think of the rival formats that Sony has developed and miserably failed to market, for example MiniDisc and ATRAC (instead of MP3) and so on, they had to get lucky sooner or later.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

NHS Fuckwittery (10)

Back in May, they came up with some Big Scary Numbers, claiming that 200,000 NHS admissions a year were alcohol-related.

Hmm. Not scary enough, obviously. So they've now revised that up to 800,000 admissions a year.

But despite this, they admit that only "£2billion of NHS money is spent every year treating patients with alcohol-related diseases", which is no higher than the guesstimate in my previous post, which is in turn only 2% of overall NHS cost and a small fraction of alcohol duty revenues. And it's not "NHS money" FFS, it's taxpayers' money.

The most outrageous claim is that "six per cent of all NHS admissions are in some way caused by drink". So what? Seeing as half of us are drunk for a couple of hours a day, I'd say this is pretty much par for the course.

Tuesday 17 June 2008

"Amy kept in hospital for further tests"

Stop it! Stop it!

It reminds me of this exchange:

DOUGAL- Father Stone's been in there a long time. Do you think he's dead?
TED- Dougal! No, they're probably just... keeping him in for tests.
DOUGAL- What kind of tests? General Knowledge?
TED- No, medical tests!
DOUGAL- Sure, what would Father Stone know about that?

(pinched from here)

Monday 2 June 2008

NHS Fuckwittery (10)

From today's Metro:

Around 2,500 under-14s are admitted to hospital each year because of the effects of alcohol... It also emerged that more than 1,500 pupils were expelled in just three years for drug or alcohol-related reasons. The Liberal Democrats, who uncovered the figures, said they were evidence of an "escalating public health crisis".

Wot? I thoroughly agree that under-age drinking is A Bad Thing, but that's hardly an "escalating public health crisis", is it? That 2,500 is barely 1% of all alcohol related admissions, which in turn, only account for about 2% of all NHS-admissions. 2,500 is also barely 0.1% of all 10 to 14 year olds. Hopefully, this experience teaches them a lesson, if not, well ... they are probably beyond redemption.

And why shouldn't schools be allowed to expel pupils for exactly that reason? I am sure that the gains to the hundreds of thousands of pupils whose lessons are no longer disrupted by scum like this far outweighs any other factors.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

"Cocaine victim numbers surge"

Shock! Horror!

The number of cocaine users admitted to hospital has more than quadrupled in eight years, it was revealed yesterday ... gasps The Sun breathlessly, ... The worrying statistics point to a dramatic rise in the drug’s popularity over the last decade..

It then continues with some hard facts ...
Cannabis poisonings nearly halved during the same period. Good stuff. Why is that not worthy of a headline?

The Government figures reveal 740 people needed emergency treatment after bingeing on cocaine during 2006/07, compared with 161 in 1998/99. Wot? Out of maybe half a million users, 740 overdoses? I'd guess that the bulk of these relate to crack-cocaine anyway, which is a truly vile drug, not the good old Bolivian marching powder that merely turns you into an arrogant arsehole and makes your nose bleed. Even if this guess is wrong, it's not much of a message is it "Kids! Don't do cocaine! There's a one-in-a-thousand chance you'll overdose if you take it regularly for a year! And going by these stat's, zero chance that you'll die!"

The majority – 629 – were men and their average age was 29. Yeah, so? Cocaine is taken predominatly by relatively wealthy men in their twenties, any fule kno that.

... the number of cannabis users needing treatment fell from 171 to 96 – and heroin overdoses fell from 1,962 to 1,530. Isn't that something to celebrate - out of one or two million cannabis users, only 96 needed treatment? Ditto heroin, with 300,000 users?

Last month the Government revealed drug-related hospital admissions had soared by more than a third since 2002. Many of the 215,447 admissions were for legal drug overdoses or accidental poisoning. So, er, by these figures, illegal drugs caused about 3% as many admissions as legal ones? And even legal drugs only accounted for 2% of all admissions (approx. ten million). Hardly a f***ing epidemic, is it?

H/t EUReferendum, who makes further very interesting points.

Thursday 22 May 2008

NHS Fuckwittery (9)

Shock! Horror!

Under the heading "Hospital alcohol admissions soar" comes this factoid: Alcohol was the main or secondary cause of 207,800 NHS admissions in 2006/7, compared to 93,500 in 1995/96.

Let's crunch those numbers:
1. Total NHS admissions approx. 10 million per annum.
2. Total spending on NHS in 2006-07 = £82 billion.
3. £82 billion ÷ 10 million x 207,800 = £1.7 billion* (assuming that average cost of an 'alcohol related admission' is the same as the average cost of all admissions)
4. Total alcohol duties collected in 2006-07 = £8 billion (from Tab C4), plus 50% for VAT = £12 billion.

So I think this is the usual BBC-Nulab alliance softening us up for yet more bansturbation. Wouldn't a more appropriate headline have been something like "Nulab drives nation to drink"?

* The Institute of Alcohol Studies reported that the cost was £1.7 bn back in 2004 (see page 8 of this), so this looks about right. Yes, there is such an Institute! All I can say is, I have been studying the effects of alcohol very closely for over a quarter of a century, and I am still none the wiser, heck knows what sort of breakthrough they're hoping for.

Friday 25 April 2008

NHS Fuckwittery (8)

In brief ...In all, 127 [NHS] managers lost their jobs. The average pay-out each is to receive will be just under £120,000.

Look, if those jobs were superfluous, they should never have been 'created' in the first place? Is anybody going to take the rap for that? No? I thought not.

That this sort of practice is rife in Northern Ireland is hardly surprising.

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Fun with numbers

Remittance Man has produced a statistical tour de force, concluding that if every woman in the UK stopped drinking it would postpone 1,000 deaths a year.

Thursday 13 March 2008

"Health inequality gap widening"

Nulab are so obsessed with the fact that better-off people's life expectancy is improving faster than that of people in 'deprived areas', that they forgot to give themselves a pat on the back for improving life expectancy by an average of 2 years over the last decade (at enormous cost to the taxpayer, of course).

Oh ... which is a piss-poor result really, seeing as life expectancy increased by an average of 2.7 years every decade over the course of the twentieth century.

Thursday 6 March 2008

Public sector employment & public spending in the UK

In the context of nothing in particular, here's an overview of how things have changed between 1997 and 2007.

Total public spending, is up from 41.2% of GDP to 44.6% of GDP, per the OECD's Economic Outlook, Table 25 (having dipped as low as 37.1% in 2000). GDP seems to be about £1,400 billion, so if spending had remained a constant % of GDP, it would now be £48 bn less. Had it remained at 2000 levels, it would be £105 bn less.

According to this, employment in the public sector (in the narrowest sense) is up from 6.1 million to 7.0 million (column D); but if you chuck in all the para-statals - quangoes, state-funded charities and so on - employment in 'Public administration, health and education' (Column M) it has increased from 6.5 million to 8.3 million.

So what are all these people doing?

The number of nurses and doctors in the NHS has increased by 120,000 (from 400,000 to 520,000). Spending on the NHS in nominal terms has trebled.

The number of teachers in English schools has increased by 36,000, from just under 500,000 to about 530,000, call it 600,000 for the whole of the UK. Nominal spending on education has doubled.

The number of police officers has increased from 126,000 to 140,000.

That means that out of those 8.3 million, there are 1.26 million nurses, teachers, doctors and police officers. To be fair, they need back up staff (cleaners, receptionists, classroom assistants etc) let's be generous and double that to 2.5 million, stick on another 500,000 for DVLA, court system, armed forces, a few people to run dramatically reduced and simplified tax/welfare system, issuing passports and so on, so 3 million seems a reasonable upper figure for public sector (about 10% of all employees). Not that the State should employ teachers and medical staff of course, but AFAIAC the taxpayer should still bear the cost of basic level health and education vouchers to be used in private sector, so the cost would be much the same.

So what on earth do the other 5.3 million other people in 'Public administration, health and education' do all day long? Presumably bugger all. So let's sack the lot

Total government spending is currently about £625 billion. If you knock off £165 bn for child benefit, welfare and pensions, that's £460 bn on salaries and overheads. As a check - 8.3 million employees x average salary £25,000= £210 bn, plus 50% for public sector pension accruals plus 50% for overheads (buildings rent and maintenance and other jollies) = £420 bn, plus £40 bn wasted on PFI, EU membership and so on, seems about right.

So if you sack 5.3 million of them, that would cut public spending by 5.3/8.3 x £460 bn = £290 bn. Giving them all a flat rate Citizen's income of £60 per week would reduce the saving to £275 bn. About £50 bn of current spending is being funded by borrowing, so to balance the books we could still cut taxes by £225 bn.

So in theory you scrap VAT (£77 bn), National Insurance (£87 bn) and reduce income tax and corporation tax (£144 bn + £45 bn) to a flat 20% or so (see Table C4) without even having to worry about Laffer effects.

That's what I call a libertarian budget!

Tuesday 4 March 2008

"Average NHS wait up under Labour"

Lots of fun-with-numbers on the statistics that show average waiting times in NHS are up marginally over the last ten years, from 41 days to 49.

What I like best is where Ben Bradshaw MP (Lab, Exeter) abandons all hope of doing the mental arithmetic to somehow prove that average waiting times are shorter and goes for a couple of bare-faced lies instead:

"Under the Tories is was not uncommon to wait 18 months or more for an operation. Tackling long waits leads to a short-term increase in the average wait as the backlog is cleared - this can be seen in the data."

Er ... so ten years later is a 'short-term increase', is it? Is he admitting that they haven't cleared the backlog after ten years? Are there people who have been on a waiting list since 1997?

Let's not forget that the nominal cost of the NHS has nearly trebled from £34.7 bn in 1997-98 to £94.3 bn in 2007-08 (planned - see page 7)

Friday 4 January 2008

Ann Cryer MP (Lab, Keighley)

Prompted by Verity over at DK's, I have uncovered some fascinating statistics.

Another Labour MP making evidence-based-policy! Whatever next?

She doesn't always get it right though - she called for immigrants to be forced to learn English a few years ago, which is bollocks of course. Once people are here they are here, you can't deport them for failing a language test. The cheaper and better solution would be to grant residence permits only to people who can already speak reasonably good English when they apply.

* Update - a subsequent post at Vindico's has set me thinking - would such a ban be in the slightest enforceable? Hmmm...

Wednesday 2 January 2008

Dave don't got no clue (3)

Apparently, Dave The Chameleon wants 'the Tories to become the party of the NHS'; has 'axed his party's previous proposal to subsidise patients to go private'; as well as calling for fines on hospitals who allow patients to become infected.

Pop quiz, which bits of this rhetoric did Blulab nick off Nulab and which ones did Nulab nick off Blulab? I don't know any more. And I don't care any more either.

FFS, there is no point fining a publicly funded body, yet another reason for having non-state owned competing providers (combined with taxpayer funded vouchers AFAIAC); only then would fines have any effect whatsoever. To the extent that fines are necessary - competing providers would not only lose business if they were to infect their patients, but would also face legal actions and higher insurance bills.