Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Chancellor 'Has Wasted [Pounds Sterling]20million on Reviews'; Gordon Brown's 36 Independent Inquiries Come under Fire

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Chancellor 'Has Wasted [Pounds Sterling]20million on Reviews'; Gordon Brown's 36 Independent Inquiries Come under Fire

Article excerpt


GORDON BROWN was today accused of wasting millions of pounds on independent reviews.

Since Labour took power the Chancellor has commissioned 36 inquiries - and critics claim many of them have of achieved nothing.

While some have had a significant impact, others have quickly dropped off the radar.

Mr Brown has also ordered scores of reports - 22 on education and eight on transport - from his researchers.

The Treasury refused to reveal how much had been spent, although inquiries by other departments typically cost [pounds sterling]500,000 each.

If the cost was the same across Whitehall, then the Treasury would have spent about [pounds sterling] 20million on reviews since 1997.

John Redwood, chairman of the Tories' economic competitiveness policy group, said: "This Chancellor is all review and no action. Also, we have to pay twice for everything: once for the officials on the payroll and then for the consultants."

Mr Brown's tendency to pick and choose recommendations has led to accusations of waste.

The high-profile Stern review was expected to be used as justification for action on global warming but aviation taxes and a rise in fuel duty were minor steps. The Sandler review on encouraging low-cost savings failed to have an impact and personal debt soared.

The Cruickshank inquiry into banking services was largely ignored after the Chancellor failed to regulate the sector.

A Treasury spokesman said: "Independent reviews are one important way of providing strategic policy advice and a fresh perspective.

"Their recommendations have won widespread acceptance.Costs are normally met from existing departmental budgets."

The major reports and what they have achieved

LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING Sir Michael Lyons Announced July 2004, interim reports December 2005, May 2006, final report early 2007.

Recommendations: considering ways to reform council tax by giving town halls more power to raise money.

Outcomes: expected to recommend a property-based tax system, prompting massive council tax rises. The Tories say Londoners could face increases of [pounds sterling]2,000.

TRANSPORT Sir Rod Eddington Announced March 2005, reported December 2006.

Recommendations: Sir Rod, a former chairman of British Airways, suggested huge growth of Britain's airports and the introduction of a nationwide road-pricing scheme.

Outcomes: ministers will back expansion of airports but face stiff opposition.

LAND PLANNING USE Kate Barker Announced December 2005, interim report July, final report December 2006.

Recommendations: a shake-up of planning laws to make it easier to gain permission for big housing and commercial projects.

Outcomes: the overhaul is expected to go ahead, although ministers will have to progress gingerly on development of the green belt. …

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