An Unhealthy Waste of Tax Revenues by Brown

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 23, 2006 | Go to article overview

An Unhealthy Waste of Tax Revenues by Brown


Byline: ANTHONY HILTON

IT is not an altogether happy thought, but in one day less than one month's time, Chancellor Gordon Brown will be presenting his 10th Budget.

The good news, if it can be construed as such, is that the recent improvement in Government revenues suggests there will be no immediate need for him to put up taxes - just as well, given the overall fragility of consumer and business confidence. The lessgood news is that so much of the money he has raised from previous tax increases has already been wasted.

Nowhere is this more true than in the health service. In 2000, before the Chancellor launched his spending spree, annual expenditure on the NHS was [pounds sterling]44.6 billion. By 2008, it will have doubled to [pounds sterling]90 billion. It already absorbs almost 40% of the Government's discretionary spending - yet despite getting so much extra money, it appears that a quarter of trusts are in deficit and the overall system is losing in excess of [pounds sterling]600 million.

It seems inconceivable that any organisation could get through so much money and still plunge into loss, but that is what has happened. And one of the main reasons is inflation. Far from getting value, three-quarters of the money spent has gone on paying more for the same services.

One of the less attractive features of the Chancellor is the way he grabs the limelight from other departments when there is good news to impart. It is a pity has does not feel the need to do the same when it is bad news.

It would be interesting to learn from him how he can justify gathering the amount of tax he does when he clearly does not get value for money when it is spent - and how he hopes to increase the rate of productivity growth in this country as long as that waste continues.

Improved analysis

A SENIOR fund manager said the other day that the quality of investment analysis has improved significantly in the two to three years since investment banks were forced to separate off their analysts.

This followed the postmortems on the dot-com boom, which found investment banks produced tainted research that was used shamelessly to tout shares they wanted to sell, irrespective of whether these had any investment merit.

Under the new rules, analysts were freed from the pernicious influence of the corporate financiers and were no longer to be given bonuses related to the banking and advisory business they brought into the firm.

They were to be allowed to be independent again. …

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