From HS2 to the NHS: Britain isn’t cutting costs. Unfortunately, corners are only being cut

aAs governments around the world assess their responses to four years of consecutive economic disasters, it is clear that Britain’s standard response – to cut spending and take the cheapest route out of the slump – comes with many hidden costs.

Across the public sector, from warships to NHS computer systems and railways, projects are being turned inside out and sliced ​​into salami to a point where few can remember the original concept.

Ministers say they are saving money even when it is clear they are spending more – whether it is higher costs per kilometer on HS2, installing a “dysfunctional” IT system or building an aircraft carrier that flies with only a fraction of the aircraft it was designed for.

Ministers even save money by refusing to pay for independent academic reviews of what little is done, meaning that over time the government pushes ahead with little idea of ​​how new projects will work and what benefits they will deliver. It is an instinctive government with a blindfold on, meaning that a potential future Labor government will inherit a cultural and administrative deficit as well as a huge funding gap.

That’s not the way the Treasury Department sees it. Jeremy Hunt, like many of his predecessors, believes the government should put every spending initiative and project through the financial meat grinder to save the treasury from looming bankruptcy.

When it comes to recent examples of budget cuts, a small example can be found in the NHS, where the introduction of GP assistants, also known as junior doctors, is seen as an appropriate response to the shortage of GPs.

These individuals are recruited and accelerated to take over basic and some clinical tasks previously performed by a physician. The government is enthusiastic, even though many GP practices are hesitant.

There are worse cuts in healthcare when you consider how new IT systems are stacked on top of previous systems, with no money for integration. It means that many hospital wards are fully staffed, but with nurses who have little time to treat patients while entering data into several separate software programs.

A minister should want to know how well a project increases worker productivity or expands the scope of what the public sector can do. Yet we know from independent advisers who have worked within Whitehall that ministerial instinct too often dominates the evidence.

Massive overhauls of public sector operations – switching from local authority housing to social housing associations, transferring schools from local authority control to academy trusts – are inevitable. the subject of discrete research projects or less than independent department reviews.

A recent one review of the House of Lords asking: “Are multi-academy trusts the answer?” could not provide any academic evidence that this major shift in education policy over the past twenty years had improved the performance, skills or mental well-being of school-age children.

Elsewhere, the National Audit Office recently told the Treasury that it was dismayed that among the £200 billion in tax measures, there was little evaluation of measures designed to boost economic growth.

“There is no agreed number of aid measures aimed at economic growth, and they are not monitored as a group or compared for overall effectiveness,” the report said. The conclusion was that tens of billions of pounds had been wasted because it was difficult to research what worked and what didn’t.

In Muddling through for two hundred years, writer Duncan Weldon describes how British politicians, in dealing with crises, worked for the good of the nation to steady the ship. A less generous view would condemn these politicians for jettisoning anyone who puts pressure on the government’s ability to maintain a high standard of living for the majority. The miners and steelworkers found themselves in this situation in the early 1980s.

That’s why a recent report from the IPPR think tank examining the effects of AI on employment is understandably gloomy.

British governments are notorious for throwing out people whose skills no longer match the new technologies. There is no money for retraining or apprenticeships, the politicians say, meaning workers displaced by AI are likely to have to figure things out on their own.

This is Labour’s legacy. A culture that allows politicians to continue with projects that have not yet been tested by research, and if they are no longer examined, the project is shortened until its value is largely lost.

It is this lack of accuracy that will cost future generations – not the loans needed to make any progress.