June 2024

You would not believe the incompetence of our top civil servants

A few years ago I was being interviewed on Radio 4 by John Humphrys. When I claimed that most top civil servants were utterly incompetent, he slapped me down and said that many were extremely talented. In book after book, I have detailed the stupidity, arrogance and profligacy of the overpaid, overpensioned fools at the top of the public sector. So my thanks to the Department of Transport for proving me right by wasting up to £300m of our money on their West Coast Line cock-up. Though that’s small change compared to the £3bn the Ministry of Defence blew on Nimrod, which is less than the £6bn the Department of Health squandered on their failed computer system, which is less than the £100bn the public sector has overpaid on its £300bn of PFI projects (which have a real capital value of only £56bn).

I once had a meeting with a procurement boss for Scotland. The person had been one of those responsible for spending over £400m on  the Scottish Parliament building compared to a budget of £45m. When I dared suggest that improvements could be made in budget control, the official said “oh no, there’s no way anyone can fool us canny Scots”. At the Home Office, I asked a senior official if any of their computer projects were in trouble. His reply, “most of them are complete disasters, but I’m not going to risk my career and pension trying to sort out the problems”. And when I spoke to a very senior official at the Bank of England in 2005 to tell him that I had evidence suggesting that Fred Goodwin was not a fit person to run a major bank, he laughed off my concerns and refused to look at the evidence. That decision that day by this total idiot to do nothing cost us taxpayers over £45bn.

Being interviewed about the West Coast Line cock-up, former boss of our utterly incompetent, not-fit-for-purpose Civil Service, Sir Gus O’Donnell laughably claimed that the only way to improve performance was to pay civil servants more of our money. This is rubbish. Most top civil servants are pocketing over £150,000 a year. The have jobs for life. They are never fired, however incompetent they are. When they retire, they get 3 years’ pension as a taxfree lump sum (about £250,000 each) plus pensions of over £70,000 a year till the day they die.

Soon Sir Gus, the man who presided over the Civil Service during much of the time that Brown wasted £1.6trn of our money, may become the new Governor of the Bank of England. So it could be huge salary increases for BoE bosses – but God help the rest of us!

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