Tag Archives: Government wastage

Universal credit: What went wrong?

Universal credit – the government’s flagship welfare reform – is in trouble, (some may say tatters) according to the National Audit Office.  Our old friend Iain Duncan Smith, says he has fixed most of the problems, but others disagree.

It was only a couple of days ago we told you that the IT was crap and was almost certain to be scrapped, now we find the whole of Universal Credit is probably Not Fit For Purpose, just like the entire ConDem coalition.

The main problems with the scheme have been identified as

  • The timetable was too ambitious
  • There was no detailed plan
  • A bunker mentality developed
  • Poor financial management
  • High staff turnover
  • Inadequate control over suppliers
  • Ignoring recommendations

So what does Iain Duncan Smith have to say for himself?

The work and pensions secretary says he was already aware of the problems raised by the NAO and they have all been fixed.

He told BBC News: “I lost faith in the ability of civil servants to manage this and so I brought in people from the outside.”

He insists universal credit will be delivered “in time and on budget,” and says the NAO report is dealing with “historic” issues.

So IDS is a fan of outsourcing/privatisation as well it seems.

Even the bullet points without the detail behind them are enough to make my blood boil.  It smacks of everything that is bad about this government;-   Arrogance, Indecent Haste, Poor Preparation, Poor Execution, Insufficient (if any) Consultation.

Any member of staff responsible for a plan like that deserves to be disciplined and probably sacked, really. But because it’s the Dave Club they’ll get away with it, DWP staff are already on bonuses of AT LEAST £500, so they must be doing something right, just can’t think what

There you have the nub of the problem in one sentence. A government department (there may be more) who have entered into the Bonus Culture, presumably envious of the bankers, and look where they got us.

A Govt. department paying themselves bonuses in times of Austerity. #AllInThisTogether? No bloody way

Universal Credit went wrong when a bunch of self-serving posh gits came up with a hurried plan, executed it in a rush, without having the proper foundations. Just like every other plan this government has dreamt up. “Must be in by 2015 cos we won’t be around after that. This is our heritage.”

How many other government departments award themselves bonuses I wonder?  And when did bonuses become part of the Civil Service? Do the Fire & Rescue Service, Teachers, Nurses, Doctors, Police Officers, Coastguards et al get paid bonuses.  Nick a burglar and get a pony? I don’t think so. I definitely don’t think it’s right in the public sector either. Not jealous, not envious, just plain WRONG.

Rant over, enjoy your day.


Government Wastage Revisited

Hello, you haven’t heard from us for a while, but that’s not because we don’t care any more, we care just as passionately as before if not more so, we’ve both been a little busy lately, that’s all.

Two things have come to our notice this week that made us sit up and take notice again, and we feel that we should let you know as well, just in case you didn’t.

Firstly our old friend Iain Duncan Smith and his Department of Work and Pensions.  It seems that they are quite likely to have to scrap their entire IT system for Universal Credit and start again from scratch.

£300 Million wasted. #Austerity? Not in Whitehall apparently.

A review by Universal Credit director general Howard Shiplee will apparently recommend two options for the future of the IT developed so far, which go even further than previous reports have suggested.

Option one would mean scrapping all the work done so far, thereby admitting it is not fit for purpose, and bringing most of the development of new IT systems in-house under the control of the Government Digital Service (GDS).

Option two would involve continuing to use some of the existing IT to support the current Pathfinder pilot projects, but developing new systems for the full roll-out – effectively delaying any decision to throw away all the work completed so far.

Option 1? Option 2?  Both of them seem to involve scrapping everything at some point, whatever.  The Cabinet Office, which controls GDS, is understood to favour the first option, while the DWP prefers to continue with the current IT for as long as possible. Two branches of the same government with opposing views, where have I heard that before?

The final decision will probably be made later this month by the Ministerial Oversight Group for the troubled welfare reform programme, led by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,  Iain Duncan Smith.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said in a highly critical report on Universal Credit in September that £303m had been spent so far on IT. Of that amount, the DWP has already admitted to writing off £34m of IT work, although that figure is likely to end up even higher whatever happens.

Labour’s shadow secretary of state for work and pensions Rachel Reeves wrote to the Prime Minister last week, urging him to “start taking responsibility for this fiasco”. She added: “David Cameron has serious questions to answer about how he has allowed things to get to this stage and how his complacent, incompetent and out-of-touch government has wasted scandalous amounts of money on a half-baked plan IT now can’t deliver.”

Don’t sit on the fence Rachel, what do you really mean?

But if all of the IT were to be scrapped, the NAO report suggests that the final figure for the write-off would be in excess of £300m.

Most of that money has been spent with the four key IT suppliers for the project – HP, IBM, Accenture and BT.

The other piece of disastrous news that caught my eye this week was in relation to my old favourite – Aircraft Carriers.

The cost of two new aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy is expected to be almost twice the original estimate, the government is expected to confirm this week.

In the latest budget, the Ministry of Defence is set to estimate the cost of the two ships at £6.2bn.

£6.2 BILLION. What on earth are they doing? How many hospitals, schools, police officers etc etc could be funded by just the difference in cost between that and the original. Six years ago, when the contract was approved, costs were put at £3.65bn

The shadow defence secretary, Labour’s Vernon Coaker, said: “This is the latest in a series of financial fiascos in the MoD under David Cameron.  It’s that word fiasco again (see above).

This government seem to be very good at cut cut cut in just about every public sector. We must all pull together, this is a national crisis, a time of severe austerity, and all of these cuts have to be in place before 2015 because we know we don’t stand a snowball’s chance of being re-elected.

Whilst, at the the very same time, they are increasing their salaries, increasing their pensions, and their expenses have almost returned to the excesses of the bad old days.  Only a few days ago was there news about how they were claiming for gas and electricity in their second homes, and as one of my Twitter colleagues put it “Why do they need to do that, because if they’re heating their second home they’re not heating their main home, or cooking etc?”

So nothing has really changed since we spoke last. We are most definitely NOT All In It Together and the ConDem government that NOBODY voted for has shown just how arrogant and uncaring they can be.

Trouble is, it’s left me the dilemma, Who the hell do I vote for in 2015?

Answers on a Postcard please, assuming that Royal Mail still exists when you read this.

Defence Equipment Budget ‘May Be Unaffordable’ – This does not sound like good news

The UK may not be able to afford projected levels of spending on military equipment over the next decade, MPs are warning. The Commons Public Accounts Committee said it did not “yet have confidence” the planned £159bn equipment budget between now and 2022 could be paid for. It urged the Ministry of Defence to be a “more intelligent customer” when purchasing and agreeing delivery dates. David Cameron has pledged to increase equipment budgets by 1% after 2015. Equipment accounts for about 40% of defence spending and this is expected to rise to 45% by the end of the decade. Ministers say they are getting to grips with the multi-billion pound black hole in procurement budgets they inherited from the Labour government. As part of efforts to bring greater transparency to equipment spending, officials published in January a “fully funded and affordable” ten-year-plan for expenditure between 2012 and 2022. Its central assumptions are underpinned by the government’s pledge to increase equipment spending by 1% every year between 2015-6 and 2020-21 despite likely cuts elsewhere. The Ministry of Defence’s budget is being cut by about 8% between 2010 and 2014 and further cuts to defence spending after the next election are being resisted by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, as well as Tory backbenchers.

The committee also warned that the MoD continues to experience difficulties in delivering IT projects on time and budget and it was concerned the department did not have sufficient experience to hold contractors to account.

via BBC News – Defence equipment budget ‘may be unaffordable’.

David Cameron has pledged to increase equipment budgets by 1% after 2015 – That’s good because he won’t be in power after 2015, too little too late. This country must rapidly be becoming a laughing stock within (and without) NATO.

Whilst the immense amount of money that has been wasted by this (and previous) government would completely fill the void, common sense dictates that it would have made the shortfall smaller.  The problem with government, regardless of colour, is that they are all only too ready to write their own ineptitude off and the taxpayer can pick up the tab.

Maybe politicians and senior civil servants would be a little more careful with the public purse if they were held financially liable for financial disasters that occur ‘on their watch’, instead we hear a lot of Tut Tutting and then nothing, it’s rapidly forgotten because you and I, the taxpayers, are paying for it.

Ministry of Defence wasting billions on unneeded equipment, MPs say

Defence Select Committee: MoD has worrying lack of financial expertise


I’m undecided.  I can’t make up my mind whether this wonderful coalition government that we seem to have inherited is FUBAR or simply SNAFU.

If my ageing grey cells serve me well, we have been suffering austerity measures for 3 years now.  I’m no economist so I don’t know whether that’s a reasonable length of time or not, but looking at the rest of the world I guess it’s there or thereabouts.

What I do expect though, is that after 3 years of austerity, 3 years of real, tangible pain to a lot of good, honest working folk, the government is STILL wasting our money.

I have made of government wastage previously, hereherehereherehere,   and here

Now, after 3 years I have to read that Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, admitting that HMG are STILL wasting money. In relation to the latest Spending Review under way in Whitehall he said that the objective is “removing waste in Whitehall and the wider public sector, of which there is still a considerable amount,”

All the public sector budgets have been slashed to the bone (and beyond, amputation in some cases) so I have a degree of difficulty imagining to what it is he refers.  Whitehall is another matter.  The Whitehall mandarins seem to think that they are immune to austerity and its consequences. They obviously feel that wasting a bit more of our money is OK.

That’s candid stuff from a Treasury minister: after almost three years of Coalition cost-cutting, the Government is still wasting your money.

How very dare they?

In other news, the same Danny Alexander, being interviewed by the same newspaper, states that the Armed Forces and police are to face further spending cuts.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said that the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office would share the pain of the £11.5 billion of cuts due in 2015-16

Asked whether the Home Office and Ministry of Defence would be protected from further cuts, he [Danny Alexander] said only that the NHS, schools and international development would be ring-fenced, adding: “We will work through the details, but every department, including the ones you mention, will have to make savings.”

Now, it was only a few days ago when Gorgeous George Osborne told the world that there would be no changes to existing arrangements for policing budgets in the next financial year. I presume by that he means 2001-14, but watch out cos Danny’s got his eye on your purse.

How on earth can policing budgets withstand any more cuts? Is this what Danny Alexander really meant? Do the different government departments actually talk to each other? Is the coalition as inept as it appears to be?

My take on it is that Gideon tried to score few brownie points by saying that there would no further cuts next year, and Danny ‘The Boy’ Alexander let the cat out of the bag as to the government’s intentions for 2015-16, although in a just world they’ll no longer be in power by then, either of them.

Not Very (HMS) Astute – Just a little bit more Government Wastage

A confidential Ministry of Defence memo says that corrosion on the UK’s new fleet of hunter-killer submarines was caused by cost-cutting and warns that quality controls have been ignored, the Guardian can reveal.

Written by a senior analyst at the MoD, the memo says the corrosion is a “cause for major concern”, and that the first three Astute class boats are likely to experience “severe problems” in the future.

“Has the objective been the prevention of corrosion in submarine components or was it just a cost-cutting exercise?” the memo asks. “It seems a decision has been taken to keep the painting to a minimum in Astute class build to reduce costs? It has to be accepted that the rust effected [sic] areas will not be 100% removed … It could be categorically stated that corrosion life of these components has been compromised and further corrosion problems could be expected before the planned maintenance period.”

The disclosure comes after a Guardian investigation revealed that HMS Astute, the first of seven new hunter-killer boats, has been beset with problems during sea trials, raising questions about its performance and reliability.

The £9.75bn fleet was commissioned 15 years ago to become a cornerstone of the UK’s naval attack capability, but a range of design and construction flaws have emerged.

Defence officials admitted corrosion was found on the submarines but insisted the problem had been rectified. They said it should not affect any more boats in the fleet.

However, the memo suggests the damage to the Astute, and its sister submarine HMS Ambush, was extensive and warns that the boats will have to spend more time being repaired in the future.

The memo says this is “clearly a Quality Assurance failure”, adding: “But there has not been any effort taken to find out the reasons for this failure. It is important that the MoD/Astute project finds out who was responsible for such a quality failure and more importantly how to avoid such QA failures in the future.” Expert advice was ignored “in the name of meeting a schedule”, it says.


The memo concludes: “It seems that the first three Astute Class Boats would have the same problems and therefore, the Submarine In-Service team could expect sever [sic] problems in the future.

“These failures show a lack of giving prominence to the materials and corrosion issues and taking decisions mainly with the objective of reducing costs. The MoD … seems to be concentrating on the procurement costs without consideration to through-life costs.

HMS Astute also encountered a flooding problem during sea trials last year, it has emerged.

Officials said the attack vessel let in tens of litres of water due to a corroded metal cap on one of its cooling pipes. As a result it was  forced to resurface.

Electrical switchboards were also found to be fitted incorrectly and concerns were raised about the accuracy of instruments monitoring its on-board nuclear reactor.

Despite the teething problems, defence officials said the issues had been rectified and it was “normal for first-of-class trials to identify areas where modifications are required”.

The history of procurement disasters at the Ministry of Defence is a long and dispiriting one and nobody wants the Astute submarine programme – already costing close to £10bn – to join the list. In some respects, it already has, because of the delays and budget increases over the last 15 years

In an industry where a small nut or bolt can cost up to £1,000, and be required to perform an important role, this is a necessity. The QA regime is there for safety reasons and to give confidence that other cogs in the system do not jam.

The cap that failed on the water cooling pipe on HMS Astute was supposed to have QA1 status, but somehow a cap  made of the wrong material [Really?  That IS unacceptable] was installed. The MoD and BAE Systems, which has the contract for building the Astute submarines, have refused to be drawn on how this happened and why they think it cannot happen again

John Large, a  nuclear submarine expert said. “The implications of these revelations are that the submarines are likely to be held over out of service longer during future maintenance spells and, of course, there are costly safety and operational issues arising from this,”

Every penny counts at the MoD at the moment. Thousands of people – serving personnel and civil servants – have been made redundant. Thousands more will go next year too.

The MoD cannot afford another procurement embarrassment.

The boat has yet to start formal service, Astute – four years overdue and £2bn over budget – has been surrounded by controversy since it was first commissioned 15 years ago.  Is this really acceptable?  Do we have to live with such apparent incompetence?  What would be the outcome if we behaved as incompetently as that?

Submarine corrosion caused by cost-cutting, says leaked MoD memo | UK news | The Guardian.

Reform and Wastage, Together, And It’s Happening NOW

This wastage is not historical, this is not an old story with the cobwebs blown off it, this is today, and it’s called

Universal Credit.

Emperor Dave told us that he was reforming the benefits system.  He was going to save the country a small fortune.  His grand ideas included linking benefits to wages instead of inflation, a cap on Housing Benefit, adjusting regional benefits to the cost of living and apparently no-one under the age of 25 needs Housing Benefit anyway.  All in all he’s looking to save £10 Billion from the Welfare Budget.

To help him achieve this target his ConDem government invented Universal Credit.

The aims and objectives of said Universal Credit are

  • improve work incentives
  • smooth the transitions into and out of work, supporting a dynamic labour market
  • simplify the system, making it easier for people to understand, and easier and cheaper for staff to administer
  • reduce in-work poverty
  • cut back on fraud and error.

It will be launched in 2013 and will replace:

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Working Tax Credits
  • Housing Benefit.

Now we get to the infuriating bit,

Regardless of where you stand on benefits the government should not be wasting OUR money.

It has become apparent that this innovative, flagship project has been hit by an IT glitch, somewhat reminiscent of the NHS farce.

The Independent reports that the scheme has been placed on a Treasury list of projects in crisis.  That sounds quite bad to me.

Universal credit has a development budget of £2 Billion. It is supposed to be a paperless on-line IT system for claimants that would bridge the DWP’s data with the Treasury.  However, the project is already suffering a £100 Million overrun. There are also concerns that a further £300 Million is being hidden by rising costs reallocated to child support payments.

A reorganisation of the complex IT system, following the departure this month of key senior civil servants in charge of universal credit, could mean an overrun of £500 Million by next spring.

There you are, we’ve just saved the Met’s Budget again.

The last Labour government was estimated to have wasted £26 Billion in botched IT projects, which included the national programme for the NHS and the fiasco over the national identity card scheme.

Labour’s work and pensions spokesman, Liam Byrne, said : “Universal credit is in danger of descending into total chaos. Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship scheme is late and over budget, top officials are heading for the hills and no one seems to believe the massive IT system is on track. Ministers must take urgent action before it becomes a multibillion-pound disaster.”

Universal Credit is dependent on a colossal database and IT system being created which is far more ambitious than has ever been attempted  by any country previously.  The new benefit regime will be digital by default, meaning millions of people, many of whom don’t have and can’t afford internet connections at home, will only be able to access benefits from Jobcentres and libraries.

Incredibly  Universal Credit probably won’t even save any money and is likely to cost far more to administer than the current system.  Whilst the new benefit system was intended to be rolled out in next April it now seems that there will just be small pilot projects in Cheshire and Manchester, with the intention now of rolling it out to a grateful nation in October 2013.

Mr Cameron – when in opposition – promised a move away from big IT projects, another broken promise Dave.

A Little Bit More Government Wastage, No-One Will Notice

Welcome to the 2nd in our mini-series on Government Wastage.  The topic of today’s blog is not new, you’ve known about it for a while now.  You may not, however, have realised the scale of this farce, and that’s what we’re about.


These may not float your boat, but they’re a pet hate of mine.  Not Aircraft Carriers per se, we need those, it’s what the government has done with them that winds me up.  Once again I don’t blame any particular colour of political party, once again they all seem to be tarred with the same brush, but I do think Dave had a hand in it.

Whilst researching this item I came across an article in The Telegraph from just last month that sums things up quite well.

The 1st paragraph that caught my attention (and it would, wouldn’t it?) was this one

“Government routinely makes an appalling mess of things. Some years ago a single edition of The Daily Telegraph reported that a nuclear submarine suffered £5 million of damage after crashing into rocks because trainee commanders covered vital charts with tracing paper; that a government efficiency drive in the Department for Transport to save £112 million was likely to cost £120 million while sending messages to employees in German and denying them annual leave to which they were entitled; that hundreds of thousands of immigrants were excluded from official statistics by a counting system which was so unreliable that it was not possible to know the true population of Britain; and that more than 8,000 patients had died in dirty hospitals after contracting superbugs. And that was just one day’s headlines.”

The 2nd, which is quite appropriate really, was this one

“Defence, whose dreadful procurement record – including boots that melt in hot weather, helicopters that won’t fly in the rain, radios that don’t fit into battle tanks, naval frigates with no weapons, aircraft carriers with no fighter jets, and military transport aircraft that can’t fly into war zones – amply justifies Ernest Fitzgerald’s maxim that “there are only two phases of a weapons programme: ‘Too early to tell’ and ‘too late to stop’ ”.”

If it wasn’t so serious I’d think I was reading a Monty Python script.

The author, Richard Bacon MP, is clearly a fan of The Big Picture

“In large areas of public life, especially when the government decides to embark on anything new, it is quite normal for things not to turn out as planned. Given the track record, one might expect the quality of government spending and public management to be the subject of national attention.

In May of this year it was announced in a Daily Mail article that David Cameron’s policy U-Turn (not another one Dave surely) has cost the country £285 Million.

  • Government chooses Harrier jump jet-type planes instead of conventional take-off version F-35
  • Cost of refitting carriers trebled from £600m to £2bn
  • Switching to jump jets means aircraft carriers will be able to operate warplanes from 2018

“Defence sources admitted the Coalition had rushed its ‘high-risk’ decision to buy conventional fighter jets to fly from the Royal Navy’s £6.2billion warships.

Ministers did this after scrapping the last Labour government’s plans to buy a fleet of jump jets, which can take off and land vertically.

Mr Cameron described the order of jump jets as an ‘error’. Instead, his Government ordered conventional planes that would need catapults and arrester gear to take off from and land on aircraft carriers”

An ERROR!! Is that all it was, oh that’s alright then.  So, acting on this unfortunate error the government performed a neat U-Turn and ordered some nice American F-35C Joint Strike Fighters and some catapults, and something to stop the damn things when they came home.

With me so far?

Then we had a U-Turn on the original U-Turn when ministers realised that the cost of equipping the carriers with catapults and arresters was spiralling out of control. The costs of fitting the necessary catapults and arrester gear – “cats and traps” – to one of the carriers while the other ship was mothballed is reported to have spiralled from an estimated £400 million to almost £2 billion.  So we changed our order back to the jump jet variant of the F-35, the F-35B.

Opting for the jump jet version meant the UK would now have a fully functioning aircraft carrier in 2020 – three years earlier than with a conventional plane.  So, we have another 8 years (at least) of not having an operational aircraft carrier and having to ask the bloody French if we can please use one of theirs.  It couldn’t get any worse, could it?

Well it could actually.

£500m jump jets may melt the decks of aircraft carriers: Latest MoD plan shambles

NEW Harrier-style jump jets set to fly from Navy aircraft carriers could melt their decks, US trials show.

Tests found the fumes which blast out of the £500million Joint Strike Fighters when they land damage the ships’ decks.

Now the UK will have to go cap in hand to the Americans, who are developing a new super-tough, heat resistant deck coating to deal with the problem.

The flaw is the latest problem to hit the Ministry of Defence’s shambolic plan for two aircraft carriers, costing £6.2billion.

Surely this ConDem government has now successfully demonstrated to the world that it is incompetent and hypocritical?

David Cameron’s original intervention and U-Turn cost the country more than a quarter of a billion eye-watering pounds, but I will let the then Shadow Defence minister Kevan Jones have the last word

“Only this Government could melt aircraft carriers.”