We want to cut taxes, don’t we? We want to cut spending, yes? Well, let me suggest a policy that would not just enable us to save billions a year – more than enough to take a penny off income tax, simply by cutting bureaucracy – but would help us pay to build the homes we need, and finance the roads, railways, power stations and airports that this country is crying out for. It would help us to cover the cost of the vast and growing army of older people; and it would end an absurdity – an ontological explosion in the public sector of a kind that has not been seen since the jobbery and Buggins’-turnery of the later Roman Empire.
To explain this opportunity, let me ask you a question I recently posed to a senior member of the Government. How many public-sector pension funds do you think there are in the UK? I asked. “I don’t know,” he said. “A few hundred?” Keep going, I said. “A thousand?” he hazarded. I pointed upwards. His eyes rolled. “Ten thousand? You tell me!”
I told him. There are more than 39,000 public-sector pension funds in this country – each with its own trustees, each with its own managers and advisers and accountants. Every quango, every university, every branch of local government has its own pension fund, from British Nuclear Fuels to the Meat and Livestock Commission to the seven – yes, seven! – that were created to manage the pensions of those who were involved in the London 2012 Olympics.
The waste is extraordinary. Think of all those advisers and investment managers taking their fees – their little jaws wrapped blissfully around the giant polymammous udder of the state. Think of the duplication.
So, Boris’ idea is to roll these all up into one fund which would then be able to “invest” in all that infrastructure stuff that Ritchie likes so much. And I’ve got to say that there’s something for it. Let’s have the pensions of those tax consumers dependent upon how efficiently pension funded projects are run. Might shake some of the complacency out of the system.
And once they’ve done this with their own money for a generation then we can evaluate whether our own private sector pensions should follow them.
In fact, someone really ought to ask Ritchie about this. Someone who is allowed to post there of course. If this is such a great idea for pensions, that they be invested in this sort of infrastructure, then why is it that he’s not campaigning for the public sector pensions to be so invested? Why is he shouting about private pensions only? Given that, you know, government might actually have some power, unions might have some power, over those public sector funds?