Isn’t government just such wonderfully good value?

Each family in Britain paid an average of nearly £25,000 in tax last year – a rise of £1,500 on the year before, according to a report.

There is that little pipsqueak voice at the back of the head wondering if they might not be able to do all this on a little less of our money.

69 comments on “Isn’t government just such wonderfully good value?

  1. The word average is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. Cue people who pay SQRT(bugger all) getting on their high horses and demanding even more in payouts because they’ve paid £25k in.

  2. Yes and no, we paid less tax in the 90s and housing was more affordable then and uni was free until 1997 etc.

  3. I often wonder if Tony Blair was really a low state anarchist who wanted to destroy people’s love of the state by giving really poor quality for money and making housing more expensive. (He made housing more expensive by giving houses to people who just arrived in the UK for free so reducing the demand for everyone else).

  4. There are some big things that are simply direct transfers, like old age pensions. I’m not the biggest fan of the NHS but I’m not sure that would take a big chunk out if it would be made super efficient. Education? I’m more a critic of how good it is than the cost.

    I can find you £5+bn with housing benefit at a stroke. Just cap it roughly what it is at Wolverhampton. I can get shot of a load of defence. Just pay for Trident and whatever else you need to drop missiles on foreigners to keep them in line. The rest of it spends its whole time desperately trying to justify its existence. Then there’s £3bn for the license fee. We can probably cut about half the police’s budgets, considering how much time they have to threaten the public about non-criminal acts.

  5. ah, yes, and uni. Scrap half of it. We didn’t have enough “uni level” jobs in the 80s when it was around 15-20%.

  6. So for an average family, tax is the single largest expenditure…….

    (for quite a while my rent was higher than my tax here in CH, but I’ve massively reduced my cost of accomodation, so tax is now the single biggest line-item).

  7. 6% increase year-on-year? The economy hasn’t grown by that much; so it must have come from higher taxes. Which ones?

  8. “The word average is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. Cue people who pay SQRT(bugger all) getting on their high horses and demanding even more in payouts because they’ve paid £25k in.”

    Quite. Shouldn’t we be using median here, to allow for the distortion caused by very high earners?

  9. One of the big differences I find between living in the UK and France is how the tax is spent. The French pay a lot of tax, but it is possible to see a lot of it coming back: every marie puts on endless functions, festivals, events, and offers all sorts of daft things like subsidised dance lessons for adults. Now you might argue that this is all a waste of money and they shouldn’t do it, but at least you see something in return and it does make the place pleasant. Whereas in the UK I struggle to see what the money is being spent on save for subsidising chavs and people who hate us.

  10. I’d say, TimN, that the difference is in France, the tax money gets spent on what the taxpayers want. You can argue about whether subsidised dance classes is the best use of public money. But the dance classes will be popular & well attended. Politicians in the UK tend to spend tax money on what they want. And then sped even more money cajoling the taxpayer into using it.
    And there’s the difference in attitudes. There’s that thing of turning roundabouts into works of art. Do that in the UK & the oiks would trash them within days. The French seem to believe they own & have responsibility towards the public space. UK, the authorities assert they own it & reluctantly let the public use it at their discretion.

  11. “in the UK I struggle to see what the money is being spent on save for subsidising chavs and people who hate us”

    This is exactly where it is being spent in the UK. Within a couple of generations it won’t matter any more.

  12. If less than half the country pay income tax and the poor spend the bulk of their cash on VAT-free necessities, who exactly is funding this spending? I’m genuinely interested.

  13. “we paid less tax in the 90s and housing was more affordable then and uni was free until 1997” I blame that Fatcher.

  14. Tim Newman,

    One thing I’ve observed about France is how much local spending is still quite a big thing, as in, local people deciding how money gets spent.

    The French also seem to have zero guilt about their past. Whereas our establishment is, by nature, unpatriotic. Any excuse to blame Britain, they’ll find it. You just have to listen to them talking about the British Empire, or Brexit or even WW2 or the Falklands. Any nit they can pick, they will.

  15. TN – “Whereas in the UK I struggle to see what the money is being spent on save for subsidising chavs and people who hate us.”

    Don’t forget the cost of the massive government and semi-government apparatus required to subsidise the above groups and keep a few million people in well-paid and pensioned non-jobs.

  16. Stop all UK gov borrowing and then see what is still standing. The shortfall would be what –150-200 billion a year?

  17. Press release from Ely:

    ” More evidence released today, if any were required, that we’re all massively undertaxed in the UK.”

  18. @Bloke in Swindon

    ‘The French also seem to have zero guilt about their past. Whereas our establishment is, by nature, unpatriotic. Any excuse to blame Britain, they’ll find it. You just have to listen to them talking about the British Empire, or Brexit or even WW2 or the Falklands. Any nit they can pick, they will.’

    My wife and I took one of our kids to watch Dunkirk last night. I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout (huge, on a Tuesday) and the age group (lot of young kids for Harry Styles, inc my daughter) and the reaction (positive, wonderment etc). I tend to the pessimistic in terms of the future of the country, but there is still a sense of Britishness, and it is tappable other than by loons IMO.

  19. bloke in spain,

    “And there’s the difference in attitudes. There’s that thing of turning roundabouts into works of art. Do that in the UK & the oiks would trash them within days.”

    There’s lots of places that do. There’s floral displays on many of the roundabouts of Swindon, for example. Go to smaller towns around us, you get the same thing. You couldn’t do it in Manchester or London though.

    I think there’s often a bias about France because British people go to Beaune and La Rochelle rather than Amiens and Bobigny.

  20. Interested

    That may be true, but I am willing to bet that the attendance at Dunkirk in cinemas in Bradford is not going to break any records.

  21. Used to go to Amiens quite regularly, BiSw. It was only about 40 mins drive from home. It’s got some interesting roundabouts. So’s Lille, Toulouse, Rouen, Nantes, Caen… Bordeaux’s a delight.. I always like Les Géants d’Hazebrouk. Very amusing. Wonder how long they’d remain ungraffitied & un-vandalised in a UK town?

  22. Absence of graffiti’s something I notice down here. You only seem to see it where it’s not doing any harm. Back UKside it was a race against time getting the guys to finish an accessible painting job & the customer to pay for it before the tag-merchants hit it. It’s hard to find any flat surface some assole with a can hasn’t expressed himself on.

  23. “I think there’s often a bias about France because British people go to Beaune and La Rochelle rather than Amiens and Bobigny.”

    I had to metaphorically slap down one of Mrs BiNDs friends who was round for dinner a few years ago. This was pre Netflix etc and she was whingeing on about how bad US TV was and how crap the US was in general and how good Europe was in comparison. Typical Guardian stuff.

    I asked her much French, Italian or German TV she watched? Zero. Which cities had she visited? Rome, Paris, Berlin.

    Didn’t she think she was being rather selective with her comparisons and somewhat anti American with good evidence?

    That earned me a kick in the shins and cold shoulder for lunch for the next few days. It was worth it to see her smug expression change to one of silent sulk.

  24. @dearieme, ““I’ve massively reduced my cost of accommodation”: how did you do that, taximan?”

    Moved from a larger rented apartment near work to a smaller, purchased apartment with a 100km commute (but only 3 times a week). Rent was CHF 2200.-, now roof-over-head + commute = CHF 1200, including repayment part of the mortgage.

  25. You can argue about whether subsidised dance classes is the best use of public money. But the dance classes will be popular & well attended.

    Yes, exactly.

    There’s that thing of turning roundabouts into works of art. Do that in the UK & the oiks would trash them within days. The French seem to believe they own & have responsibility towards the public space. UK, the authorities assert they own it & reluctantly let the public use it at their discretion.

    Yup, this.

  26. I think there’s often a bias about France because British people go to Beaune and La Rochelle rather than Amiens and Bobigny.

    This is very true: there are utter shitholes in France, and I drove through Bobigny the other day to confirm. There’s some absolute shithole on the way out of NW Paris whose name I keep forgetting too, right dump full of pikey camps. But the British dumps do tend to outnumber the French ones ten to one.

    Graffiti is bad too. This was in Nantes couple of weekends back.

  27. To be honest, I’d sooner move to France than back to the UK……….. (touch wood that I won’t have to move anywhere any more…)

  28. ‘Used to go to Amiens quite regularly… It’s got some interesting roundabouts.’

    One of the more enjoyable comments on here in recent years

    🙂

  29. @dearieme – it seemed logical to me – commuting costs went from “trivial” (under 120.- per month) to “more substantial” when I moved, so when I made a budget I rolled them into the housing costs since they’re at least indirectly a function of where I’m housing myself.

  30. Raffles said:
    “Shouldn’t we be using median here, to allow for the distortion caused by very high earners?”

    Ah, but we’re told (by the Guardian and Murphy, so it must be true) that the rich don’t pay tax, so we can ignore anything paid by high earners as being a neo-liberal myth.

  31. “Richard

    Ah, but we’re told (by the Guardian and Murphy, so it must be true) that the rich don’t pay tax…”

    Ah, but it is more nuanced than that.

    They accept that whilst the rich do pay tax, no matter how much tax they pay, it is ‘not their fair share’.

  32. I thought I’d take a leaf out of Murphy’s book and bring to your attention a terrible tax saving idea which I am only telling you about so as to alert the authorities and not to put ideas into your head.

    If you own your own company and have an adult child living at home, reclassify the company’s share capital, give a share to the child, pay them a dividend and charge them rent which will be covered by your rent-a-room relief.

    Could save you up to £2,850 a year tax.

    A few ducks to line up first but pretty straight-forward. I hope nobody thinks of using this as it would be outrageous tax avoidance.

  33. @Andrew M

    Not if the share is more than just a right to income and the child is an adult (or, for that matter, a married minor).

  34. AndrewC

    That’s presumably a £7,000 dividend, in addition to child’s other income? So works best the lower the adult child’s taxable income?

  35. “I’d say, TimN, that the difference is in France, the tax money gets spent on what the taxpayers want. You can argue about whether subsidised dance classes is the best use of public money. But the dance classes will be popular & well attended. Politicians in the UK tend to spend tax money on what they want. And then sped even more money cajoling the taxpayer into using it.”

    Evidence that ex-pats lose their sense of perspective on the UK and then fall victim to confirmation bias on their often brief returns!

    There are tax-subsidised dance classes throughout the UK – and they are hugely over-subscribed. And many other classes…

    Meanwhile, local councils are increasingly seeing that a low-maintenance installation on a roundabout is cheaper than a high-maintenance floral display.

    I have seen no vandalisation of such roundabouts in East Anglia — ever. Even in a hole like Ipswich.

    OTOH, I saw plenty of vandalism in Lyon in May, graffiti on historic buildings in Bourges and vandalism and graffiti in Mehun-sur-Yevre.

  36. “@abacab: I like the idea of treating commuting costs as part of your housing costs.”

    Something many of the people in the south-east of England do as a matter of course. It’s called rational behaviour!

  37. > treating commuting costs as part of your housing costs

    Aren’t commuting costs tax-deductible in Switzerland? That makes the calculation a little more interesting.

    AndrewC,

    Thanks, I’ll bear that in mind for when the kids are older. The situation might have changed by then – but then again given the glacial speed of tax reforms, they may not have.

  38. “Absence of graffiti’s something I notice down here.”

    Just take a walk by the river in Seville, BiS…Or try Cadiz.

  39. Sorry, the dividend will presumably be whatever creates a net £7k after tax, which is what comes back as rent? And £7.5K not £7K..:)

  40. “Stop all UK gov borrowing and then see what is still standing. The shortfall would be what –150-200 billion a year?”

    Agreed, Ecksy!

    Just cutting 90% of the quangocracy would meet half of that gap…the rest could easily be found – if there were the political will, which there simply isn’t.

    That said, possible cuts could include:
    ▪LA social services – cut by 60%: they are hugely inefficient (and reservoirs of marxism) and should focus on the elderly.
    ▪the central civil service – cut by 30%. And Permanent Secretaries who don’t achieve this without reducing service delivery are to be sacked, possibly for gross misconduct…
    ▪all diversity programmes
    ▪public health propaganda ( assuming a move to an insurance-based scheme)
    ▪complete abolition of LA education authorities, with the introduction of education vouchers.

    In addition:
    ▪a 100% tax on chewing gum!
    ▪500% tax on tattoos!

    Result: the UK begins to pay off its vast debts…

  41. @PF.

    This tax year there is a £5k tax free dividend allowance. Drops to £2k next year.

    But the idea works particularly well for student children. With no other income you can pay £7.5k – the full rent-a-room allowance – in dividends and charge it in rent.

    Teach the child about responsibility, paying their way and the importance of tax planning.

    Here’s £7.5k and here’s a bill for rent.

    You’d probably want a decent shareholders’ agreement so the child couldn’t flog the share to his or her mate when pissed.

  42. Average household income is ,25k, and they’re saying average household tax is also 25k? So Tuppence is right! All money belong to government.

  43. Theo,

    It’s a good start, to get people thinking in the right direction..:)

    Re permanent secretaries and similar, they won’t be able to do it themselves. You simply can’t change a lifetime of such conditioning. You’ll need to appoint proven “executioners”.

    If you are going after chewing gum, tattoos, etc as well, then why not also things like chav-wear, animal meat that isn’t stunned first, and lots of other examples? Ie, it’s completely different in that it appears as if it’s particular behaviour change that you are also gunning for?

  44. Some UK councils fund free tea dances for the geriatrics. Mine doesn’t – almost everything they put on has a charge. I don’t understand those councils that put on free stuff ( fireworks excepted ) while simultaneously stiffing under-65s on JSA and ESA for 1/4 of the standard council tax and taking about 1/6th of them to court when they don’t pay up. ( Hillingdon council – that’s you, if you’re looking in )

  45. PF

    ‘You’ll need to appoint proven “executioners”.’

    Of course. The point is it could be done.

    “…and lots of other examples?”

    Yes! Unstunned slaughter – no need to ban it, just tax it. And so on with any legal thing that majority opinion disapproves of….including, perhaps, abortion (which would upset not only libertarian bansturbators in these parts but also femiloons).

  46. I’m travelling around eastern Ireland this week and what I have really noticed (other than the road signs, the roundabouts, the traffic lights with no Amber phase, god, they love their traffic lights and roundabouts, especially if they can stick them together), is how spotless the towns are. I had to look for some litter earlier today and spotted a peach husk hidden amongst some grass.

    Water fountains that fountain, sculptures with no grafitti, gulley drains that aren’t plant pots for weeds.

    I think part of it may be the little signs that say “provided by XXX Urban District Council”. We got rid of our UDCs and RDCs back in 1974 in the name of efficiency, but also with the result that the elected members who make the decisions are isolated from their communities. When most of the locals are related to most of the town council, there’s bond of community. You don’t go smashing up the seafront because your dad and your auntie and your grandma’s brother built that seafront.

  47. Abacab:

    “To be honest, I’d sooner move to France than back to the UK”

    It depends where in France or the UK. My French friends in Lyon complain about bureaucracy, over-regulation, muslims…and the fact that France has so many interest groups it is ungovernable. They like everything about the UK except healthcare and climate.

  48. BeaveFart

    “Interested

    That may be true, but I am willing to bet that the attendance at Dunkirk in cinemas in Bradford is not going to break any records”

    It was full on Saturday afternoon. I’m as critical of my home city as anyone, but that is just lazy…

  49. Like Theo I don’t really get why people are so down on the UK. Sure, the weather sucks most of the year but it’s also full of lovely villages and towns. In the last ten years even London had become much cleaner, certainly not as dirty as most European cities I’ve visited, including Paris.

  50. MattyJ

    Well said. I’ve travelled widely – Africa, S America, N America, China, India, most of Europe, etc. I now spend three months each year in Andalucia, another month in Greece or Italy, and a week or two in France. And I wouldn’t want to live elsewhere,
    for all its faults, than the UK. The UK – and particularly England – has some of the most beautiful managed landscapes in the civilised world, glorious historic architecture, fine towns and villages. Spain and France are often beautiful, but they are societies and polities even more dysfunctional than the UK. And France looks increasingly shabby to my eye.

  51. I’m in Cork right now. Spent yesterday in Kinsale and today in Cobh. Cobh felt like I’d taken a wrong turn and ended up on the Isle of Man. Cork is… different.

  52. ‘You’ll need to appoint proven “executioners”

    Since all of the executioners of the last era are now dead, how on earth would you “prove” them? Perhaps by relation to one of the great executioners of the past?

    I have a tenuous connection to Harry Allen in that he was my first cousin twice removed (I had to look that up though). I’m happy to do the job, there have certainly been plenty of candidates for high treason in recent years.

  53. Dunkirk ? If Blair etc. had been in charge then you would all be speaking German and it would be a hate crime to speak English.

  54. Evidence that ex-pats lose their sense of perspective on the UK and then fall victim to confirmation bias on their often brief returns!

    Hey, if you’re happy with what the UK spends your tax money on, good for you! I’m glad somebody is.

  55. “I often wonder if Tony Blair was really a low state anarchist who wanted to destroy people’s love of the state by giving really poor quality for money and making housing more expensive.”

    Whether or not that was his aim, its looking likely that at some point the State is going to become incapable of continuing to fund everything it does today. The ability of the State to raise taxes seems to have reached a plateau (mainly because people and money can leave far easier nowadays than the immediate post war decades,but also because they keep importing hordes of people who consume more State spending than they create in taxes) while the amount of State spending commitments continues to rise.

    At some point that is going to create a catastrophic crash – vast swathes of State spending will have to be cut, because it literally cannot be afforded. We are on a knife edge today – we still can’t balance the budget a decade after the recession hit, and 7-8 years after growth resumed. Were another hard recession to hit (and it will eventually, they always do) then we’re in deep shit.

    At that point I fully expect the State to go full Zimbabwe and start printing money and effectively handing it out on street corners. It will be the only way they can try and stop the process of disintegration. It won’t of course, in the medium to long term, but what politician can see beyond his or her nose?

    Eventually the whole thing will collapse, its a mathematical certainty.

  56. Theo,

    many years ago Limerick was described to me by some lads from Cork as Stab City.
    Whilst passing through Limerick we got stuck in an horrendous traffic jam, two youths (about 14) spent the best part of two hours totally demolishing a bus stop on the other side of the road, nobody intervened or even called the cops (not even a bus driver who passed without stopping), they only gave up when their bus turned up.

  57. TimN

    “Hey, if you’re happy with what the UK spends your tax money on, good for you! I’m glad somebody is.”

    No, I’m not happy with what the UK spends my taxes on. I simply don’t think the French spend their tax take any better than we do. Subsidised dance classes, FFS, are widely available in both countries. And bureaucracy is far worse in France.

  58. I simply don’t think the French spend their tax take any better than we do.

    Well seeing as you don’t live in France, that doesn’t matter, does it? For my part, I think the French spend their money better and in more obviously beneficial ways than the Brits do. Each to their own, I suppose.

    Subsidised dance classes, FFS, are widely available in both countries.

    It was one example. But I’d be surprised if your local authority has an arts and cultural centre that leases out fully-equipped music rooms to private music clubs for a nominal fee like this place. BTW, I’m in one of the pictures.

  59. Probably the main difference I see is how the tax money is spent locally, not nationally. Local councils in the UK are severely restricted in how they can raise money, hence they try to do so through things like car parking charges – which helped kill off the high street. Local councils in France *appear* to have more money and control over how it gets spent, hence you still have cheap municipal parking, a market-place, cultural centres, etc. They seem to have resisted the temptation to flog off public land to developers, too. I’m not trying to say the French spend the money wisely, but if you want to try to “get something back” I’ve found it’s quite easy to do so. Perhaps things have changed in the UK since I lived there, although my relatives don’t seem to think so, but when I was in Manchester my local neighbourhood council seemed to provide very little by way of comparison.

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