I would like to say thank you to Sir Edward Leigh for keeping us informed through your newspaper about some of the things that go on in Westminster.
More importantly I would like to thank you for printing his letters. Regardless of one’s personal political views, I think that engagement by MPs with local newspapers is a good way of reducing the apathy towards the very important matter of deciding who governs us.
I think I am more aware than most people of the sterling work that Mr Leigh did for so long as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and I hope his successor Margaret Hodge continues in the same way. The PAC and the National Audit Office are vital tools for reducing the costs of governance.
Although the Government is starting to tackle spending some ingrained practices have to stop. There are horror stories in the national media from time to time about the Ministry of Defence spending tens of pounds each for nuts, bolts, light bulbs and other sundry generic items that cost you and me a few pence each at B&Q.
Other stories abound about various government departments paying around £2,500 each for staff laptop PCs that cost around £350 each from PC World.
Those issues are now well known and the Government has been looking hard at these practices. However, both local and national government needs to examine the ways they buy and sell.
All too often we hear of public assets being sold off at a fraction of their real value. We also need to reassess the awful Private Finance Initiative (PFI).
These complex arrangements just seem to be used as wheeze by unscrupulous companies to rip off the public sector on a grand scale.
Another very great concern for all of us is the need for the Government to buy what it actually needs rather than what some company or other wants to sell it.
One of the more obvious examples of this was demonstrated by Philip Hammond’s dreadful decision to do a U-turn on the flight deck and aircraft for the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Perhaps being a bit more hard-nosed in negotiations and a little look at some Unfair Contract Terms Act related Law might help here.
That may also be worth considering when any “big ticket item” starts to get more expensive: “HS2 mate? £30 Billion, straight up! No, £42 Billion, soz mate!” and then a year or two later “Did I say £42 Billion? Sorry mate, I meant £52 Billion, no £70 Billion!” and so on.
It just seems to me that so many government procurement contracts are very one-sided with the seller being able to change terms and prices at whim while we are always held rigidly to whatever we have shoved down our throats.
I say “we” as it is our money that is being spent, supposedly for our benefit, but all too often with rubbish value for money.
To summarise I would like to thank Sir Edward once again for keeping in the local loop and for the excellent work he has done as chairman of the PAC.
I am hopeful that he can still contribute the very important work of the PAC even though his select committee membership commitments are now elsewhere.