THE main party conferences are finally out of the way. Yet again, taxpayers are left with another round of spending promises. Even in the face of the worst recession in Europe and the highest tax burden in 50 years, there wasn’t a proper tax cut in sight. The only real message to taxpayers was the Chancellor’s masked warning of another hike.
So what next for conservative economics? Even if they wanted to, where could the Tories find the savings to let them cut taxes and balance the books at the same time?
There’s one place they could start. It’s the cosy club of quangocrats. They run governing bodies and public corporations, the existence of which is largely unknown. For example the Architects Registration Board, which gave board member Caroline Corby a £400 ‘reading allowance’. They hold a shocking amount of power, and yet they are unelected and come from a small pool of applicants far removed from the British people who foot their organisations’ £206billion bill. You can see a list here.
The nation is struggling under the financial weight of our creaking quangocracy. Board member pay alone is a massive burden on the state at £124million. We’re in desperate need of another quango bonfire (not that the last one announced by David Cameron in 2010 was an unqualified success).
What better firestarter could there be than one of the most bloated public bodies in the country, the BBC? It’s time to get out our fire axe and give the licence fee the chop. Research by the TaxPayers’ Alliance has found that out of the top 20 best-paid ‘members of the board’ in 2018-19, three were BBC execs. The total remuneration for all 13 BBC board members was almost £2.3million, or about £176,230 each – six times more than the average UK salary. And that’s before we start talking about stars’ pay.
You might not think of the BBC as a quango, but it is just like any other. Safeguarded from the commercial realities of the sector with protected pay and privileges for their luvvie leaders and puffed-up presenters, all whilst forcing millions of taxpayers to pay £157.50 a year on pain of imprisonment.
And it’s not just the BBC. The best-paid quangocrat in the country? Channel 4’s chief exec, Alex Mahon, who took home almost £1million. She’s closely followed in the top five by Jonathan Allen, the channel’s chief commercial officer, on £654,000. Director of programming Ian Katz just misses out on the top 10 but he still earns more than half a million.
Channel 4 doesn’t directly receive taxpayers’ money like the BBC, but it’s still a publicly owned broadcaster. What’s the point of a publicly owned channel when its journalists are among those least trusted by the very same people that own it? The only sensible option is to put Channel 4 up for sale and let it go out on its own. With a potential £1billion to be made from flogging it, the Treasury’s coffers would get a crucial top-up too.
Of course, there are plenty more quangos that could stoke the fire. If Boris wants to send a signal, start with the public broadcasters.