Andrew Allison: We cannot afford to fund a bloated bureaucracy

Jobs are scarce in Hull. According to recent reports, a Hull charity received 645 applications for just one vacancy, and in parts of north Hull there are more than 50 people applying for each job advertised in the job centre.

Andrew Allison.
Andrew Allison.

Yet when Richard Turner, who runs Milkshake Factory, an existing business in the city, wanted to apply for a street trading licence to rent a pitch in the city centre to sell his milkshakes, he was told he would have to wait until next year to apply and that the application would take six months.

The reason given by Hull City Council was that responsibility for street trading licence applications will be transferred from the network management unit to the licensing department in 2014.

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As it takes six months to process an application (because other businesses which may be affected have to be consulted) it did not make sense to start the process now. Instead, Mr Turner, who would create new jobs if he is allowed a licence, will have to wait until at least July next year for an answer.

I can understand why current businesses need to be consulted, but over six months? Surely this process, if done in an efficient way, should not take longer than a couple of weeks? I am not arguing that Mr Turner should automatically get his licence, but it is unreasonable to put local businesses into limbo for months. The wheels of bureaucracy turn very slowly – unless of course they want money from you.

One city councillor, John Fareham, described this as responsibility tennis: one council department blaming another for the lack of progress. But this is nothing new.

As reported in this newspaper last month, those responsible for wasting tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on the failed South Yorkshire Digital Region project have not been held to account. Some have moved on to other highly remunerated public sector roles.

The former chief executive of Yorkshire Forward, Tom Riordan, was rewarded when he was appointed to the job of chief executive of Leeds City Council. As the man in charge of Yorkshire Forward at the time, and ultimately accountable for £40m of taxpayers’ money being pumped into the scheme which finally collapsed yesterday, why wasn’t he asking more probing questions? Why hasn’t he accepted responsibility for his part in the mess? Why hasn’t his role been investigated? Responsibility tennis again. Make mistakes, move on to another well-paid job, and hope no-one notices.

Meanwhile, Lurene Joseph’s five-star expenses as director of the council-funded marketing agency Leeds & Partners is not going to be investigated by Leeds City Council either. Instead, the council said it “does not question the rationale for individual financial transactions as highlighted by the Yorkshire Post but we are confident that the board and executive of Leeds & Partners are committed to demonstrating financial probity and delivering value for money”. The council plays a passing shot back into Leeds & Partners’ court, knowing they won’t mount an investigation into Ms Joseph’s lavish lifestyle paid for by us.

There isn’t a business person alive who hasn’t made mistakes, but to be successful in business you have to take responsibility and learn from those mistakes. You are not going to get the respect and trust of your shareholders and employees if you blame the system or others.

With an economy slowly pulling itself out of recession, and money still tight for families and businesses alike, we need all public bodies to spend every pound wisely. The more money they waste, the higher the bill is for the rest of us. More money taken out of the economy means fewer jobs created and slower economic growth. All public bodies must take responsibility for their actions, cut their bloated bureaucracies, and help facilitate economic recovery; not hinder it.

In the meantime, there are still more than 50 people chasing each job vacancy in north Hull, and enterprise is constrained.

Andrew Allison

Andrew Allison is the national grassroots co-ordinator of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.