…“Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.” Calvin Coolidge
If you live in the UK in 2013 and you are fortunate enough to be employed and earning the average UK salary of approx. £26,000 (ish) a year, then you are paying around £8,000 a year in direct taxes. This amount itself would cover a substantial mortgage or provide a first rate pension scheme for the future of you and your loved ones. Of course you also pay a significant amount more in indirect taxes such as the VAT you pay on everything from household goods and entertainment, to your gas, electricity and telephone charges, and the high amount of duty you pay for the fuel in your car, and your annual road tax licence, and then there’s the enormous amounts of duty you pay on any wine, beer or spirits that you might enjoy, and heaven help you if you smoke! And of course there are the water rates and the community charges that you pay to your local council. Oh, and if you happen to have a job working for a profitable company then the company you work for also pays taxes on the profit it makes. And if you’re fortunate enough to have savings then you may also pay taxes on any interest that you earn. In short, if you are in a relationship and you both earn an average salary then the combined amount of all the direct and indirect taxes that you will pay in your working lifetime is likely to be well in excess of one million pounds at today’s value, so I have a question for you…
“when you are retired and living on a tight budget, perhaps struggling to find the money to fix the roof or pay your kids education fees, will you say that you didn’t mind having most of your life’s earnings taken off you in taxes because you knew that the money you gave to the government in your lifetime was always well spent?”
Now you might call me spookily psychic or just plain old arrogant, but I think I know the answer you would give…
So what do we want from Public Sector Services, and perhaps more importantly what should we expect?
I think it can be summed up as ET, no not the extra-terrestrial, but Effectiveness and Transparency. Would it be a joke too far to say that this was still an alien concept in the Public Sector?
I’m passionate about the need for greater transparency in every area of “our” Public Services. I’ve never thought it is too much to ask that as tax-payers we should be able to find out quickly, clearly and accurately where our money is spent, if we so desire. We may not always agree with where or how it is spent, that’s democracy, but we should never be shielded from knowing unless there is an exceptional reason to keep this knowledge hidden. I get an itemised phone bill for my mobile phone, why can’t I expect one for my taxes?
So if we are to firstly understand and then improve Public Services we will need to demand that they become more easily visible and transparent. Transparency will lead to greater accountability and this will be the button upon which we can press to ensure that we get better more efficient and more cost effective Public Services, services that provide real benefits to society and that offer value to tax-payers.