Issue 5

POLICY SHORTS

Paying for the shopping?

The Northern Ireland Assembly has recently approved a 5p per item levy on carrier bags.
It’s not just plastic bags that are covered, but those made of paper and other natural materials too.  Smaller bags, for sweets, and those specifically made for hot food are excluded.
Clearly the NI legislators are hoping that experience of shoppers crossing the border into the Republic will have made such a charge familiar to some and therefore more palatable.
The money collected from the bag levy will be channelled through the Department of the Environment each quarter and the money collected put to support community based environmental projects.

Just how much does government spend - and what on?

The previous and current governments are embarked on an heroic exercise – collecting together all the available information and reporting on all government spending – through the Whole of Government Accounts. The second set of WGA were published recently and the House of Commons Public Account Committee reported that members were not very impressed by the rate of progress to date.
Clearly this is a monstrously demanding task – attempted by no other contemporary government – trying to pull together financial data about more than 1500 public bodies.
The value of such a report is also diminished by finally being published some 19 months after the financial year end for 2011.
The Public Accounts Committee was also critical of the omission from the data of organisations such as Network Rail and the Royal Bank of Scotland, both of which are effectively taxpayer owned, although not technically in the public sector.
And sadly for the reputation of the UK Treasury as the enforcers department, no effective sanctions or incentives are in place to motivate compliance with the creation of the WGA. Two central governments failed   to submit information on time, even though given extra time, in the case of the department responsible for the Olympics, DCMS. Unfortunately for Mr Gove, the legislation creating academies in England does not require them to submit financial reporting data to back to the government department that provides all their finance  directly.

 

Issue 5

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