Ignorance is bliss

Experience has taught me that the more one knows about a public service the harder it is to make decisions. This is because, I think, all decisions result in winners and losers and these have to be assessed, balanced out and justified. To be a lawful decision they have to be reasonable, too.

If one is ignorant of the consequences of a decision it makes the whole thing much simpler. I imagine Eric Pickles was happy to sign the decision to abolish the regional development agencies; it was an exercise in ministerial authority to do something he stated he would do when in opposition. I guess it would have been a much tougher decision for him if he'd known that the RDAs have outstanding liabilities of £1.5 billion and counting. It looks like Pickles's own department will have to pick up most of that, surely putting paid to some of the projects and programmes that Pickles would like to implement. And there is the possibility that the government will have to forego £1.9 billion of European Regional Development Fund money, too.

Unfortunately, we've seen the abolition of the Audit Commission is expected to cost £200 million meaning it will take four years for the claimed annual savings to recover the closure costs. The numbers are much smaller but the same pattern is repeated for the abolition of the Standards Board for England. Perhaps in the long term these are good value for money but if the aim was to reduce public spending in 2010 and 2011 they fail badly.

Politicians of all parties make bold statements in their campaigns that they are the people who can and will make the difficult decisions. Good. Let's hope that decisions about cuts following the spending review next month are difficult ones rather than simple decisions made in ignorance of the consequences.