It seems that the BBC has finally caught on to the story of the manner in which the last government threw money into pointless projects driven by the ideology they tried to force on the English. Tony Blair cherished the ambition of breaking up England into eight 'Regions,' each with its own 'Assembly' to replace the Parliament he and his Scottish and Welsh members have for so long dominated. By creating these Regional Assemblies he hoped to achieve two things.
The first was to divide England so that it would be a given that Labour would control at least four, the LibDems would have one, possibly two, and the Conservatives, if they were lucky, might have two or three. The second was to try and hide the fact that, with Scotland having a Parliament of its own, the Welsh having an Assembly and an Assembly in Northern Ireland, each dealing with the affairs of that nation or province, the English are now actually ruled by their neighbours. The only legislature in Engand is the United Kingdom Parliament in Westminster and, as its title suggests, it is stuffed with MPs from all four nations...
You've guessed it, the Labour Party, without its Scottish and Welsh MPs, would never attain a majority in a purely English Parliament, so Blair's entire "constitutional reform" was a scam to guarantee their continuance in power. In theory this all fell apart when the English - except for London which is atypical of the rest of England anyway - resoundingly rejected the Regional Assembly scheme (Ironically in a Labour heartland most resoundingly of all!), seeing it for what it was, yet another layer to the 'gravy train' Labour had wanted to create so even more worthless jobsworths and charlatans could get their snouts in the trough that is MA, MP and MEP perks and expenses. So the English still have no Parliament for their own affairs and must grin and bear the charade of Scottish and Welsh MPs voting impositions on them in the full knowledge that the regulations, taxes and everything else they impose will not have any impact on their constituents, while destroying the hated English.
Well, as I said at the outset, we may have thought it was dead, but that reckons without a Civil Service which had already created Regional Management Boards, stuffed with Labour appointees and totally unelected. These cheerful chappies had set in motion the process of taking over the management of 'Regional Services' from Whitehall (Which, by the way, had no intention of losing any of its thousands of freeloaders and paper shufflers even though they were supposedly devolving the work to the 'Regions.') and employed dozens, if not hundreds of extra 'public servants' to duplicate those already supposedly doing the work in Whitehall...
Among these expensive plans was the subsumation of the Fire and Rescue Services, already criminally damaged by that buffoon and his minions who disgraced the office of Deputy Prime Minister and now disgraces the House of Lords, into eight services from the efficient system which currently has forty-four Brigades covering the whole of England. Until Prescott destroyed it (With the connivance of the Chief Fire Officers Association) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Fire Services provided technical advice and guidance to the services and ensured that they all followed recognised patterns of training, that equipment remained compatible and that they maintained a system of 'mutual aid' which meant a pump from Lands End could be sent to Berwick on Tweed and still work alongside the service there. All that went when the Civil Service decided that a) Centralised Training was not required and opted for Itsy Pitsy Diddly Squat as the fire fighters named "Integrated Personal Development" and then started handing out the Fire Service College training course materials, notes and course programmes to competitors while loading the College with massively expensive civil servant managers who contribute nothing but cost to the whole. Naturally the competitors now undercut the College and Brigades fail to support it - in fact, have spent vast amounts of money duplicating its facilities ...
One of the key issues on the Regionalisation by stealth agenda was to remove control of the Fire and Rescue Services from the Chief Fire Officers - sorry in New Speak that should be Chief Executive - and place it all in nine "Regional" Control Rooms. The budget was a mere £70 million. Guess what, ten years later, the cost is now £423 million and not one of these unwanted, unnecessary and potentially disasterous Control Rooms has yet opened. Nor will they, the present government is now attempting to pull back from this stupidity, but it may already be to late. As the Parliamentary Committee admited to the BBC recently, it is almost impossible, once a project gathers momentum in Whitehall for Ministers or Civil Servants to stop it - even when it is going disasterously wrong. They are incapable of admitting a mistake, so they throw money at it endlessly until someone notices and demands an answer. Then they throw even more money at it.
So the Fire Service Regional Control joins yet another of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's ill conceived and out of control disasterous projects. The list is impressive, and very few have ever actually worked, been resolved or ever will be. The truly shocking thing about all of them is that neither the MPs and Ministers involved, nor any of the incompetents in the Civil Service who, often against the advice of professionals and experts, presided over these schemes. At £423 million, the Fire Service Regional Control Project is one of the more expensive on a very long list.
Just for the record, here are some of the massively expensive and utterly useless projects money is still pouring into -
Holyrood Parliament - Budget: £40 million; Final cost: £450 million
Welsh Assembly - Again, massively over budget and the massive bureaucracy it has accumulated will make even that seem cheap.
Fire and Rescue Service Regional Control: Budget: £70 million; Final Cost: Not yet closed, but already past £423 million
UK Passport Agency: Budget £20 million; Still unresolved and the computers still don't do what they should (£200 million and rising)
Portcullis House: Budget £80 million; Final cost I am told was double that.
DVLA: Massive electronic programme - still can't get a persons Driving Licence details right and don't bother phoning or even going online.
Central Buying for the Fire Service: Several Brigades are now trying to sell off unused Fire Appliances bought under this scheme which they cannot use.
Preferred Bidder Procurement: This wonderful scam by the Treasury itself allows those on the "Preferred Bidder List" to secure major contracts without going through a Tendering Process (Too lengthy and too expensive according to the Treasury) and instead they can stick in an inflated price and laugh all the way to the bank because none of the incompetents who supposedly 'manage' Whitehall know what they are buying.
Civil Resilience: Massive investment (Just on the Fire Service £20 million worth of vehicles) in equipment which may never be used and which individual Brigades will find themselves replacing at their own cost in a few more years (This stuff has a life of around 15 years) and while a lot of it is "Nice to have," it is hardly bread and butter fire and rescue service kit and therefore needs a huge investment in training and in maintaining it. Will t actually save thousands of lives as the public have been told? Probably not, though a few hundred maybe beneficiaries across its life.
Well, at least someone has finally noticed that Whitehall and Westminster are on a runaway spending spree and have been since Blair took powerin 1997. Is it likely to stop? No. To quote the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee that admitted being unable to stop the spending on pointless projects - "The cost of abandoning a project may be higher than trying to get it to work."
Well, I suppose he had to say that, but frankly there comes a point when pulling the plug is going to be a lot cheaper - unless, of course, you have a contract written by a Whitehall W*nk*r that says if the government decides to pull the plug they must pay all costs including future costs of winding down the project.
Time, perhaps, to weed out Whitehall and place some serious restraints on the power of any Civil Service Committee to determine what gets spent and where. Plus, time to remove all unqualified 'managers' from any post involving anything they are not specifically qualified to do themselves. It won't cure the problem, but it may give us the satisfaction of knowing that someone in Whitehall has been held, finally, to account.