Friday, December 30, 2005

Telegraph | Opinion | It's official: Britain is run by bureaucrats

The Telegraph dare not mention the other costs of bureaucrats. To my personal knowledge, some Health & Safety inspectors demand money not to close down construction sites. Fail to pay and some imagined infringement will be found. I know someone who is thinking of closing down his small business because he can't sustain those bribes.

Massive discretion in the use of enforcement powers is likely to lead to such abuse. For example, if the competition authorities launch a "dawn raid" on a business they will, among other things, seize the company's computers to search them for evidence. That is enough to put most companies out of business, guilty or not. In dealing with the bureaucrats who wield such power, companies are well advised to be craven and subservient.

Function creep is another cost. You now need planning permission to change your window frames in Britain. How can that conceivably be of interest to the State? It isn't, but it creates non-jobs. I wrote to my local council more than two months ago about installing Continental-style security shutters on my ground floor windows and doors (following an incident I blogged about, in which intruders frightened my wife). So far, I have received only an acknowledgement and a promise that "an officer will be in contact". The windows in question are not even overlooked. They are of no interest to my neighbours. I am reduced from being an Englishman in his castle, to a supplicant of the State.

Margaret Thatcher's programme of council house sales was largely driven by tenants' desires to have choices about their own homes. They were misled. Under Labour, we have about as much freedom in such matters as if we all lived in 1970's council houses. The only difference is that we have put up our own capital for the privilege.

Telegraph | Opinion | It's official: Britain is run by bureaucrats

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