Post election ‘shock horror’

And so it starts...the public finances are much worse than we thought, Labour were concealing stuff, contracts were signed just before the election.  As the BBC reports, David Cameron has announced an audit of the government's books after finding examples of "crazy" spending decisions in Labour's last year in power.

I can't comment on much of this, but I did see some of the pre-election issues from the inside as I worked with various clients.  And the difficulty for Departments and civil servants was this.  If you've been running a procurement for months, or even years, at what point do you say, "we shouldn't go ahead with that just in case the new Government don't like it".

It is a difficult balance, as life has to go on even with an election looming.  For instance, the Building Schools for the Future programme has been going for years, and indeed had been criticised in the past for the slow procurement process.  So given the scale of the programme, and the overall schedule, it is not surprising that some projects did reach contract award let's say late last year or early 2010.  It would have been operationally difficult  to say 'don't sign in case the Tories disapprove'' - and we might also then have seen damages claims from p***d off bidders!

I also know that civil servants are pretty risk averse by nature; I don't see too many permanent secretaries taking wild decisions pre election, particularly knowing that there were very good odds on a different boss after the election!  So some of this may well be conditioning for the cuts to come, which as I've said before will be far deeper than most of the public realise.

But it will be interesting to see what comes out of the woodwork as the new Government goes through the books; my personal view is that we certainly need a clearer sight of PFI and public sector pension liabilities.  They really do need to be taken into account when we look at the future economic position.

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