London’s Oxford Circus has had a facelift. And a jolly good
But, how come it cost a staggering £5 million ($8m)? All
they’ve done is remove a few barriers, replace the traffic lights and resurface
a small patch of road and walkway.
Don’t misunderstand; we think this new crossing is a great improvement.
But we’re staggered how anyone managed to spend so much on it. A new school would, or at least should, cost no more.
As ever, the root of the problem lies with those in public
life spending other people’s money. This almost always results in an instant
disconnect with the value for money concept.
Then we have all the scourges of modern day life – various public
bodies consulting with each other (someone else picking up the tab, of course)
concluding they need expensive external consultants; followed by the utterly
pointless but nevertheless obligatory “visioning” exercises, chased hot foot by
expensive health and safety assessments, planning consultations, committees, etc. – the list goes on.
Private business should quite rightly be horrified. It’s no
wonder we're clobbered for penal tax rates with this sort of
Savvy operators without much in the way of an ethical code
will want their snout in these profligate public works troughs. But for the
rest of us, we are reminded just how effective the incentive motive is – how much
would it have cost if the whole project had properly been tendered to private enterprise?
Answers on a postcard to the Mayor of London.