Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, has decided to scrap the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), thereby saving £3 million in running costs. This is a very short-sighted decision and makes no sense at all. I have consequently felt it necessary to express my displeasure directly to Ms Spelman and have fired off a letter telling her so. Here's the gist of my disgruntlement:
Sustainable Development is about more than mere finance. It involves balancing environmental pressures with economics, social progress and justice, and promoting good governance. But even in merely financial terms, scrapping the SDC is daft. Considering that the Government is spending £10 million per day on the war in Afghanistan, the savings from scrapping the SDC will enable the Government to continue the war for just over seven hours. Given that the SDC’s work so far has led to ongoing savings of £60 to £70 million of savings per year across government, and that the Afghan War seems to be going nowhere, which do you think provides better value for money?
The work being done by the SDC will be brought ‘in-house’ and will be an everyday part of government. But the work will still need resources, principally in staffing, at a time when the coalition Government is insisting on reducing staff numbers. So the work that comes ‘in-house’ will fall on the shoulders of staff who are already overloaded. The result will be that something or other won’t get done. And meanwhile there will be no coordinating body to promote best practice across government.
David Cameron is quoted as saying that he wants this to be the greenest Government ever. How would Ms Spelman reconcile this ambition with her decision to scrap the SDC?