We’ve written in the past about the pressure on councils and government to sell off key assets as cut backs bite. And as the forestry debacle made clear, the subject can rouse fierce passions.
Last night Channel 4’s Dispatches entered the fray with a programme that put a value on many key pieces of the family silver (Buckingham Palace, the motorways, Gibraltar, the NHS etc) and debated whether we should sell them off.
Some of the valuations came courtesy of FindaProperty.com’s research team and the programme was trailed on C4 with an online ‘sell or not’ game which allows you to vote on what to flog or keep.
This is all great fun – and the programme was mildly interesting.
Mind you, the really big and difficult question is not what we should sell but whether we’re really as broke as the government claims and really need to resort to such radical measures to balance the books?
On this latter point there was some evidence that the public agreed with the government’s line on debt, but when it came to sell offs they were less sure. As Krishnan Guru-Murthy noted afterwards:
There’s no doubt the Government’s arguments about reducing debt interest payments which will soon exceed our education budget hit home with some voters.
But as the Government discovered to its pain when it tried to sell off English forests the public is also deeply attached to what it owns, and deeply suspicious of attempts to sell things off.
People seem to instinctively believe they will be ripped off – that the private sector wouldn’t be interested if there wasn’t a fast buck to be made. So it is clear the government will have to tread carefully if they are going to sell much more.
The programme will soon be available in 4oD.