It is now quite beyond the mental resources of the British government and its administration to distinguish between the worthwhile and the worthless, the important and the trivial, investment and frittering, even should it wish to do so. (We are ruled by people who have achieved the remarkable distinction of being both dull and frivolous.) Capital expenditure is not the same as investment, as many communist countries, with high levels of such expenditure, found to their cost: or should I say, to their people's cost. This is not a new observation.
Let us take the question of school buildings, upon which some small part of extra expenditure will be spent. (I leave aside the interesting but irrelevant question whether British architects are by now capable of designing and building anything other than gimcrack eyesores.)
It is, or should be, obvious that school walls do not an education make. The reasons for our low standards are no doubt complex, though they include the radically unsocialised nature of many children when they enter school, thanks in part, but not exclusively, to the government policy of encouraging and subsidising family disintegration; the idiotic pedagogic theories long peddled in teacher training colleges and put into practice by educational bureaucrats; and government bullying of the teaching profession, by means of the imposition of meaningless, absurd and easily corruptible procedural outcomes. Bad school buildings would have to be very bad indeed - a straw hut in Antarctica, say – before children could not be taught to read in them.
Funnily enough, from the other side of the political divide, comes this commentary from Maralyn Parker in the Daily Telegraph:
There is almost a Gilbert and Sullivan farce-type edge to what is unfolding. Today or tomorrow NSW public schools will get a memo telling them the old departmental ways have been ditched. Gone are lengthy applications, endless site meetings, confinement to certain contractors or tradespeople _ the notorious procurement policy.
Schools will be encouraged to make local decisions _ the quicker the better. And that wish list is now a to do list.
The Commonwealth will take back any money that is not spent on time _ even if a job is half done.
And pigs might fly. The chances of a bureaucracy like the state education bureaucracy rolling back onerous procurement policies are somewhere between nil and non-existant. The same goes for all the "community consultations", environmental impact statements (how much CO2 will be involved in putting up this school hall?), inclusiveness impact statements, social justice impact statements and so on.
The same goes for decentralising decision making to the schools. The only way to get the head office bureaucrats off the backs of the schools is the reduce the size of head office by 90%. That is, sack a lot of people.