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Municipal Lingo: No 3. Investment.

A trick often used by Council officers seeking to get spending on some pet project waved through by councillors is to call it "investment." The point of investment is that you put some money in with a plausible expectation that you get the money back plus more as a result.

Of course in this example central government are at it as well. The Croydonian spotted recently that my old friend Lord
Tebbit put down the following question: "To ask Her Majesty's Government how they define 'spending' and 'investment' in relation to public expenditure."

Treasury Minister Lord Myners replied: "Public sector current expenditure: is the sum of the current expenditure of general government and certain distributive transactions (interest and rent) paid by public corporations to the private sector and abroad" While: "Public sector net investment is all public sector capital expenditure less an amount representing all public sector depreciation."

So thank goodness we want hear any more Government Minister make reference to non capital items as "investment." Even with capital spending the term "investment" is usually a misnomer. Spending on a new playground for a prak or a new school building or upgrading facilities on a block of flats on a Council estate may all be justified. But if there is no tangible financial return projected then they are not investments.


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