Monday, 3 December 2007

From the Heritage Bunker (Episode 4)

Minister: Ah, Sir Humphrey! I need to talk to you. I’ve had a letter from the Botanical Gardens asking for financial help.

Sir Humphrey: Indeed, Minister? How much do they want this time?

Minister: This time?

Sir Humphrey: Your predecessor was extremely generous to them the last time they got into financial trouble. How much do they say they need this time?

Minister: £1.7 million to clear their debts, and an extra £500,000 a year thereafter.

Sir Humphrey: That’s a great deal of money, Minister. Shall I have the civil servants draw up the customary refusal? Budgets are very tight this year.

Minister: That’s not what we said to the Millennium Centre – and the Garden are only asking for a fraction of what we gave them.

Sir Humphrey: That’s completely different, Minister. One simply cannot compare the two cases.

Minister: Why not? The press are comparing the two.

Sir Humphrey: Well, Minister, the Millennium Centre is a home for the Arts. Opera, Theatre, Concerts, world-class performances. The Botanic Gardens is just a... just a… just a garden!

Bernard: And it’s in Carmarthen rather than Cardiff.

Minister: I don’t quite see the difference.

Sir Humphrey: Minister, really! The Millennium Centre is vital to all our work in attracting employment and boosting the economy.

Minister: How?

Sir Humphrey: Well it’s really very simple. The captains of industry, the people who make the decisions on investment – culture is extremely important to them. The Millennium Centre is a show case of what Wales can put on at its best.

Minister: You mean a lot of people singing in Italian is the cream of Welsh culture?

Sir Humphrey: World culture, Minister. We have a world-beating stage to stage events, and they are a major attraction to the captains of industry.

Minister: And senior civil servants?

Sir Humphrey: It isn’t easy to get the top people from London to come and spend time working in Cardiff you know.

Bernard: They certainly wouldn’t go to Carmarthenshire.

Minister: But surely we can find some money. Aren’t there some more underspends we can use, like we did for the Millennium Centre?

Sir Humphrey: But that’s Arts money, Minister! You can’t simply spend Arts money on a garden! People don’t pay good money in taxes to subsidise a garden!

Minister: Surely it’s all Heritage money? Isn’t it up to me how we spend it?

Bernard: Not exactly, Minister. Although the Department has a total amount of money to spend, the budget splits it down into lots of sub-headings, each of which has its own total, and if you increase the total under one, then you’d have to decrease the total under another, and then you'd have to explain why the one that you're decreasing was so high in the first place that it was possible to reduce it later.

Minister: What?

Sir Humphrey: One can’t simply switch money from Opera to gardening!

Minister: So what do we do?

Sir Humphrey: We tell them that we’ve bailed them out once, on condition that they did not come back again, and that they’ll have to find private finance to make up their deficit.

Minister: So you’re telling me that I can always find money for an Arts project, but there will never be enough for the Gardens?

Sir Humphrey and Bernard: Yes, Minister.


Anonymous said...

oh yes you will Humphrey - because its in my back yard.

Ceredig said...

Hmmm. The Minister over-ruling the civil servant. I might find it challenging to keep to the plot line if that happened...