Using a low-end estimate, our annual tax take per head is more than £8,000 every year. That sum is reached by excluding local taxes like Council Tax, ignoring the future tax burden of the public sector debt and dividing the rest of the money collected between every man woman and child in the UK. Using that £8,000 figure, public spending should not only be measured in pounds and pence, but also in “tax years” i.e. the amount of time it would take a normal person to earn that money.
This would help us appreciate what a slog it is to create tax revenues and ensure that they are only spent on things we really value. For example, a nurse’s annual starting salary is £21,692. Under this measure, this is about three “tax years”. An MP can be employed for twelve months at a cost of £74,000 – or about nine tax years. Further up the scale, it takes 9,375 tax years to build a £75m hospital, and a whopping 35,000 tax years to pay for the redundant airport on St Helena (to foot that bill, the artist responsible for the very first cave painting in human history would still need to be plugging away at their 9-5 today).