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Fact Check: European Bureaucracy and Clegg's Comparisons to Derbyshire County Council

Fact Check: European Bureaucracy and Clegg's Comparisons to Derbyshire County Council

In last night’s debate on Britain’s membership of the European Union, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister claimed that, “the total size of the European bureaucracy, this monstrous superstate Nigel Farage talks about is about exactly the same size as the number of people employed by Derbyshire County Council. Some super state!”.

But Breitbart London has done some digging. Initially, Clegg’s figures seem plausible, but when you ‘read the small print’, as the Deputy Prime Minister is so keen to have us do, the claim starts to fall apart.

In figures provided to Breitbart London by Derbyshire County Council, as of December 2013, it employed 36,187 people. The European Union’s website says it employs just 42,500. But in the case of Derbyshire, this includes everyone down to teachers and street cleaners. The EU’s figure is only those directly employed in administration of the European Parliament, European Commission and European Council.

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Open Europe did a study in 2007 in which they included every EU institution that publishes its staff numbers, which is by no means all of them. This brought the figure up to around 54,000 staff. The group also point out that the EU doesn’t list second and third ‘pillar’ agencies such as Europol (which has a staff of 600), the European Defence Agency (which has a staff of at least 94), or the EU Satellite Centre. It is also unclear how much all these figures have grown in seven years, but extrapolating the growth of the European Commission outwards would bring it up to 65,000.

Now consider the fact that Derbyshire County Council splits its human resources numbers into two distinct categories: the overall total, and the total including schools, which accounts for 20,584 staff, 15,393 of which are part-time workers. 

The total number of bureaucrats (remember, Clegg did say the “European bureaucracy) rather than frontline staff in Derbyshire County Council suddenly shrinks to around 15,603.

Now consider this. Derbyshire County Council has a budget of £511m, whilst the European Union has a budget of £118bn. Even at the peak figure of 36,187, this means Derbyshire County Council spends around £14,000 per employee. The EU on the other hand, spends £1.84m per employee.

This is hardly a fair comparison, some will say, since the EU dispersing aid, subsidies, and basically has a military too. But this was Clegg’s comparison remember. We’re only holding him to it. 

If you were to ask “who works for the Mayor of London?” the technical answer would be a few hundred people in City Hall. However, the Mayor also funds Transport for London (TfL) and is Chairman of it. TfL has 28,000 staff. He also funds the Metropolitan Police, which has 48,000 staff, and the list goes on.

Under the Clegg-definition of who works for public bodies, the Greater London Authority would be one of the smallest municipal governments of any town or city in the world. In reality its a huge organisation with vast manpower and budgets.

In all these matters we have to remember the EU is not principally a service provider. It is a federal government that makes laws for its member states to follow. As such it can create huge amounts of red tape with very few staff, because national governments are obliged to enforce the laws it creates anyway.

CONCLUSION: We’ve gotta give Clegg a big nil points on this one. Derbyshire County Council and the European bureaucracy are neither comparable by staff size, or any other measure. Better luck next time, Nick.


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