Archive for March, 2013

Guest blog: Accountability under the spotlight

, 27 March 2013

One permanent secretary said “appearing before the PAC doesn’t change the price of fish”. Officials at HMRC and the Care Quality Commission may take a different view but it remains a fair question. Would defining better the respective roles of ministers and civil servants transform things? Will the latest civil service reforms make all...

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Are public inquiries worth the time, money and resources?

, 25 March 2013

Leveson’s recommendation for a “genuinely independent and effective system of self-regulation” by the press has become the subject of 2 am deal stitched up by party leaders followed by a self-congratulatory vote in favour in the Commons. Francis consists of the shock and awe of a near 2,000 page report with almost 2,000 pages...

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Politicisation of the Civil Service: beware the straw men

, 15 March 2013

In 1994 John Major’s Government published The Civil Service: Continuity and Change, a white paper taking stock of the Service after a period of significant upheaval. It is a title that could have been used at any point in the last 150 years. The story of our public administration is precisely one of the...

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What Lord Butler saw: history advice for government

, 14 March 2013

The government has a potential treasure trove of previous experience at its disposal if it chooses to use it – whether on the role of the Cabinet Office in trying to improve efficiency (Thatcher), ministerial v Treasury relations over public spending cuts (see past governments ad nauseum), or the implications of military intervention abroad...

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Making interchange work for the Civil Service

, 12 March 2013

Interchange sounds great in theory. But our politics, and media, doesn’t like the ‘revolving door’. And the civil service has a cultural problem with it too; it feels that civil servants who leave have betrayed the public ethos, and outsiders who have come remain that, outsiders. I am parti pris on this having left...

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Spending Review 2013: taking on the union

, 6 March 2013

After a decade of steadily rising budgets, the 2010 Spending Review set out spending cuts on a scale greater than anything since demobilisation. Still relatively fresh in post, ministers were generally ready and willing to cut public spending dramatically in their departments as a contribution to cutting the deficit. Some went further, wanting to...

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Disappointment by results

, 5 March 2013

But wait! Is this the same ‘payment by results’ that was mentioned 34 times in the Cabinet Office’s Open Public Services 2012 paper published less than a year ago? The same PbR that was floated as a way of addressing some of the most pressing policy challenges from troubled families to homelessness? Yes and...

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What Danny Alexander should have said at the “What Works” launch

, 5 March 2013

This is what the chief secretary to the Treasury should have said in his opening remarks: “We face a prolonged period of fiscal austerity. The Treasury will no longer be prepared to finance policies which are not demonstrably working – nor can we underwrite speculative policies which are not supported by a reasonable evidence...

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Why has trust in civil servants gone up?

, 4 March 2013

And this interest is despite the rank order generally not changing much. We can guarantee that doctors will be at the top: we have measured trust in doctors in the middle of any number of high profile medical scandals, and there is no impact. We can also guarantee that journalists and politicians will be...

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Clarity about the Civil Service: learning from New Zealand

, 1 March 2013

The New Zealand minister for the Civil Service, Dr Jonathan Coleman, was in the UK this week and spoke at New Zealand House about their government reform programme. This focuses on ten measurable results which address complex issues cutting across department boundaries, such as reducing the rate of assaults on children and cutting long-term...

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