Government has a tendency to recreate policies and organisations on an alarmingly regular basis. New organisations replace old ones; one policy is ended while a remarkably similar one is launched.
In our All Change report, we examine three policy areas where change has been especially acute: further education (FE), regional governance and industrial policy. In the FE sector, since the 1980s there have been 28 major pieces of legislation, 48 secretaries of state with relevant responsibilities, and no organisation has survived longer than a decade. In the area of industrial policy, there have been at least two industrial strategies in the last decade alone – and we are now moving onto a third.
The cost of all this reinvention – both human and economic – is high. In further education, thousands of students and employers are faced with a confusing and ever-changing set of qualifications, with no certainty that those same qualifications will exist a few years down the line.
Creating a new department – often poorly planned and at short notice – costs £15m in the first year alone. Apart from the cost of temporary disruption to business as people grapple with the logistics of creating a new department, the longer-term costs are substantially higher.
The change and churn we describe is not only a result of shifting ideological preferences. Rather, this churn highlights some persistent weaknesses in our system of government.
Our report outlines our recommendations for how government can overcome this constant policy reinvention.
Timelines of policy, structural and personnel changes