Performance measurement in government is unlikely to make the hearts of the electorate beat more quickly. However, it is a means to an important end: whether government achieves what it set out to.

In this special Whitehall Monitor report, we look at one element of the Coalition’s performance measurement regime: impact indicators. These, part of each department’s Business Plans (which set out the actions each department would take), were designed ‘to help the public to judge whether our policies and reforms are having the effect they want’, as the May 2011 versions of the Business Plans put it.

We ask two broad but basic questions about them:

  • what has happened to departments’ impact indicators over the course of this parliament?
  • how useful are the impact indicators in judging the impact of a department?

Implementation matters; demonstrating implementation matters; and performance measurement, or performance management, can help keep that on track.

This publication pulls together all the available data on the indicators and how they’ve moved over the parliament. It is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand what has happened to the things the Government itself has highlighted as important.

But we have also found that the impact indicators, which form part of the government’s performance measurement system, are let down by problems with data, are not sufficiently well-explained to the public and do not appear to have been widely used by the public, departments themselves or by the centre of government.