Lord make me chaste, but not yet

The central message of yesterday’s PBR was that we need to put the national finances in order, but not quite yet – in fact not for quite a long time. That does not mean there will not be severe cuts in public spending – there will be. It’s just that they will be severe rather than apocalyptic. With health, education and policing protected other areas will be hit all the harder. Local government especially will probably face between 15-20% cumulative cuts over the next four years. Continue reading

The Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything? It’s 43.

According to the supercomputer Deep Thought the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything was 42 (in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).

It turns out however that this number may be subject to localised quantum relativity effects – specifically on an insignificant island off the north-west coast of Europe, a continent on a small blue planet in an unfashionable part of the galaxy. Here, the number is 43, rounded up – well actually 42.51, but it keeps wobbling around all the time and is subject to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. So usually, most of the time, its sort of around 43. Ish. Continue reading


No, not the Beetles hit, but the flavour of many of the meetings I’ve been attending in recent weeks and will be in the next few weeks.

First was a Guardian ‘roundtable’; this was followed by evidence I was asked to give to the Northern Ireland Assembly Finance Committee; another roundtable, this time organised by Public Finance magazine, last week; this week it is the Public Administration Select Committee in Westminster; and the following week it’s a Demos/PwC seminar. Continue reading

Hidden Wealth of Nations

I thought I’d share this interesting message from David Halpern, Research Director, Institute for Government London:


DAVID WRITES: As you may know, since leaving No10 and Cabinet Office, I’ve spent some time revisiting the last 25 years of data on value change, the social and economic challenges (and opportunities) we face, and thinking about the policy implications. The results are published in The Hidden Wealth of Nations, out in the beginning of December. Continue reading


In the never-ending, and now more important than ever, effort to do more-with-less, a new initiative has come out of Whitehall: OneTotalLocalPlace.

There have been quite a number of initiatives that have been focussed on getting the best value for money our of local spending. These have included:

– Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) – these are meant to focus the efforts of all local service providers

– Local Area Agreements (LAAs) – these are like LSPs, but with money

– Comprehensive Area Assessments, or as they are now known, OnePlace – these are run by the Audit Commission and are supposed to measure results across a local area.

– Total Place – this is a new ambitious programme run by Treasury and DCLG to examine spending patterns across an area and see if the money can be better allocated, or cut, whilst producing the same or better results.

In an effort to join all this up, the Government has now announced OneTotalLocalPlace (or OTLP).

OTLP will be a powerful new organisation with substantial powers over local budgets, priorities and responsibility for determining and achieving outcomes. It will coordinate and allocate resources for maximum impact. Priorities will be fixed by a revolutionary new system, involving directly elected representatives of local communities. Some have suggested an alternative, simpler name: Local Government.

Theories of Performance – the book: coming soon.

My new book on ‘Theories of Performance’, which has come out of my ESRC Public Services Programme Fellowship – is more or less finished, bar some minor edits. I’ve added a new page (ToP Book – see tab above right) which has the contents, a description and some comments from colleagues who have read the draft, for those of you who might be interested.

What sort of crisis is public management in?

I’ve just been discussing with a colleague what sort of crisis we are in and what the effects for Public Management Reform are likely to be. Lots of people are discussing what the financial crisis means for public services and public management, without stepping back to think about what sort of crisis the public sector (internationally) faces?

The big issue for me is not the public sector financial crisis per se, but what caused it? Only by understanding that can we start to understand the possible reactions to it. Continue reading