Targets, what targets? Now Perm Secs targets are “published”

Both the parties that make up the current Coalition government had great fun at New Labour’s expense criticising their “target culture”. All that time-wasting, box-ticking, form-filling, behaviour-distorting, nonsense would be swept away if they were in power. How did that work out then? Continue reading

Measuring Leviathan redux: Public Spending Myths (furthering the debate, I hope)

In a previous post – Measuring Leviathan: Big Government and the Myths of Public Spending – I tried to explain and explore some of the mythology that has grown up around public spending and – probably more importantly – put forward some ideas about how we ought to think about public spending. I used the past 50 years or so of UK public spending to illustrate my points. It especially showed some things that people generally find very surprising about the last Labour government.

An academic colleague posted a response, which I quote in full below. I have chosen to respond in full because this comment rather helpfully illustrates many of the problems I was trying to clarify. So apologies to my colleague if this seems like an ‘attack’ (or strictly speaking ‘counter-attack’) – it is meant in a constructive way and to further the debate. Anyone else is welcome to join in. Continue reading

PASC Takes PM to Task Over Ministerial Inquiries.

It’s couched in polite terms, but today the Public Administration Select Committee issued what amounted to a bruising attack on PM David Cameron.

The PASC said the PM was wrong to ask the Cabinet Secretary to investigate the Andrew Mitchell ‘plebgate’ affair, wrong for not to using the Independent Advisor on Ministers’ Interests instead, and wrong for ignoring a previous report of the PASC and resolution passed by the Commons.

For a Government supposedly committed to openness, transparency, accountability and taking Parliament more seriously, this is a pretty devastating critique. Continue reading

Top Twenty Whitehall Watch blog posts

Here’s the top twenty Whitehall Watch blog posts (so far) and the number of views. This doesn’t include numbers for posts that have been republished by Public Finance, Public Servant, LSE Policy and Politics and the Huffington Post. Continue reading

This Wine Has Been Corked! The More Whitehall Changes, the More It Stays the Same

By David Richards and Patrick Diamond[1]

As another year ends and a new one rolls in, it is somewhat apposite to reflect on the launch of another PASC inquiry into Whitehall which seeks to take stock of the Coalition’s Civil Service Reform Plan published in June last year.  From Fulton onwards, ostensibly Whitehall appears to have been in a state of almost permanent revolution.  The list of initiatives by various governments in the intervening years is exhaustive, but any highlights programme would include: The Reorganisation of Central Government; Rayernism; FMI; Next Steps; Continuity and Change I and II; Modernising Government; Reforming Public Services; Transforming Public Service and The Governance of Britain.   It is therefore of little surprise that the first question posed by this new PASC inquiry is deceptively simple – Is the Civil Service in need of radical reform?   Yet, scratch below the surface and the answer to this small conundrum is by no means straightforward.  For in many ways, the modern history of Civil Service reform can be characterized as Janus-faced. Why? Overtime, all governments have adopted a common default setting in their approach to this subject: on the one hand, a tendency to caricature the Whitehall machine as something akin to a ‘Rolls Royce’; while on the other, deriding its culture and organizational practices for constraining effective policy making, in terms of formulation, implementation, or both. Continue reading