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This text originally appeared online here as a foreward for Public Service online’s PPP magazine.
“Most British people expect the government to deliver high-quality services as part of a civilised society, but equally they want government to be efficient and effective. In truth, without effective administration, policies simply would not be properly implemented. And with a double-dip recession, now, more than ever, there should be a concerted effort to be careful with taxpayers’ money.
It is therefore essential to have a serious-minded debate about efficiency and effectiveness, and I am glad that PPP Journal has instigated a forum to discuss these issues. It is clear that we need to address the management culture, procurement processes and financial accountability in both local and central government, and also in public services. But these are not easy problems to tackle, particularly when it comes to delivering major projects on time and budget.
The Efficiency and Reform Group was set up in 2012 and charged with addressing these issues, but the group in itself has come under criticism for inefficiency and ineffectiveness; it now has over 800 staff and has cost the taxpayer over £60m. It does seem odd that in order to increase efficiency the government has decided to employ all these additional staff at such an extra expense.
In my role of Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, one of my responsibilities is for the civil service. Of course, the British civil service is widely admired, and rightly so, for its core values of honesty, impartiality and professionalism. It is best at administration and giving specific policy advice. However, in terms of accountability, management culture and increased flexibility, the civil service has been criticised for poor management and inefficiency. The underlying culture of the civil service needs to be changed in relation to these matters. When it comes to the interface with the private sector in terms of procurement and project management, there is much more to do. Strengthening skills in procurement and commissioning are central in leading public services into a new age. We simply have to engage in a debate about how we might draw on best practices in business and other sectors, whilst understanding that the civil service is not a business and seeing public services through such a narrow ideologically-driven prism can only be damaging. We also need to recognise the limits of the market in public services.
I hope we can advance in the debate and form a consensus about how we should deliver projects in government – effectively, efficiently and with a clear focus on the public interest. I look forward to following with interest the debate in this special edition.”
Figures revealed today show that the Government’s spending on Special Advisers (SpAds) increased by around 25% in the last year, despite the Government’s repeated pledges to reduce the amount of tax payers’ money being spent. Commenting on the figures, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Jon Trickett MP said:
“This is yet another broken promise from David Cameron. On entering Downing Street, his Government promised to limit the number of special advisers but now their numbers are spiralling upwards on his watch – up 12.5% in just a year.
“With his Government a shambles, it’s no wonder David Cameron is looking for all the help he can get but his problem is his policies, not his PR. He’s completely out of touch.”
It was also revealed that Nick Clegg now has a total of 14 SpAds at a cost of almost £1million. Jon said:
“Even from a man who is used to breaking promises, this is total hypocrisy from Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems. His party used to say Special Advisers shouldn’t be funded by the taxpayer but now, as this shambolic government lurches from crisis to crisis he’s attempting to shore himself up with a raft of new political appointees paid for by the public. You can’t believe a word he says.”
Wanted by Labour, working-class MPs
Michael Savage Political Correspondent
Published at 12:01AM, July 16 2012
The Labour Party will try to rediscover its roots by launching a search to find a new generation of working-class MPs.