Quote of the week
“…incompetent decision-making has often wasted billions of pounds.”
— U.K. Mid-Term report on Good Government
I often refer to reports and information on government from the U.K., because they are going through significant public sector transformation that I think provides real lessons for us here in Canada.
A “Mid-Term Report” on the changes that have been initiated under the Cameron government – the civil service changes that are part of the Big Society project – has been released by the Better Government Initiative, an organization that calls itself “a politically neutral group that [is focused on] widespread concerns about the practical difficulties that government today faces as it seeks to run the country against a background of rapid change.”
Public policy development is of concern here. The initiative criticizes the ongoing policy process, which it says is too often done too quickly and without adequate monitoring or strategies to deal with the inevitable failures.
For those who worry about the role for policy analysts, the report has the answer. It argues that “sound policies will not result unless Ministers have full information, based on rigorous analysis, of the need for change, the options for action and the costs, risks and other effects of carrying them out.” So there’s the task.
There is a fascinating section that debunks the notion that Cabinet government decision-making can be replaced with a “strong leader” approach. It argues that “collective ministerial consideration remains essential” because it’s a safeguard against too much power getting into the hands of one individual, something that they fear could happen in Britain since there are “few constitutional restraints” (unlike in the U.S.).
The report defends the civil (public) service as paying a critical role as an impartial body that provides stability and continuity as government changes.
And this will be familiar in Ottawa: the report says that the current turnover in the civil service is “unsustainable,” resulting in a lack of knowledge, skills and experience.
The report is at http://www.bettergovernmentinitiative.co.uk/