Wednesday 27 January 2010

Is Britain Broken?

Two interesting reports out today which suggest, to coin a phrase, that we can't go on like this:

1. Better Government Initiative ; a body mostly comprising retired Civil Servants have produced a set of ideas to improve the way Government works, legislates and is monitored.

Pages 53 to 56 set out the 39 recommendations. I think they omit two important areas:
- how we manage European legislation (see my earlier comments);
- how to deal with the proliferation of Government agencies that remove ministerial responsibility for Government actions;

and they do not deal with the increasingly close arrangements between ministers, civil servants and the industries and areas they supervise: since Labour changed the requirements it has become much more common for ministers and civil servants to get jobs in connected areas. This increases the possibility of corrupted decision making.

But overall I think they are useful. The report tries to be party neutral but it is clear that the rash of short term initiatives and special advisers which have developed in the last 13 years means we have less effective Government.

2. The National Equality Panel (a Government sponsored agency) has produced a report on " the distributions of various kinds of economic outcome on the one hand and people's characteristics and circumstances on the other."

Unsurprisingly, it reports that most measures of equality have worsened in the last 13 years (and to be fair during the last Tory Government). It suggests that despite a blizzard of announcements, initiatives and taxpayers money things have not got better. I think that Labour's poor performance despite wanting to make a difference is because it has a conflict between political correctness, a desire for economy and a distrust of the voluntary and private sectors.

Can the Tories do any better? Well, they could hardly do any worse, and I think the focus on pragmatism will help. And of course: every Tory Government in the last 100 years has left office with employment higher than when they came in. Here's two other indications they have could something useful to say: IDS's Centre for Social Justice, and this review of David Willets' book "The Pinch"

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