Spotting the trends

16 August 2011
There has been a distinct lack of government reports in my life over recent weeks, no doubt because of the recess and quiet summer months. So when I got an email drawing my attention to a new report by the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC), my heart leapt with excitement. I think the break must have corroded my mind momentarily because after a couple of minutes I realised nothing had changed. Government policies still talk about making efficiency savings but fail to account for how they will be made and they still identify discrepancies in spending but fail to outline how strong data will be gathered in future to result in reliable benchmarking. This latest PAC report examined government plans to give small providers the chance to compete against schools and colleges in training 16-18 year olds. And while that may sound very different from government plans to create a IT system for the NHS or buy aircraft carriers for the MoD, it is just as likely to fail as a result of bad planning at the policy stages. The conclusions of each report are always so similar:
  • It must plan better
  • It must collect better data
  • It must remove bureaucracy that impedes value for money
Over the past year, the concept of centralisation has also become ever present in reports on public spending. I’m not critical of this, used in the right way it can be an effective way to save money. But if policy makers believe in it so much, they should start by centralising the findings from all the many reports. If government departments can buy together, then surely they can learn from their various mistakes...together.
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