IPPR Blames Own Progeny

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: IPPR has a new heavyweight report out on the civil service – Whitehall’s Black Box: Accountability and performance in the senior civil service. It seems to make sense in parts – not something you can always say about IPPR reports. It is wonk-porn in that it contains anonymous anecdotes. In places it borders on unattributed gossip about the TeeBeeGeeBees.

The report basically says no one gets fired for screwing up in the civil service and that there is no price for failure. It recommends some reforms that will not work because inherently governments have a coercive monopoly. Whereas in the private sector the profit motive works as an incentive because customers will stop buying crap services from businesses, hurting their profits. In the public sector if you stop paying your taxes the government will try and jail you. A mandarin hits it on the head in the report when he admits “Why is Whitehall poor at delivery? Because they’re aren’t any rewards or sanctions in place for civil service delivery.” Where is the incentive for better government?

Unintentional humour in the report can be found in the warning that the increased politicisation of Whitehall through the proliferation of special adviser appointments is “shortsighted”. How many IPPR alumini are, or have been SpAds? It must be over a hundred.*
Nick Pearce, the IPPR director, calls for “systemic reforms” of a regime which currently provides “no price for failure”. Quite, and he should know.
Nick was formerly a SpAd to David Blunkett at the Home Office (2001- 2003), where he led work on migration, asylum and citizenship – total failure there, he must take some of the blame for that chronically failing organisation. At the Department for Education & Employment (1999 – 2001) he hardly acquitted himself in glory. Between 1997 and 1999 he was as an adviser in the Cabinet Office Social Exclusion Unit. There at the beginning of New Labour’s era, when things could only get better, he had a chance to influence the future course of policy.

A decade later social mobility is now down since the Thatcher years. That is an unbroken career of policy failures.

*The GMB’s recent 27 page report focuses page after page on the IPPR’s revolving door and people.



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