— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) September 12, 2017
Truth bullets from Francis Maude on Newsnight last night:
“The deficit is clearly not under control. We are in quite a sustained period of economic growth and yet we still have a budget deficit that is too big. We should be at this stage in a place where the budget deficit has been eliminated and we’re getting towards a surplus. We’re not. So the idea that there is suddenly lots of money around is complete fantasy… I’m not happy that we are giving the impression that we can suddenly spend money to alleviate a particular political pressure point.”
He is right, the Tories have pushed back closing the deficit until 2025, ten years later than they promised. They have added £500 billion to the national debt in 7 years, Hammond now plans to add a billion a week to the burden. Voters who experienced the public sector pay cap over the last 7 years after being told it was necessary to to close the deficit will now be wondering why the same Tories now say it’s okay to splash the cash and kick the can down round. The government’s claim to be pursuing a policy of “sound money” is risible…
There’s a surprise new entry in the race to be the next Tory MP for Kensington: the glamorous union-slayer Simone Finn. Despite being an adviser to the Cabinet Office, Finn is not currently seen as the “Downing Street candidate” and has business background. But the mother of two is an old friend of Dave’s. Regular readers will remember her though as being central to Frankie Maude’s trade union reforms. She’s feisty…
The Government Digital Service has made a massive stride towards fixing the hated Government Gateway, the cumbersome registration portal that users need to access online government services. The Cabinet Office has announced today that its new alternative verification service, GOV.UK Verify, helped 11,000 people avoid paying late submission fines on their self-assessment form this year. Last year, if people didn’t have their login info ready from around two weeks before the deadline they were forced to pay a fine. The new Verify system allows anyone with a passport and driver’s licences to bypass the 10 day wait for a username or password in the post.
Unlike some government IT projects in the past, it appears the Cabinet Office have executed GOV.UK Verify with some degree of competence. Two competing private companies were given the contract (they will be joined by three more soon), it was rolled out in beta form with throttled (limited) access in December and incremental changes were made regularly. Like it’s supposed to be done.
The online verification issue has been a major stumbling block to the Cabinet Office’s dream of creating a seamless one stop online shop for accessing any government service. Not like a government IT project to actually help save taxpayers’ money…
As if to prove a point, Francis Maude has managed to turn the announcement that he’s standing down from Parliament into a row with the unions. Following on from the PCS quote that Guido pointed out earlier, Maude has written to union fat cat Mark Sewotka:
“I have seen the comment put out by PCS following my announcement that I am not seeking re-election to the House of Commons. I was particularly struck by the assertion, in relation to our Government efficiency and reform savings that last year saved £14.3 billion, that “scandalously, ministers are being all too willingly assisted by senior civil servants in some departments.”
There is a clear constitutional duty in our democracy for all civil servants to implement ministerial decisions. In the light of the shocking allegation that it is only in some departments that senior civil servants are assisting ministers, I ask that you furnish me and the Civil Service Commission with details of the departments where you believe this is not happening.”
At last some government good news:
“Hospitals and fire services will be run “outside the public sector” as the Conservatives dramatically shrink the state and cut costs, a senior minister has disclosed. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, told The Telegraph that services could be handed over to mutual companies owned by employers and other non-state bodies. Mr Maude, who is drawing up plans for £20 billion of Whitehall savings by 2020, said that with the exception of defence and policing, every function of the state could potentially be done outside the public sector.”
The early stats on Frankie Maude’s reforms of trade union facility time don’t make great reading, but Guido is pleased to report the Cabinet Office is getting its act together. New figures for the third quarter of 2013 reveal the total number of Pilgrims has dropped by 1,000, saving £17 million last year. Cash wasted on Pilgrims as a proportion of the whole paybill is less than a third of what it was in 2011, with another £21 million worth set to be cut next year. Viva la revolucion…
UPDATE: Maude is kicking back on the earlier figures:
“In December, it was reported that costs of trade union representation in the Civil Service had risen under this Government. That is entirely untrue and the figures were flawed. The report was based on claimed costs for 2010-2011 of half what our rigorous mapping exercise found. The report’s 2010-2011 figures entirely excluded costs from HM Revenue & Customs, one of the biggest departments; underreported Ministry of Justice costs significantly; and assumed that the cost of full-time representatives for the Department for Work & Pensions accounted for all the costs (i.e. not counting the cost of over 1,300 part-time representatives). The 2010-2011 data was compiled from Parliamentary Questions and FOI requests, based on different methodologies. In addition some departments gave their figures from before proper monitoring was introduced, thus underreporting their actual numbers. The same report used data less up-to-date than the numbers which will be published tomorrow, thus over-reporting the ‘current’ costs.”
Well Guido is sure that has made everything clearer.