First Target for Massive Civil Service Staff Cuts Should be Economists that Produce Impact Statements
Given the massive cuts in the Civil Service proposed with remaining staff supposed to focus ‘ruthlessly’ on ministerial priorities where should the cuts first fall. I would suggest on the staff producing impact statements which have now become a complete and utter waste of time.
The Civil Service used to operate on the basis of objectively identifying the pros and cons of different options. The Civil Service Code states as one of its four key values
Objectivity –basing advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence
But we no longer have evidence based policy but policy based evidence. In the last couple of years Impact statements have become a joke. We are expected to believe they are objective when one year they can argue one position – for example that brownfield first doesn’t reduce housing numbers because of the viability test, and the next the precise opposite. Impact statements have become post-hoc justifications of policies drempt up by lobbyists and dumb tanks and no options presented by department or agency civil servants (the latter having had their policy role – essential as an expert based check on policy excesses – completely abolished).
Indeed it is no longer evidence that doesn’t matter but reality. England has become infested with the same ‘reality deficit’ that neoliberal values has caused the rot of American Conservatism. Science, statistics, impacts are all derided as ‘moral relivatism’ and inferior to gut instincts. A position laid to ridicule by the triumph of Nate Silvers cool calculated methods. If you doubt this is happening look at the impact statements of the DWP, as so comprehensively savaged by the JRF,, where civil servants attack the Work Programme as ineffective, even though the DWPS own buried research suggests a low cost per job, when the replacement programme has a worse chance of finding you work then had you not been on the programme at all. All claimants have to do now is state that they are refusing to go on it as the evidence suggest it will hinder their chance of finding work.
When civil servants droop to such moral relativism they do not justify their position according to the values of the Civil Service Code. Values sadly now only of historic interest to be remembered with nostalgia in St James Clubs and Institute for Government Seminars.