Category Archives: public services
“There is a correlation between attacking the civil service and a Government’s standing in the polls,” Lord O’Donnell told The Independent. “The fact is that the eurozone crisis has meant the economy has not recovered as fast as everyone would have liked. But that is not the fault of the civil service.” Lord O’Donnell also warned of the dangers of rushing through new policies without sufficient thought.
“No one could argue that this Government has been prevented (by the civil service) from pursuing radical policies,” he said. “Just look at health, education and welfare. They are not short of radical policies.
“The issue is whether they are the right policies. Have they been formulated with good evidence and if, when they are implemented, will they improve peoples’ lives? “What we need to do is spend more time at the front end of policy development. How do we determine what is good policy? Do we need to spend more time doing randomised controls that really examines the evidence? How can we put in place a proper evaluation of that evidence? To me those are the priorities. Reforming the civil service comes quite a way down my list of priorities.”
Lord O’Donnell’s attack last night elicited a furious response from the Government, which accused him of attempting to “deflect attention” from his own failings as Cabinet Secretary before he retired in 2011.
“Gus bequeathed his successors a civil service with long-standing weaknesses which he failed to address,” a senior Government source said. “Now he is struggling to deflect attention from the mess he left and is seeking to blame politicians for having the honesty to say what many senior civil servants have been saying in private – that reform is required.”
Lord O’Donnell said ministers were picking on the wrong target – and called on his successor, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to put pressure on Mr Cameron to stop the attacks. “What really annoyed them (civil servants) was being attacked by ministers – because they were not allowed a voice to fight back.”
Lord O’Donnell said many of the Government’s problems could be solved if it concentrated less on legislation and more on ensuring that existing policies were thought through. His view was backed by the former Permanent Secretary at the Department of Education. “I’m concerned that ministers sometimes use their own weaknesses as a cover,” Sir David Bell said.
The independent civil service think tank The Institute of Government will today publish a paper warning that divisions between ministers and officials have now become “serious” and are effecting the good running of the government. They are expected to be critical of the civil service in particular for not recognising the need for fundamental reform.
Thanks to Derek Thompson of the Atlantic for this corpratspeak crap letter from Citigroup sacking 11,000 people
“Citigroup today announced a series of repositioning actions that will further reduce expenses and improve efficiency across the company while maintaining Citi’s unique capabilities to serve clients, especially in the emerging markets. These actions will result inincreased business efficiency, streamlined operations and an optimized consumer footprint across geographies.”
The trurth will out as to why Argyll and Bute’s Executive Director of Community Services has been so notoriously snarky attacking the nine year old girl who had the temerity to post pictures of her school dinners on her website.
Clelland Sneddon, who has worked and had left no less than six other authorities has been promoting closure of 26 small local schools in Argyll and Bute despite Scottish law stating that this can be done SOLELY for educational reason. Naturally this has promoted a major campaign by locals and intervention of the Scottish Education minister who has asked for a moratorium.
No doubt the endless complaints of him misrepresenting the evidence and misleading councillors has made him a very snarky man indeed.
Not a word of it ever addresses the issue, which is about the press misrepresentation of the wonderful NeverSeconds blog which in recent weeks has actually praised the improvement in the school food. BTW the interview the press officer gave on R5l was 100 x worse.
Argyll and Bute Council wholly refutes the unwarranted attacks on its schools catering service which culminated in national press headlines which have led catering staff to fear for their jobs. The Council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the ‘never seconds’ blog for obvious reasons despite a strongly held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils however this escalation means we had to act to protect staff from the distress and harm it was causing. In particular, the photographic images uploaded appear to only represent a fraction of the choices available to pupils, so a decision has been made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen.
There have been discussions between senior council staff and Martha’s father however, despite an acknowledgement that the media coverage has produced these unwarranted attacks, he intimated that he would continue with the blog.
The council has had no complaints for the last two years about the quality of school meals other than one from the Payne family received on 6 June and there have been no changes to the service on offer since the introduction of the blog.
Pupils have a daily choice of two meals from a menu which is designed with pupils, parents and teachers. Our summer menu is about to be launched and includes main course choices like meat or vegetarian lasagne served with carrots and garlic bread or chicken pie with puff pastry, mashed potato and mixed vegetables.
Pupils can choose from at least two meals every day. They pay £2 for two courses and this could be a starter and a main or a main and a desert. Each meal comes with milk or water. Pupils can have as much salad and bread as they want. Salad, vegetables, fruit, yoghurt and cheese options are available every day. These are standing options and are not a result of any changes in response to the blog site.
As part of the curriculum for excellence, pupils in all our schools are regularly taught about healthy eating and at lunch breaks staff encourage pupils to make good choices from what is on offer. We use a system called ‘Nutmeg’ to make sure everything is nutritionally balanced. Our staff also get nutrition awareness training so they know how to provide a good healthy meal. There is portion sized guidance which we adhere to and it is matched to the age of the child so they get the right amount of food. Second portions would mean too many calories for pupils.
In Lochgilphead Primary School we are piloting a new pre-ordering scheme which is designed to encourage class discussion around meal choices and also improves the accuracy of meal choices. The pupils use a touch screen to select their lunch option and the data is downloaded in the kitchen so they know how many portions of each meal are required. As they place their order, the pupils are given a coloured band which relates to their meal choice that day. They wear it during the morning, and at lunchtime they hand it to the catering assistant, who will give them the corresponding meal.
The council’s focus is now on supporting the school in the education of young people in Argyll and Bute.
Sue Cameron Telegraph
The role of the private sector in running our public services and even advising ministers has caused a row in the Cabinet. There are suggestions it is also causing rifts among Lord O’Donnell’s successors (his job was split) – Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, and Sir Bob Kerslake, the head of the Civil Service. The debate matters to all of us. Potentially it affects our daily dealings with officialdom and the quality of government policy.
The heated arguments have been triggered by the long-awaited Civil Service reform plan that was unveiled to the Cabinet this week by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, and Sir Bob. The plan includes proposals for further Civil Service cuts and the outsourcing of some policy-making to management consultants, academics and think tanks. Radical stuff you may think, and so it seems to many in Whitehall – but not radical enough for some, notably Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, hence the spat in Cabinet. Apparently Mr Gove hankers after the slash-and-burn approach favoured by Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister’s controversial former policy guru. Mr Hilton has now retreated to California but he seems to have left a legacy of grief.
Behind the scenes there are reports – unconfirmed – that the politicians’ wrangling reflects similar dissension between Sir Bob and Sir Jeremy. Sir Bob, according to one insider, has been saying that Sir Jeremy is manipulative, too Sir Humphrey-like and “won’t look at the knitting”. Meanwhile, Sir Jeremy has been suggesting that Sir Bob has a lot to learn about Whitehall and that he is “doing his best at a new level”. This is seen by some as an argument between those who have management experience and those who do not. Sir Jeremy is a brilliant mandarin but he has never run a department. Mr Gove is a gutsy minister, but his previous career was as a scribbler on The Times. Sir Bob used to run Sheffield, and Mr Maude came to government with considerable business experience. Sir Jeremy, who publicly paid tribute to “my friend Steve Hilton”, is apparently keen to experiment, and is even said to distance himself a little from the rest of the Civil Service as “a way of getting ministers’ confidence”. Sir Bob dismissed Mr Hilton’s calls for 90 per cent Civil Service cuts as “nonsense”….
Even outsourcing policy-making will be harder than it looks. Senior figures in Whitehall point out that it is not just a matter of a few wizard ideas. There is all the business of providing data, consulting people and drawing up legislation. And who would assess such policy proposals when they were presented? The Civil Service.
One thing the Government hopes to do is improve Whitehall’s management of major public sector projects. Nobody would disagree with the aim. At the IfG, Lord O’Donnell was asked by Bernard Jenkin, Tory chairman of the Commons public administration select committee, about the billions wasted on public sector projects, with nobody resigning or taking the blame and ministers and civil servants sheltering behind each other. Lord O’Donnell said there was a “straightforward” way to cope with this. The reason major projects went off track was because ministers wanted changes. If civil servants were to appear before MPs and take responsibility for major projects, he said, then they would need more power so that they could prevent constant changes in specifications. This would require “bold moves” by government. Giving officials power not just to say no, minister, but to stop their political masters doing what they wanted might be a step too far even for the most radical ministers.
Civil Servants seem to be getting a kicking from Conservatives at the moment. Both from number 10 and influential backbenchers such as Douglas Carswell who want to see an insurrectionary style overthrow of power away from civil servants. (by the way Douglas this Blog is heading to exceed your monthly hit rate within the next few weeks and I am not even a MP).
Civil servants however primarily raise concerns because policy proposed has no evidence to back it up, would be impractical in implementation or would be illegal and bound to be overturned at some point in the courts. The real danger is replacement of a fiercely non partisan corps of public servants with a tribe of yes people who would stumble from one policy omnishambles to another.
One good example of this is the forthcoming airports White Paper. With a third runway ruled out in the coalition agreement Ministers were furious that Civil servants strongly recommended that it e included as an option. It now appears that this will be an option.
The government will not block BAA from submitting proposals for a third Heathrow runway in a forthcoming revamp of policy on aviation hubs, in a move that heads off the threat of legal action by the airport owner.
A senior representative of the London mayor, Boris Johnson, said the government would allow BAA to push for expansion of Britain’s largest airport. Daniel Moylan, the mayor’s aviation policy chief, said it did not mean a third runway was back on the government’s policy agenda.
“Boris Johnson understands that for legal reasons the government is going to have to allow examination of every option. But this should not be taken as expressing a preference for a third runway,” said Moylan….
The government is launching two aviation documents in July: a consultation on a “sustainable aviation framework”; and a request for options on maintaining airport hubs in the UK. If BAA lobbies for a third runway through the latter, according to one industry source, the government could use the principles established in the sustainable aviation study to rule it out emphatically or resurrect it.
“If a third runway at Heathrow can meet requirements for a sustainable aviation policy, it will be sifted through for consideration. If it cannot, it will be sifted out. That is a robust and entirely legal position to take,” said the source.
A senior aviation industry source said the options document would allow for a third runway submission, amid speculation that BAA will seek a judicial review if it is barred from submitting an argument for expansion. “The document will be carefully worded so as not to exclude any potential options for increasing hub airport capacity,” said the source.
The Department for Transport said the government remained against a third runway. “The coalition’s position regarding Heathrow has not changed,” it said.
The legal position is very clear and simple. The EU SEA directive requires evaluation and ‘early consultation on ‘reasonable alternative options’ for strategies leading to development consents. The previous government had been stung before on not including expansion of Gatwick in a previous airports white paper. Im sure civil servants would also have been brefing ministers of the implications of the key case on consultation on National Policy Greenpeace v DTI that you can’t be seen to have made your mind up before the consultation has even begun.
A notorious troubled family with a history of busting up pubs and restaurant and squatting without paying rent in government owned properties abandoned their daughter after sunday lunch at the Plough Inn at Cadsden in Buckinghamshire.
Insp Knacker of the Yard after questioning Mr and Mrs D Cameron of Chipping Norton said ‘we had received instructions from Eric Pickles to crack down on 120,000 troubled families, unfortunately we did not realise there was no evidence of how many of these cause trouble, they were simply poor. Mr Cameron explained he had a few bob so we released him. He promised in future he will learn to count to three.”
The civil service has never been comfortable with Spads. Some mandarins welcome them, because their presence can minimise disagreements about what is and isn’t political work and, therefore, rows about what civil servants should and shouldn’t be asked to do by Ministers. But most have always been suspicious of Spads, for the bottom-line reason that they don’t and can’t control them. This is exactly what Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, apparently wants to change. To cut a long story short, the Times (£) has reported that he has seized on the errors of Adam Smith, Jeremy Hunt’s former, over the BSkyB bid to push for Spads to report to mandarins rather than Ministers. And hey presto, the problem of those pesky political appointees answering to Sir Humphrey rather than Jim Hacker would thus be solved.
… the issues raised by Sir Jeremy’s move are not merely academic or historical. After all, he has been labelled “the man who really runs the country” - on the cover of the Spectator, no less.
To Quentin Letts – the author of the piece – “the worry for Conservatives, and the rest of us, is that this shrewd murmurer, this eminence grease, has acquired unprecedented power over not only the Prime Minister but also Nick Clegg, Cabinet, the coalition and much of the rest of the state apparat”. Evidently, the article wasn’t conjured out of thin air. Mr Letts quoted a Cabinet Minister as saying: “We cannot have a referendum on who runs Britain because the answer will be the same whether we leave the EU or not: Jeremy Heywood.”
A council press officer who joked that the best way to support a high street was to use napalm has left his job.
Sam Masters, who was employed on a freelance basis by Lambeth Council in south London, wrote: “Having spent a considerable amount of time in Streatham, my solutions for supporting the High Road mostly involve napalm.”
He stopped working for the council on Friday after his comment provoked outrage from local politicians.
Streatham MP Chuka Umunna described the tweet as “stupid” and called for Mr Masters to apologise.
He posted on Twitter: “My constituents pay your salary.”
Mr Umunna added: “Part of a local authority press officer’s job is to promote an area not run it down, whether on twitter or any other platform.”
In a letter to the Streatham Guardian, Mr Masters said he was “genuinely sorry” about his message.
A council spokesman said: “Sam was a freelancer on a daily rate and has chosen to pursue other opportunities.”
ICE’s State of the Nation: Water report has called for decisive and prompt action to tackle the UK’s water security, which they warn will continue to worsen if not addressed urgently.
The report, launched by President Richard Coakley, says the recent droughts have been a ‘wake up call’ for the UK but the urgency and severity of the UK’s water issues is still not properly understood. It rates our current water security as level 4 on a 1-10 scale.
To tackle the crisis ICE has called for the creation of a ‘UK Water Security Taskforce’ to deliver an integrated roadmap to water security by spring 2014, based on strategic plans from all Governments. If the roadmap includes time-bound steps the UK could be out of danger – at water security level 8 or 9 – by 2025.
To achieve this, the report makes several recommendations for change including the development of new water storage facilities across the country, the removal of regulatory barriers that discourage water sharing between neighbouring companies and collaborative investment in new infrastructure, and the phased introduction of universal metering, with social tariffs to protect the poorest in society.
Chair of the ICE Water Panel Michael Norton said there is no silver bullet solution. “We are a populous nation facing a growing gap between what we can supply and what our water users need. Sadly it’s only when hose-pipe bans are inflicted on us that the public has any glimpse of this reality. We have a valuable opportunity while water is in the forefront of the nation’s minds to impress on the public the real value of this resource and we mustn’t squander it.
“The changes ICE is recommending will require some upheaval to current regulations as well as firm decisions on how to forecast future demand, but once done we would see the effect relatively quickly.”
The report says changing pricing structures to reflect the true value of water and building smaller but more evenly distributed water storage facilities across the UK will be crucial.
Currently most households pay only a £1 per day for unlimited water, which requires a costly treatment process to make it potable. ICE says in the long-term using expensive, potable water for everything including outside activities like watering the garden is unsustainable. It calls for a 30% reduction of per capita consumption in homes (currently 150 litres per day) and discretionary tariffs that reward low usage with prices rising as usage increases.
Michael said: “Commonly thought of ‘rainy’ areas won’t be like that in the future – rainfall will be more varied, both in terms of time and location – so relying on very large reservoirs in only one or two places will no longer be effective.
”However the single biggest problem is the low value we place on water. It’s currently much undervalued and provided to most of us without limit. The UN has rightly stated that water for health and hygiene is a human right and should be affordable to the whole of society, but it makes up only a small proportion of our direct water use (less than 15%). Everything else is discretionary and should be charged as such.”
This would also encourage a public shift in attitude towards solutions that can significantly reduce domestic water such as recycling household water for non-drinking uses and rainwater harvesting for outside uses such as watering the garden. Currently potable water is so affordable to most of us that there is little public appetite for recycling water in the home, however using this ‘grey water’ to flush the toilet alone could reduce domestic water usage by a third.
Whilst the Government has made some positive steps in the Water White Paper and the announcement of a draft Water Bill, the report urges it to deliver on these intentions without delay and within the context of a UK-wide vision. Download a copy of the report at www.ice.org.uk/sonwater2012