Target practice

Reference Matthew Taylor of the Royal Society of Arts’ blog (italics) of 29 June, the day of Gordon Brown’s National Plan announcement. 

The idea of moving from top-down accountability delivered through guidance, bureaucracy and inspection to a bottom up accountability delivered by citizens enforcing their rights is attractive. Although we await to hear how exactly the entitlements are to be enforced. No one wants a field day for lawyers.

We’ve heard much about accountability. But we have a contradiction here. To be accountable there has to be agreement as to the procedures and standards schools and hospitals and indeed governments follow. That needs to come about ideally through consensus but as likely as not by government diktat expressed in legislation. The popular will doesn’t set standards. Governments acting in what they see as the best interests of the population do that, balanced against what’s realistic.

We’d all like to be seen by a consultant immediately we’re referred, but no government would accept that as a target.

We’d all like to see light-armoured replaced by more heavily armed vehicles, but armies need to adapt to new fields of warfare, to prioritise working within a limited budget. So no government would agree that. Scrap aircraft carriers and Trident, do I hear? Don’t kid yourself. That’s not an easy decision for anyone to take. (An issue to come back to.)

An interesting plan’s credibility will sadly be undermined by the failure of the plan to tackle the political machine of Whitehall. We have too many ministers looking for work to do. They constantly generate new priorities and guidance which are all too often interpreted at the front line as instructions. Gordon Brown will want to make the case that his new framework frees up the front line and makes government less bureaucratic and complex, but until he slims down and muzzles the ministerial monster this is not believable.

I like this. Hold ministers accountable. Too busy and they are reprimanded. We want less legislation, not more…  (And we want ministers in place for longer, so they don’t feel each time they have to make their mark.)

Matthew Taylor elsewhere strikingly contrasts Michael Gove (education, radical change) and Andrew Lansley (health, steady as she goes). At the end of a recent seminar both got applauded, but all the talk was about Michael Gove. It seems universally accepted that he’s very bright, but it sound like he’s going over the top before the war’s even started.

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