A collaborative blog for Current Affairs and Policy Debate

Posts Tagged ‘Cabinet’

House of Cards (and Liberals)

In Government Spotlight, Home Affairs, Parliamentary Spotlight, Party politics on July 30, 2011 at 12:13 am

By polarii for The Daily Soapbox

With silly season on the horizon,will David Cameron and Nick Clegg take, like the Daily Soapbox, a new layout?

KEY: Name, Position, Party, Likely Movement: Comment

David Cameron, PM, Con, No Change: The only chance of movement here is personal tragedy or palace coup. Neither seems likely; having led the Conservatives back to government, and seeing their vote hold up in the polls, and being rated highest of the three party leaders, any dissidents in the party will likely be quelled. Read the rest of this entry »

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Simple Shuffling Suggestions

In Constitutional Spotlight, Home Affairs, Judicial Spotlight on August 28, 2010 at 4:11 pm

By polarii for The Daily Soapbox

Frankly, Labour left many things in a mess. Some of these, like the country’s finances, are of the first importance. Some, like the regulations concerning listed buildings, are at worst a minor irritant. Others are of themselves unimportant, but may the fact that they are broken may lead to problems and waste down the line. Prominent among this last category, to my mind, is the organisation of some government departments. These administrative divisions can be quite technical, but if they are done well, they save a lot of effort and paperwork. Done poorly, they can lead to a perpetual increase in the amount of paperwork and confused policy, and ultimately, ineffective government.

As any reader of Private Eye will know, the most ridiculous of these administrative hiccups are the UK’s two audit agencies. The National Audit Office (NAO) reports to the Chancellor (at HMT), and audits national things, like defence. The Audit Commission (AC) reports to the Communities and Local Government Minister (at DeCLoG), and audits local things, like Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and Local Education Authorities (LEAs). Both employ directors with high salaries and high expenses, and a significant number of auditors, who criss-cross the country auditing things to make sure our money isn’t wasted. A genuine waste-saving measure would be to merge all the auditing responsibilities together into one organisation (perhaps called the NAOC, to preserve all the initials), and have it report either to the Chancellor, or the Deputy Prime Minister (at a re-established ODPM). This would save several executive salaries, as well as much travelling on the part of auditors; if the new body wanted to audit the accounts of a Scottish LEA and a Scottish submarine base, they could send one auditor up for three days work (one for travel, one for each task) rather than two auditors up for two days work each. This may mean redundancies, especially at the executive level, but the purpose of auditing is to ensure that money is efficiently spent, and at the moment, UK auditing confutes itself.

On the off-chance someone unfamiliar with UK government wanders in on this article, yes, it really is the case that our beancounters exist in two separate organisations, and yes, we do use this many acronyms. This is why government could do with a bit of reform, in my opinion.

Another easy sliding could be to dismantle the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which was essentially the bits of government Jack Straw liked, and give the constitutional bits to ODPM, the Prisons bit back to the Home Office, and the judicial functions to the Attorney General’s Office. This has the happy effect of lumping all constitutional reform responsibilities under ODPM, all the things to do with policing under the Home Office, and all the things to do with legal work – civil, criminal, jurisprudential – under the Attorney General. It also stops the unfortunate situation where the minister for ensuring justice is impartially served is responsible for ensuring the prisons don’t overflow; an obvious conflict of interest to my mind, as it may mean that the minister begins to oppose deserved prison sentences. This reform removes a whole ministry, and while it would not mean many cuts in the civil service, as much of what the MoJ does is important, it will at least save a cabinet minister, and a few buildings here and there.

Another cumbersome ministry is the Department for Women and Equality (DfWE). Most of the work it does is largely unimportant; it was created more to inflate Harriet Harman’s ego than sort out equality. As evidence for this assertion, the Minister for Disability – disabled people being one of the most disempowered and unequal groups in society – reports to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) as opposed to DfWE. There is no Minister with responsibility for racial equality, the nearest thing being the Minister for Immigration, who reports to the Home Office. DfWE does discharge some important legal functions as regards equal rights protection, but these can easily be assumed, again by the Attorney General’s Office. We can now abolish another ministry, another cabinet post – although we should now promote the Attorney General to a permanent cabinet post, something that should probably be done anyway – and smile blithely as we have not reduced the functionality of government in any way, but have saved a fair bit of money and paper, and (huzzah!) there are now fewer ministries to consult when someone has an idea, streamlining the decision-making process before putting a policy before the house. And the Deputy Prime Minister actually has something to do now other than look pretty, make foolish statements in the Commons, and agonise over his favourite type of biscuit.

As one can plainly see, these changes will be an administrative headache for only a short while. They do not destroy any function of government, making the process more logical and clear. It’s tidying up round the edges, it’s not urgent, but it’s comparatively easy to do; Labour had a fair number of shuffles of this nature. It gets rid of a couple of the ministries that were cherry-picked by certain members of the previous government. Undoubtedly, more interesting, drastic and more effective reform could be achieved. But this is actually an almost painless cut that actually improves the running of government. Perhaps simple housekeeping is not merely the preserve of simple housewives.