Sunday, 24 February 2013

Stop Digging

So it's all over. The entries are in. The runners and riders have let the MoJ know what they think about privatising most of the Probation Service and we await the result of the civil servants deliberations. I don't envy them their task as they try and avoid the potential for it all to become an omnishambles.

In many ways it's what they think about a project that's more important than the minister's concerned. As this article in the Spectator on the subject of the Universal Credit last September put it:-

Civil servants will not waste time or personal capital on anything likely to join the identity cards and the NHS supercomputer in the graveyard of ministerial follies.
That Universal Credit would run into problems was inevitable. Anything involving a massive computer system will throw up hideously complex problems, as any project manager will tell you.
Now as it happens, this particular grand plan for creating a commercial market in providing probation services must be underpinned by a secure computer system that works effectively - and there's not much chance of that happening any time soon. It must all make civil servants very unhappy indeed. In fact we know this as this recent piece in the Law Society Gazette explains:- 

Ministry of Justice staff lack confidence in the organisation’s leadership and ability to manage change, the civil service’s annual people survey has revealed.
The results show that 28% of staff had confidence in senior management and 32% said the department is managed well.
Less than a quarter (23%) of respondents said that change is well-managed, 18% said that where changes are made they are made for the better and only a third believed managers had a ‘clear vision’ for the future.
The survey shows evidence of poor staff morale. Only 31% of respondents would recommend it as a ‘great place to work’, 35% said they felt inspired to ‘do the best’ in their job and less than half (49%) were proud to work there.
Some say there is a war going on in Whitehall. In order to deflect criticism of the government, it looks as if there is a concerted effort under way to pass blame onto senior civil servants. There is much talk of the Service having to be reformed itself and the need for recruitment of yet more special advisers to effectively form a 'shadow' civil service.
The row is getting nasty with the former Cabinet Secretary Lord Gus O'Donnell speaking up and being angrily insulted by government in return. The essence of the argument seems to really be about who takes the blame for crap policy decisions? Andreas Whittam Smith writing in the Independent is clear. When you have inexperienced ministers, you require a mature and competent Civil Service to point out just how crap your ideas are. There comes a time when you have to stop digging.
The No10 petition can be found here.
PS the 38 degree petition on the Fire Service has now reached 93,695     

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