Iam Watmore played a unique role in the attempt to create a UK equivalent of the Office of President: from the Anderson/Accenture support for the New Labour project through to a return to the centre of power after the transition to a coalition government. However, the idea that the delivery of public services should be outsourced under the supervision of Cabinet Office was always alien to the tribes of Whitehall. The CIO and CTO collegiate approach always fitted much better with the culture of Whitehall, if the objective was to transform the delivery of public services rather than “merely” centralise power into the hands of the triumvirate of Cabinet Office, Treasury and Number 10.
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Now that the money has been spent, the future mortgaged and a second, much deeper, round of cuts is about to begin, it will be interesting to see who is brought in to help terminate the inflexible PFI contracts that stand in the way of a return to fiscal health. The alternative may well include pain on the scale of that in Greece and Ireland, with a Geddes Axe style 10% cut in public sector wages and pensions.
I personally think Francis Maude could do a lot worse than bring Richard Grainger back to complete the job he started – when he held the NHS contractors to their side of the nonsense contracts he inherited – and his former employer, Accenture, was the first to sue for peace and walk away. However, in parallel with the cuts to “stop the bleeding” we do have to start rebuilding for the future.
If the bulk of the Civil Service is to be sent home for the summer, they should be enrolled, to short order, on distance learning courses on Finance and Business Administration using some of the excellent material available from the Open University or Strathclyde Business School as part of the long overdue implementation of the Fulton report .
And after that summer break, will we have seen a seismic shift in power from Whitehall to Town Hall and “Nanny knows best” to “self help”, turning the “Big Society” from rhetoric into reality? I fear, however, that I may see pigs practicising synchronised swimming in flood water before then.