The transformation of government begins: burying good news instead of spinning bad

The GC Weekly  newsletter was headed “A dim way to bury good news”: referring to the way that Transformational Government – our progress in 2007  had been included in the slew of reports rushed out just before the start of the recess. That set me to wondering why the publication of an account of genuine success mixed with thoughful comment and “real” news should be delayed and then “leaked” rather than launched.

The delay is,in part, because of the need to reflect the enquiries into the data losses and consequent recommendationst. You will have read my calls for a holistic approach to rebuilding trust in on-line services. Bringing the Cabinet Committees for Systems (PSX(E), Identity Management (ID) and Information Sharing (MISC31) together in a single committee, DA (PED), governing the delivery of public services, should pave the way.

Building bridges between the eighty year old silos of Whitehall will take more than a cabinet committee and a few months. But it does seem that Government is now trying to get on with doing the job – and testing for successful delivery before it announces the results.

But like any “adrenaline junky” facing “cold turkey” , it will need all the help it get from both parliament and industry to resist the calls of the “pushers” (from “something must be done” interest groups and journalists to “big system” suppliers and their lobbyists) to return to a diet of premature announcements followed by disappointment and recrimination. 

The progress report should be read alongside “Excellence and Fairness: Achieving world class public services” from the Cabinet Office – which sets the forwards objectives and  “Understanding the Public Services Industry” by Dr Deanne Julius, which describes the state of the would-be delivery partners.

All three contain many announcements that would normally merit “news stories”,  comment and analysis, in their own right:

  • from perfomance measures for call centres (page 11 of the maangement summary) and
  • the “delivery through suppliers” programme (page 12), through
  • aceptance of most of the recommendations in “The Power of Information” review and
  • a supporting task force chaired by Richard Allan to accelerate the rate of change, to   
  • a report and strategy from the Ministry of Justice to follow up on the Data Sharing Review (published after the final text of the progress report was agreed).



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