Get ministers out of management


Last week', a survey by the CBI revealed British businesses' widespread dissatisfaction with progress on public service reform. The poll also found that almost nine out of 10 companies believed the £21.5bn Gershon efficiency targets will be missed.

Writing in The Business yesterday, John Seddon argued that Britain's public services have not improved – and places the blame for their continuing failure on the management failings of politicians and bureaucrats who "do not understand how the work works".

In the past five years I have found every public service I have studied to be dysfunctional, suffering high cost and poor quality service. In every case I have found government specifications - those things the bureaucrats tell people to do - to be central to the problem. Ministers and their bureaucrats are making things worse. To argue, as the politicians do, about the numbers of bureaucrat jobs versus front-line workers is to miss the point. The big costs are not the bureaucrats themselves; the big costs are caused by their specifications being the wrong things to do

While public services are worsening, costs are rising. The modernisation disease is across the public sector. Police, social services, housing associations, health trusts and others suffer from the requirements to comply with specifications developed by people who do not understand how the work works. This has all happened on the name of accountability. It is the ministers who should be held accountable. It is time ministers got out of management.

The Business | How public services waste your money