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By Mark Wallace
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A short snippet from Hansard yesterday catches my attention. Local Government minister Brandon Lewis was taking questions on the new DCLG plan to reward members of staff for identifying savings in the department:

Bill Esterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:

(1) when he instituted a scheme to reward his Department's staff with shopping vouchers for ideas on departmental savings; who will decide on such awards; and when they will be made; 

(2) what the value is of shopping vouchers awarded to his Department's staff as a reward for ideas on savings; and what budget is allocated for this scheme; 

(3) for what ideas staff in his Department have been given shopping vouchers for ideas on savings to date. 

Brandon LewisThe scheme to reward staff with shopping vouchers for money saving ideas was launched on Monday 8 July. I have placed a copy of the associated departmental press release which provides more detail in the Library of the House.

There is no specific budget allocated for this scheme, all awards are made from the non-consolidated performance pay pot. Awards would only be made at the time a suitable suggestion is made and accepted: if there are no suitable ideas, there will be no cost. Notwithstanding, such an initiative will pay for itself by promoting ideas that would not otherwise be implemented which save taxpayers' money.

This is about encouraging ('nudging') a broader cultural shift within Whitehall. At present, the state rewards and recognises those that regulate more, spend more and tax more, rather than rewarding those who regulate less, spend less and tax less. 

The sentence I have highlighted in bold struck me as a pleasingly direct description of the distinction between good and bad government. Conservatives should always want to "reward those who regulate less, spend less and tax less" – plus, it's a good way to encourage the right kind of behaviour in a civil service all too used to regulating, spending and taxing like there's no tomorrow.

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