Making a rare statement to the Commons yesterday, Oliver Letwin explained the Government's Business Plans for every Whitehall department and why they were being published transparently. Highlights below:
Targets do not work: "The evidence of the past 13 years shows that targets and short-term bureaucratic interventions simply do not work. Despite all the new learning strategies in schools, the gap in educational achievement between the richest and the poorest widened; despite all the NHS targets, cancer survival rates in Britain were among the lowest in Europe; despite all the police form-filling and bureaucracy, there were more than 10,000 incidents of antisocial behaviour every day."
A "horizon shift" to the long-term: "The previous Government caught themselves repeatedly on the hook of trying to achieve a result on Wednesday that they could show the public by Thursday. Often, the upshot was to achieve nothing whatsoever. We are saying that we will try to achieve things in the long term without trying to achieve publicity goals on the way, which is an important change."
Every Whitehall Department has today published a transparent plan of action and priorities: "Today, taking into account the results of the spending review, we are publishing the final departmental plans, setting out the vision, priorities and structural reforms of each Department. These plans are a key part of our transparency agenda. They do not set out hopes for what we might achieve by micro-managing all the public services. They set out what we need to do, to manage the Government properly."
Departments will produce monthly updates on progress: "The publication of the plans will bring about a fundamental change in how Departments are held to account for implementing policy commitments, replacing the old top-down systems of targets and central micro-management with democratic accountability. Every month, Departments will publish a simple report on their progress towards meeting their commitments."
The difference between Labour's targets and the Coalition's "Milestones": "A target is an effort by a Government, of which there were many under the previous Government, to determine what the whole of the public service would achieve through micro-management. Such targets were often not met. What we are talking about are actions that lie under the direct control of Government and which it is absolutely right that we should manage ourselves."
If Departments miss milestones: "In the first place, a report will be made, which will be available to everybody-no Minister likes to see such a thing appear in public. Secondly, the Minister involved will find himself having a discussion with my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary and me to explain what has occurred… The second thing that will happen is that the Minister will meet the Chief Secretary and me, and the permanent secretary will have a conversation with the head of the civil service. Finally, if the problem is still not resolved, the Secretary of State in question will have a meeting with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. This is a serious set of incentives; if one thinks about what it was like under the previous Government, or any previous Government, one realises that Ministers do not wish to go through that process and will therefore try to meet their objectives."
More in Hansard.