Shrinking the state misses the point

Obsessively shrinking the state misses the point, Francis Maude

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude could enhance reform by valuing the civil servants on his doorstep, Prospect head of research Sue Ferns writes today in her latest blog for the Guardian Public Leaders' Network.

Among the many differences between Francis Maude and the Cabinet Office ministers who preceded him, three seem particularly important from a reform perspective, says Ferns..

First, Maude has been in office longer than any of the 12 Labour politicians who held the role between 1997 and 2010.

Second, although some of Maude's thinking is not radically different from that of the previous government, he is more determined, for good or ill, about implementation.

Third, he is under greater pressure from the wings of his own party, making it trickier to quickly dismiss the mad and bad ideas they champion. This is all too evident from the scale of cuts revealed on 9 August,  including a staggering £1.5bn from jobs and pay.

The current obsession with shrinking the state misses the point, Ferns argues. "As the aftermath of the quango cull has shown, the work still needs doing. Changes to organisation, location and resourcing impact critically and directly on outcomes.

"A more strategic approach is needed, building from a better understanding of what already exists. For example, the system of locating analysts within policy teams results in greater confidence in the evidence, appropriate use and agility of response."

Read the full blog.

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