Remodel the bureaucracy

The Chief Secretary needs to come forward urgently with a good plan to raise productivity in the public services, at least back up to 2019 levels. Setting this an immediate task should not be threatening or should it require large amounts of new capital investment to bring it about, as four years ago we are at the levels we should wish to regain.

Central to this task must be reviews with the 4000 senior managers at Director level and above and their equivalents in the quangos. This is a good job for junior Ministers to lead or review. What has changed for the worse? What immediate steps can be taken to boost output. There should be a comprehensive freeze on new staff from outside, and a review process to amalgamate or remove jobs as people leave by natural wastage. External recruitment should only be allowed where there is a clear need approved by a Minister.

The reviews should encompass use of external consultants. Staff should be encouraged to replace some of the consultancy contracts that come up for renewal by offering cheaper in house routes of doing the work using present staff.

There can also be plans to get above older levels. After all, the private sector has exceeded pre covid levels of productivity, in services as well as in manufactures. One thing to do is to eliminate some of the duplication and overlap between central government departments and quangos. More work should be taken into the department under proper Ministerial supervision. Ministers in many cases will be blamed when the quango makes a mistake or gets it wrong, so better to have more control where there is accountability. Employees in the civil service should be allowed or encouraged to bid to take over areas of work to run as contracted out activities where they turn themselves into contractors and can use their skills to win work form others. This would not apply to matters relating to national security, policy and other sensitive matters. I led such changes to the old Property Services Agency, the direct labour organisation within the civil service that maintained public sector properties.

The application of more computing power through AI and related technologies can also produce plenty of productivity gains. Much of government is processing data, awarding grants and benefits, answering similar queries from the public, handling applications and ensuring access to public services. This is eminently suitable for more automation.

80 Comments

  1. Mark B
    November 21, 2023

    Good morning.

    I read elsewhere that pre WWII the size of the UK Civil Services as a percentage (I cannot remember the metric they used, possibly GDP or size of the State budget) was less than 30%. Today it is much higher and rising. This despite the advent of computer technology and making people do their own work, usually on line so there is no paper to manage.

    The government needs to cap the size of the CS. President Trump tried this with much success when in office and I see no reason, ‘given the will’ to do so, why it cannot happen here.

    But in a year or so it will be someone else’s problem.

    Reply
    1. Lynn Atkinson
      November 21, 2023

      JR did it in Wales as Welsh Secretary with more success than Trump had.

      Reply
    2. Hope
      November 21, 2023

      You only need to look at cabinet ministerial non jobs to realise the problem of low productivity starts at the head. Look at layer upon layer of NHS non-jobs, councils, police, fire service, quangos.
      Ett. Get rid of S.172 Company Act and Race for equality schemes in public service. They add nothing the HR depts should be doing as part of their jobs, emphasis on part of their jobs. Not armies of non jobs. Include BOE and others who waste vast amounts considering roles like climate change nonsense that has nothing to do with the service they provide.

      Note to Cameron and Plebgate: food security starts at home stop paying farmers not to grow and get our fishing waters back and stop/ban industrial fishing ships. The rest of their speeches totally meaningless and added nothing, nothing, whatsoever to food security for our country. Start acting in UK national interest and stop grandstanding without any substance in what you say.

      Reply
      1. Mitchel
        November 21, 2023

        12/10/23,Barents Observer:”Barents Sea Cod Quotas lowered by 20% for the third year in a row”

        The Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission agreed that 2024 cod quotas in the Barents-Norwegian Seas will total 453,427 tons of which 212,214 tons will be Norway’s share.This is down 20% from 2023 which was again down 20% from 2022.The 2024 agreement includes 196,000 of capelin,nearly three times 2023’s quota.

        (Capelin,which I’d never heard of, is one or two steps up the food chain from plankton-cod like it.Enjoy!)

        Reply
        1. Hope
          November 21, 2023

          Reckless public spending take UK to £2.6 trillion debt!! Sensible sustainable! Increase civil service by about 100,000 who work from….home! No wonder the majority trust Labour half of Uni party to the Tory half which has gone full weak, woke, feeble socialist reckless spending.

          We are told Cameron already asking minions to reach out to EU!!

          Reply
      2. Iain gill
        November 21, 2023

        The UK is third worst country in the world for access to GP appointments. Behind Rwanda, behind Ukraine. Staggering to think how bad things have got with the communist NHS.

        Reply
      3. paul cuthbertson
        November 21, 2023

        Hope – Cameron was NOT installed for the intersests of the country he was installed to protect the Globlalists assets.

        Reply
  2. Lynn Atkinson
    November 21, 2023

    The alternative is to continue buying in Consultants on an ad hoc basis and permanently reducing the employed staff who had been expected to complete the tasks that have to be farmed out.
    Hope you have been busy helping Hunt for tax cuts and commensurate wasteful spending cuts! God knows he needs it!

    Reply
    1. Lifelogic
      November 21, 2023

      There is a vast amount of government waste that could beneficially be cut and a vast amount of red tape, the whole of net zero, employment laws, planning restriction, benefit payments that discourage work or encourage only black market work, vast damaging market rigging in energy, banking, education, planning, healthcare … that could and should be cut too. But zero sign of any political will to do so. The state should be spending 20% of GDP not 46%. Much is spent

      Another totally moronic and misguided speech by Hunt the other day and by Sunak yesterday.

      Reply
      1. iain gill
        November 21, 2023

        I know one big public sector contract pretty well. The public sector subcontracted a big programme to a big international company. The big international company put several hundred people to work on the programme. A few years later this programme is still going… the public sector has pretty much hired one civil servant per person in the big international company just to monitor what they are up to. Its hilarious and sad all at the same time.

        Reply
    2. Mike Wilson
      November 21, 2023

      Buy in consultants INSTEAD of full time staff?! Come, come – let’s be serious. The NHS is advertising a consultancy contract to the tune of £100k. The job is to ‘embed racial equality in our procedures’ – some nonsense like that. I say ‘nonsense like that’ because it has long been illegal to discriminate on the grounds of race and the NHS has plenty of diversity officers already. But they feel the need to piss away another £100k when they have waiting lists from here to eternity and a private sector that could do 30 hernia operations for that £100k.

      Reply
      1. iain gill
        November 21, 2023

        the NHS just gave Palantir and Accenture half a billion quid to “centralise data”

        as usual it will be a complete failure, & the data rights of patients will be ridden rough shod over

        there is a reason no other country wastes money like this on centralised systems

        it is an absolute joke that the useless senior decision makers have been manipulated like this, and the clueless senior people in the NHS are allowed to get away with it

        shame so few can remember Accenture massively failing on the last big NHS system programme they won, and they had to walk away… I remember it very well, what happened was exactly what I predicted at the time

        half a billion quid

        meanwhile the NHS is busy throwing more money at Physicians Assistants than it would cost to use real Doctors, and using them way above their competency, risking patients in significant ways

        the whole state run apparatus is a joke, and wastes money continually doing the wrong thing

        its so sad to see

        Reply
  3. Rod Evans
    November 21, 2023

    The requirement for the public sector to improve its efficiency is as old as bureaucracy itself.
    Unfortunately, the bureaucrats know if they do nothing they will be rewarded with ever more support staff to try and boost their productivity.
    Those of us who pay tax i.e. the private sector know what the problem is but no government is willing to sort out the core overstaffed over paid and over privileged public sector because the political class are part of that public sector.
    Turkeys voting for Christmas is an unlikely event.
    More consultants more quangos and more inquiries, is the automatic civil service response to demands for efficiency improvements.

    Reply
  4. DOM
    November 21, 2023

    A Socialist minded Tory party has sold us out to the authoritarian Left who now control huge swatches of the unionised state and Labour’s public sector. It’s convenient for the Tories to take the easiest path ie abuse the taxpayer rather than take on the unions.

    There will be no public sector productivity rises but always more pay and early retirements, with juicy pensions.

    People have simply given up waiting for John’s party to do what is right cos we know they don’t give a toss about what is right, only what is easy

    Reply
  5. Iain gill
    November 21, 2023

    I would take all the complaints departments, process, people, supporting tech and remove them from the public body they look into. Establish a new public sector complaints function which is completely independent of the bodies it looks into. Proper conflict of interest rules for their staff. Employ some good judges and ex police to run this new service. Work to make the interface for public who wish to make a complaint against any public body more consistent. Regular random auditing of the quality of the service. Regular league tables of the complaints history of every public body.
    Ramp up the quality of the public sector complaints system, make it more independent and professional, and get it used to genuinely improve the quality of services iteratively.

    Reply
  6. Peter Gardner
    November 21, 2023

    “Employees in the civil service should be allowed or encouraged to bid to take over areas of work to run as contracted out activities where they turn themselves into contractors and can use their skills to win work from others. …… I led such changes to the old Property Services Agency, ”

    I assume Sir John led this initiative with some success. I remember a similar scheme in Naval dockyards many years ago when contractors had to compete against the home team of dockyard employees. There were no sure fire repeat winners, the services of both improved and the customers (Royal Navy ships and their crews) were much happier.

    We used not to have quangos. they grew from 1979 owards and not just in the UK. They generally suffer from problems of control, accountability and legitimacy. There seems to be quite a body of literature on these issues. Duplication is is an obvious waste but more fundamentally is why is there duplication? Answer poor control, accountability and, perhaps, legitimacy. Improving these aspects is in some ways more important in the long term because although duplication can be reduced or eliminated in a once off exercise, it will just creep back again unless the fundamental causes are corrected as well.

    Reply
    1. Mark B
      November 22, 2023

      I had to have dealings with the PSA (1985 – 86) when working on the Science Museum. A right pain the **** !

      Reply
  7. Javelin
    November 21, 2023

    We have drifted into international socialism.

    The internationals at the home office think it’s a good idea to import millions of benefit claimants.

    The treasury needs to tell them that every benefit claimant takes a couple of tax payers out the system. When a recession comes the country will find it has bankrupted itself. The level of spending will be diluted to such an extent that it will cause serious social problems.

    Reply
    1. Hope
      November 21, 2023

      Mass immigration does Not add growth to GDP. We know this because it started under Blaire and there is currently no growth with 606,000 increase last year alone, add millions more and how come the growth figures do not prove this socialist excuse to change our culture and way of life!

      Reply
    2. Timaction
      November 21, 2023

      Only a tiny fraction of the 1.2 million allowed to come here legally last year were of any use to the 46% of us who are net tax contributors. This Government, The Home Office, The Foreign Office the Quangos, Health, Emergency and public services are all led by left of centre socialists so they encourage this problem. I went shopping yesterday in Bristol, now a foreign City, reflecting how the Tory’s and Labour have allowed 10 million to come here in the last 20 years alone. They can’t see the economic, health, education, housing, congestion let alone the enormous cultural problems and contrary values this has created for us, the forgotten English people who experience it daily. Witness the BLM protests and the recent support for the Palestinians, just stop oil etc. It is now universally agreed we have double standards applied everywhere. English people have become second class citizens in their own Homeland. The Tory’s have actually legislated to ensure it is so with their (non) Equality laws. The Uni Party should hang their heads in shame. Millions of voters, betrayed by the political class.

      Reply
    3. Lynn Atkinson
      November 21, 2023

      You might be interested in this snippet:
      And today, out of the blue, Pierre de Gaulle, grandson of the famous French general and president Charles de Gaulle, announced his desire to take Russian citizenship, as he told Le Figaro.

      The descendant of the famous politician publicly expresses his sympathy for Russia and believes that “NATO has lost in the Ukrainian conflict”.

      Speaking on the sidelines of the International Cultural Forum in St Petersburg, Pierre said he wanted to take Russian citizenship. He believes Russia can offer “great opportunities”. Asked by a journalist if he intended to obtain a Russian passport, de Gaulle replied: “Yes, absolutely”.

      “I would be honoured to receive Russian citizenship … I am happy to see that you are fighting for traditional values, family, spirituality,” he said.

      Reply
      1. Mitchel
        November 22, 2023

        He also addressed the annual Valdai meeting at Sochi a few weeks ago.

        Quite a few Americans and Australians have also made the move.There are lots of youtube films recording their experiences.

        Reply
  8. Dave Andrews
    November 21, 2023

    Let’s sit back and watch events in Argentina, and see whether their new president will deliver on his promise to shrink the state.
    The BBC calls him far right. I don’t see why, after all he’s not calling for the expulsion of foreigners and the seizure of their assets, or the extermination of Jews. There again, what should we expect from an organisation that can’t bring itself to call Hamas a terrorist organisation?

    Reply
    1. glen cullen
      November 21, 2023

      ”The new President of Argentina has vowed to take the Falklands Islands back, sparking pushback from UK officials.” GB News
      Sounds like a declaration of war to me …..however under this government we don’t have any warships, aircraft or tanks that could protect the Falklands …they spend all the MOD budget on diversity training

      Reply
    2. Peter
      November 21, 2023

      From the little I have seen, the new Argentine president has a dodgy haircut (like Donald Trump ?) He was also in a tribute band.

      That is enough to raise my suspicions. We will see.

      I prefer Viktor Orban.

      Reply
    3. Peter Parsons
      November 21, 2023

      He has stated that Argentina has “non-negotiable sovereignty over the Falklands” and that Argentina should have control of them.

      Will he act on that? Will there be a repeat of 1982?

      Reply
      1. Mickey Taking
        November 21, 2023

        I know someone who will start a 6 month tour soon. I hope plenty of ammo goes with him!

        Reply
    4. Roy Grainger
      November 21, 2023

      He’s calling for the seizure of the Falkland Islands though.

      Reply
    5. Lynn Atkinson
      November 22, 2023

      He is dismantling the Argentinian Central Bank and basically giving sovereignty to the USA (going to depend on the USD).
      Of course you need to stake the state of Argentinian economics in to account – which is disastrous.
      Nevertheless turning you back on BRICS and opting to be subservient to the collective west is ‘courageous’.
      He will have no money to fight for the Faulklands.

      Reply
      1. Mitchel
        November 23, 2023

        They were only invited to join BRICS(they are not in yet) on the insistence of Brazil.Russia,for instance,would have preferred Algeria.

        Reply
  9. Jude
    November 21, 2023

    Agree, but you have not mentioned anything about the civil servants cry….I am being bullied!! When asked to come into the office. Or deliver work to schedule. That can only be stopped by a joint effort by managers supported by HR & Ministers. Plus diversity throughout the civil service should be in line with UK demographics.

    Reply
    1. Jumeirah
      November 21, 2023

      Agreed but that will not be allowed to happen. Once upon a time Senior Civil Servants were trusted to advise Ministers rather than govern them. Then along came Martin Selmayr from a ‘Back office’ in Brussels a Lawyer by profession and a Civil Servant questionably?. He moved, fast paced, up the ranks ruthlessly and having built up a solid power base became Junker’s Chief of Staff and has been described as ‘the most powerful bureaucrat in the world’. He pushed through policies (his own) which NOBODY challenged through fear of being sidelined into obscurity or lose their jobs entirely. It is not unreasonable to suppose that British Civil Servants above a certain rank watched him and (everyone else did around the world) thought to themselves ‘I’ll have some of ‘haat”. Selmayr was brutally successful; British Civil Servants were much more sophisticated and subtle. They (the latter) began to change the dynamics by frustrating, purposely, Policy which their Ministers asked them to initiate and which they themselves did not agree with by slowing the whole process down for so long that the Policy and the Minister who initiated it was ‘set to fail’. In doing that Senior Civil Servants changed from being an Advisory Force to a Political one and that is the position we find ourselves in today. Those few Ministers (2 of them) who challenged the Senior Servants in their Departments as to why such and such Policy was effectively put on the ‘back burner’ IMMEDIATELY protested about suffering ‘bullying and shouting’ at the hands of The Minister and because no colleagues nor the Prime Ministers at the time supported their own Minister both eventually had to go because their positions became untenable. The Civil Service WON! It is wishful thinking if you think that you can change this position because the Seniors have selected and have trained those coming after them to do exactly the same and they SEE power and say to themselves ” I want some of ‘haat.

      Reply
  10. Mickey Taking
    November 21, 2023

    CS will hire many more to perform the ‘reviews’ which will take several years and end up with poor recommendations.

    Reply
  11. Mickey Taking
    November 21, 2023

    Timely off-topic.
    Government borrowing in October was higher than expected, largely pushed up by higher benefit payments, official figures show.
    Borrowing – the difference between spending and tax income – was £14.9bn, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. That was up £4.4bn from a year earlier and the second highest October figure since monthly records began in 1993.
    It comes as the chancellor prepares to announce his Autumn Statement.
    Responding to the latest statistics, Jeremy Hunt said he would continue to support the Bank of England to drive inflation down to 2%. “That means being responsible with the nation’s finances,” he added.
    October’s figure was higher than the £13.7bn forecast by the UK’s fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which is the first time borrowing has surpassed its predictions this financial year.
    oh dear!
    7.52

    Reply
  12. Roy Grainger
    November 21, 2023

    The PM is far too weak to even consider taking on the Civil Service. Like meaningful NHS reform it is probably something that only a Labour government can do. We’ll soon find out.

    One place to save money would be to stop the Covid inquiry today. It is clear what their conclusions will be “It was all Boris’ fault for not locking down sooner, harder and longer like the Guardian wanted”.

    Reply
    1. hefner
      November 21, 2023

      If one follows the Covid inquiry one can only realise that the present testimonies are much more nuanced than ‘it was all Boris’s fault’, as for example today a lot of questions to Prof. Whitty are about the timeline of SAGE advices to the Government.
      Furthermore the Covid inquiry might cost £100 to 300 m, what is that compared to the annual £100+ bn paid by the UK on its £2+ tn debt? What is that if it allows the UK not to repeat the same errors (cost evaluated at £300-400 bn) with the next pandemic?

      Do you really prefer to bury your head in the sand?

      Reply
    2. Hope
      November 21, 2023

      It is clear the expensive waste of taxpayer money on covid inquiry is not interested on facts for future but wants to give WHO power to decide not useless PMs. The target is to blame Johnson and show in future WHO should have the power not useless PMs. Vallance needs to be investigated and not keep blaming Johnson. I want to know does the like of him have vested interests and motives same for WHO, Farrer, Fauchy etc.

      Reply
      1. Donna
        November 22, 2023

        Correct. It’s a massively expensive justification for transferring power to the WHO … an international Quango …. so that when the Globalists decide there’s another scamdemic, “our” Government will do as its told and will have the defence that “the WHO told us to do it.”

        Not once has the “Inquiry” asked a question along the lines of “was a lockdown necessary ….. look at Sweden?”

        Reply
      2. hefner
        November 22, 2023

        ‘It is clear’: how is that clear? What did/does Vallance, Whitty or Van-Tam say that had made you so clairvoyant?

        Reply
    3. Timaction
      November 21, 2023

      All hot air inquiry that will take years to find what we already know. Boris and the Tory’s were useless and we should have followed the Swedish example. Protected the obviously vulnerable from the virus.

      Reply
    4. Lynn Atkinson
      November 22, 2023

      He does not even have the strength or intellectual capacity (!) of John Major, who managed to take on the hobos and road cones.

      Reply
  13. Cliff..Wokingham.
    November 21, 2023

    Sir John,
    This may seem a daft question but I’ll ask it anyway.
    Who are you counting as civil servants?
    Are you just talking about those who work in offices for the state? Are the people who clean those offices civil servants? What about the local government at Shute End? Are the planing department staff civil servants…. What about the army of new civil enforcement officers, are they civil servants? There does seem to be an ever increasing army of people who like to be called officers, dressed in hi viz jackets about. Even the so called Conservative Party under Messers Cameron, May, Johnson and Sunak seemed to dream up new quangos to oversee this, that or the other. There does seem to have been an expansion in the number of regulators and inspectors over the last decade or so. That brings me to another gripe… How much cash slops about within the state machine as one public body, investigates another public body using another publicly funded body, only to prosecute the first body via another body (CPS) in a publicly funded court where the punishment tends to be a publicly funded record fine. It’s crazy!.

    Reply
  14. beresford
    November 21, 2023

    Daily Express reports that the ONS has turned down a request by the Government to delay the announcement of the new record annual immigration figure of 700000, which Sunak fears will overshadow the ‘feelgood’ Autumn Statement.

    Reply
  15. agricola
    November 21, 2023

    You have been much nearer the coalface than most of us so I accept your ideas on how to make ths CS more productive. My addition would be that Ministers must have the power to hire and fire. They must additionally ensure that where there is a CS/ Citizen interface it must work. Put another way, 3 rings to answer and an intelligent english speaking operative capable of connecting the customer with resolution. An end to computer generated letters that forbid a reply. A basic understanding among the CS that citizens are CUSTOMERS who pay their wages.

    Reply
    1. a-tracy
      November 21, 2023

      I agree Agricola, you should be able to answer an e-mail or a text message.

      Reply
    2. Narrow Shoulders
      November 21, 2023

      Yes – give service operatives the authority to solve problems as they come in on the phones. If they can do it reward them, if they can’t replace them

      Reply
  16. majorfrsutration
    November 21, 2023

    Thats just what we need is another review which will be destined for the bottom draw of a filing cabinet.
    Ministers know what the problem is so just get on with it and start firing.

    Reply
  17. Peter
    November 21, 2023

    ‘The reviews should encompass use of external consultants.‘

    Francis Maude tried that years ago with some of the more notorious firms. Mind you, he started the gravy train in the first place. Once you got on his preferred suppliers list you were in the money. Previous failures were no hindrance to future contracts.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/supportservices/7871488/Francis-Maude-summons-Government-suppliers-to-change-their-contracts.html

    Reply
  18. Brian Tomkinson
    November 21, 2023

    I can do no better than remind readers of the wonderful ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Yes Prime Minister’ series – incredibly funny but more like documentaries.
    Here is an example apposite to today’s discussion:

    ‘Hacker: When you give your evidence to the Think Tank, are you going to support my view that the civil service is overmanned and feather-bedded, or not? Yes or no? Straight answer!
    Sir Humphrey: Well Minister, if you ask me for a straight answer, then I shall say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one thing with another in terms of the average of departments, then in the final analysis it is probably true to say, that at the end of the day, in general terms, you would probably find that, not to put too fine a point on it, there probably wasn’t very much in it one way or the other as far as one can see, at this stage.’

    From: The Writing On The Wall

    Reply
  19. Lifelogic
    November 21, 2023

    “Science given undue weight over economy in Covid”, says Patrick Vallance.

    Not at all mate duff science and duff scientists and halfwitted modellers were given undue weight and still are at this sick joke inquiry.

    The main questions this inquiry should be asking are (with the right answers) are:-

    Why did we change policy and lock down and did this do more harm that good? – Answer yes it was idiotic & did far more health (and economic) harm than good.

    Did the vaccines do more harm than good and was it right to coerce them even into people who were young, children or who had had Covid already? This as surely they had no need for them? – Answer The “vaccines” have done very significant net harm and we have not even seen all this harm yet millions of excess deaths around the world even now. It was surely criminal to coerce the vaccines into low risk people & it did huge net harm.

    Did masks work – Answer no and this was very clear and pretty damn obvious.

    Was Covid leaked from the lab after manipulation and gain of function experiments by scientists funded by governments & politicians ? – Answer yes the evidence is overwhelming and this was known very early on but hidden by governments.

    Reply
  20. XY
    November 21, 2023

    Sadly, another “should” / “needs to” piece by somsone who should, as an MP, have influence in these matters (but clearly doesn’t).

    Seeing the civil service curtailed in the year running up to an election is also rather wishful thinking.

    Perhaps a better use of this space would be to discuss Sunak’s latest 5 pledges and the schmooze campaign going on to persuade the right of his party that (a) they shouldn’t replace him and (b) that there’s no-one who’d be any better anyway.

    (That’d be wrong on both counts, as the polls show).

    Reply
  21. Ian B
    November 21, 2023

    Jeremy Hunt said the Government was focused on “being responsible with the nation’s finances as he responded to this morning’s borrowing figures
    The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said public sector net borrowing stood at £14.9 billion last month, £4.4 billion more than a year earlier and the second-highest October borrowing since monthly records began in 1993.
    Or in plain English we are increasing the size of the State exponential with useless pointless ‘diversity departments’ paying for more Quango’s with these increases there will be no requirement by this Conservative Government to seek a return on the hard-earned Taxpayer pounds and the increasing debt it has incurred. It is for the ‘little people’ to pay once we have left office and probably theses shores.

    Reply
    1. Ian B
      November 21, 2023

      A message from your 2 Chancellors, we have increased your taxes beyond peace time requirements. Which in turn has increased costs therefore inflation and interest rates. We have also borrowed more than any previous Government in peace time, which with our created high interest rates gives the next generation of UK citizens an unprecedented tax burden for no return.
      But as the whole of the Conservative Party is in support of this – tough!

      Reply
    2. Narrow Shoulders
      November 21, 2023

      100,000 illegals in hotels accounts for one quarter of that increase.

      “But it’s just small part of total expenditure” cry the supporters.

      “Better if it didn’t exist” – say I.

      Reply
  22. Bryan Harris
    November 21, 2023

    But wouldn’t that make the public sector more effective and closer to value for money – doesn’t that go against the aims of senior civil servants who, having created their own empires, desire no interference from anyone.

    I’d like to have seen this in the King’s speech instead of the verbose dramatic nothingness we got.

    Let’s have some substance from HMG – to show they and they alone are in control of our destiny – then let them prove it by making Britain great again – I dare them!

    Reply
  23. George
    November 21, 2023

    Hi sir John
    Does this mean we have lots of people sitting about or supposedly working at home doing nothing but getting tax payers money , if people are working from home this give them a wage increase by not having to pay travelling cost to work.
    As in the NHS there are to many over paid managers, who don’t understand the job they are doing.

    Reply
  24. Ian B
    November 21, 2023

    ‘Dead Cats’ seen on every table

    Reply
  25. Nigl
    November 21, 2023

    Umpteen Secretaries of State in as many years, most with little/zero operational/strategic experience or subject knowledge often as a ‘political reward’ and similarly junior ministers and you think they can conduct and drive a cross civil service efficiency programme. Asking the people who have largely contributed to the problem to sort it.

    On this one I think you have lost the plot.

    Reply
    1. Bloke
      November 21, 2023

      John Glen seemed a moderately competent Chief Sec to the Treasury, working within the constraints imposed on him. One wonders what switching to Laura Trott could hope to achieve at this stage, with her needing to become familiar with the role and implement substantive change. That post is often occupied by the likely contender for Chancellor. Reshuffling from the bottom of the deck is regarded as an underhand process with risks of being caught out.

      Reply
  26. Ian B
    November 21, 2023

    What can our 2 Chancellors do now? – best bet is start to work on the ideas of someone brought up with a Socialist background and was a remain campaigner, that had it right all along, it was the economy ‘stupid’ – it’s now just too late.
    Best bet to save the Conservative Party would be to resign, next best bet to save the Conservative Party would for the Party to call for their resignation. The Conservatives of this Country have no hope without having Conservatives in Parliament or its Government.

    Reply
  27. Lifelogic
    November 21, 2023

    So net migration is 700,000 PA, did Cameron (now Lord Cameron of Greensill, Libya or something similar) not promise us fewer than 100,000 & this some 13+ years back. Cast Iron low tax at heart Cameron also promised us to deliver the referendum result either way and IHT thresholds of £1M each it is still £235k – now worth about £200k thanks to Sunak/BoE currency debasement policies.

    Do they expect us to believe their next manifesto or even Sunak’s failed four (he is clearly not even trying) pledges?

    Reply
    1. The Prangwizard
      November 21, 2023

      And whilst Redwood gives us this place, don’t forget that no matter what his party in government does to facilitate and not prevent the destruction of our society or our economy or our basis of law, he will support it and in doing so helps bring it all about.

      Reply
  28. Ian B
    November 21, 2023

    Despite the bullish approach, the grim context for the fiscal announcements was laid bare this morning with official figures showing the UK’s debt mountain at £2.6trillion.

    Public sector net borrowing stood at £14.9billion last month, £4.4billion more than a year earlier

    Reply
  29. Christine
    November 21, 2023

    A lot of time is wasted reading nonsense emails and attending unnecessary meetings. This is made worse by the large number of part-time staff as this takes a larger percentage of their working week. Also working from home only suits those with a good work ethic or where their productivity can be measured. I hear of so many people who walk their dogs, do the housework, go out shopping, taxi family members around, and watch daytime TV all during their working day.

    Reply
  30. Nigl
    November 21, 2023

    I despair. Output related objectives linked to salary/bonus from Permanent Secretaries cascaded down through layers of management, strip unnecessary layers out plus proper people management with poor performers identified, improved or weeded out.

    Freeze budgets so one of the PS’s objectives is to get sane/more output, so more efficiency.

    Sorry I am dreaming, I must stop!

    Reply
  31. Bert+Young
    November 21, 2023

    I think the reply I made yesterday ( not yet published ) is also relevant to Sir John’s post today . The Civil Service in particular needs to slim down and integrate more with skills brought in from the private sector by system of 2 year exchanges . This process was introduced many years ago by the then Head of the Civil Service in recognition that its own training and development system need a drastic overhaul . Why it has been dropped I do not know .Today the lamentable lack of experience in political leaders enables the CS to paddle its own canoe with resulting high costs and inefficiency .

    Reply
  32. acorn
    November 21, 2023

    Ms Trott is the the tenth Chief Secretary since the 2015 election. Each averaged ten months in the job. None of them have achieved anything of note; it is just a stepping stone into Cabinet. The need to remodel Westminster is of much higher priority than the bureaucracy.

    Reply
  33. Des
    November 21, 2023

    Yes remodel it 90% smaller.

    Reply
  34. The Prangwizard
    November 21, 2023

    And which quangos and bodies are considered wasteful and ought to be abolished? I was not allowed to ask this yesterday.

    Reply
  35. a-tracy
    November 21, 2023

    I’d start reading the excuses people make for the poor productivity in the NHS and ACT on it instead of talking about it. Here’s a good example https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/nov/21/jeremy-hunt-nhs-productivity-chancellor-autumn-statement-tories-cuts

    The NHS admitted it sold 6000 (of 9000) Oska COVID nightingale beds costing £13 million (of £24m spent) for just £410,000 at auction. Why did it do that, which NHS management team made that decision? They may not have been suitable for people who had operations, but why couldn’t they have been used in maternity wards for those who are only in one night? Why couldn’t they have been used for those ‘medically fit’ but unable to go home alone? They were suitable to put covid patients in weren’t they?

    PT tells us we have 2700 COVID patients in beds, reducing beds available for other patients on the waiting lists. Why weren’t the pods moved into all our hospitals and used, even if only for those ‘13,000 hospital beds (out of 100,000 in England) filled with those medically fit for discharge? There should have been one big ward identified for this purpose in each hospital, and the pods moved in to give them privacy, and they just required health care assistants instead of nursing staff. You walk around some hospitals, and they seem deserted.

    We are told a high proportion of ‘burnt out staff’, but why are the numbers of those who didn’t work during COVID-19 discussed? Have they made up to their colleagues in time and effort since? Patient numbers in hospitals dropped for 18 months, private hospitals were requisitioned but not utilised by the NHS even though private insurance payers still had to pay.

    Do NHS staff get overtime, if not they won’t do it, and the agency staff you use will be double the cost, if they do overtime, would it be at normal hourly pay for double hourly pay?

    Labour didn’t bequeath an NHS in the best state ‘ever’ if those hospitals had falling down wards ignored, schools and hospitals with RAAC problems not sorted even whilst ‘the sun was shining’ before the crash. There was austerity because Osborne was told he had to balance Brown’s books by International governance, easy to forget that now. Although when you see how they just printed money during covid it makes me wonder if the rules I thought existed actually ever did.

    Reply
  36. glen cullen
    November 21, 2023

    Also remodel government inquiries – the covid inquiry is spending hundreds of millions on hearsay, opinion and feelings

    Reply
    1. paul cuthbertson
      November 21, 2023

      GC – You do not expect the TRUTH do you???? Like ALL enquiries, OBFUSCATION to the Nth degree.

      Reply
  37. Keith from Leeds
    November 21, 2023

    The answer is simple, and you know it. Drastically reduce the number of Civil Servants and Quangos, get a tight grip on Government spending and make some proper tax cuts to release the UK economy from the current stifling tax rates. How thick do you have to be to increase Corporation tax from 19% to 25% when Ireland’s is 12.5%?
    How stupid do you have to be to stop allowing tourists to claim the VAT back on their purchases?
    I suggest, Sir John, you ask the Chancellor to list all the areas in which he has cut Government spending in the last 12 months. I suspect the answer will be a blank sheet of paper.

    Reply
  38. Ian B
    November 21, 2023

    From the media – “Rishi Sunak will use the Autumn Statement on Wednesday to kickstart a Thatcherite tax-cutting drive as he tries to revive his premiership.” Although to even have said that shows he does not understand Thatcher or for that matter being a Conservative.
    That begs 2 questions who is the Chancellor? Then why did they put the tax on that caused the inflation and curtailed the economy in the first place? Was it that Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng had it right all along and knew we couldn’t move forward without shaking a few trees? There is no comfortable way of moving forward without upsetting the ‘Blob’, their numbers are too great, there are also to many avenues of the State that have become protected, costly and un-accountable – the rot is to deep.
    It’s a bit late now for the 2 Chancellors to think about the GE, they have blown it and taken the Conservative Party with them

    Reply
  39. Berkshire Alan
    November 21, 2023

    Afraid John the existing system has been broken for far too long, no amount of tinkering/modification will change it. It is too far gone, with too little expectation.
    You need to start again from scratch and with different people involved.

    For a suggested start, look around the World and see what is actually working and delivering, no need to re-invent the wheel.

    Reply
  40. Donna
    November 21, 2023

    It’s a bit late for a plan Sir John.

    Reply
  41. Derek
    November 21, 2023

    I no longer believe the political civil service actually recognises the concept of productivity. They have been allowed to over rule the elected but incompetent Ministers for too long, so much so, they now they deem it their right to work the way they decide and will not take instructions from our parliamentary representatives. Their success in removing several, (LOL) so-called “bullying” Ministers from their positions, proves the point. A Minister who rightly demands quality work is now deemed a “bully” and must go. What has happened there?
    Until these seemingly spoilt children are marshalled properly by strong and determined leadership, our country cannot consider itself a democracy.
    If they are going to continue in their jobs they must learn only to advise but never to decide what is best for us British citizens. They are unelected and therefore unqualified to determine the future of the electorate.

    Reply
  42. paul cuthbertson
    November 21, 2023

    Why ask the chief secretary and senior managers, they will always protect their arse and hang out the lesser minnions to dry. Lack of management, accountabilty and motivation from from so called senior managers trickles down to employees. Start at the bottom and you will find that the main problem is with mananagement and the lack of it.
    However as I have said here many times nothing will happen until our whole system of government is CHANGED starting at the VERY top.

    Reply
  43. Mike Wilson
    November 21, 2023

    There is only one thing to do. An immediate ban on hiring new staff and let the whole public sector shrink by natural wastage to at least 30% less.

    Reply
  44. Jaycee
    November 22, 2023

    How do you measure productivity when the output is so nebulous as to be immeasurable?

    Reply

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