One of the worst features of Labour’s regime was the proliferation of bodies that send out glossy brochures paid for by the taxpayer. The brochures got glossier, more numerous and often more vacuous as the Labour years went on. I still can scarcely get in to my office each morning owing to the weight and volume of glossy brochures people send me.
Usually these brochures are part of a campaign. There may be an Early Day Motion the body is promoting through some MP. The brochure usually tells me what wonderful work the institution is doing, but how it needs to do more of it. They often say they have “mixed funding” which means they apply for government grants from a range of departments, Councils and other quangos. Rarely do they provide good information on their financial performance and results, preferring softer copy , pictures and messages.
Let’s begin today with a minnow close to home. Recently “NHS Innovations South East” sent me their latest Report. It told me “NHS Innovations South East identifies and manages intellectual property in the south east on behalf of the NHS”. There is also an Innovations North West and others for other parts of the compass. There are nine in total in England.
The annual Report is a glossy 24 page brochure. Only one page contains financial information, page 22. They do not run to a balance sheet or a cash flow statement. There is just an unaudited Income and Expenditure Statement, with no reason given as to why the audit is not available in time for the Report. We are told we have paid £ 16,460 for accountancy and auditors.The total income for 2009-10 was £1.262 million. This came mainly from government grants from the Business Department and Health Department. They earned some consultancy fees which came primarily from taxpayer funded Health trusts. It looks as if they spent time and money on gaining their income from the taxpayer from a range of sources.
No prior year figures are supplied, but we are told in the spirit of the times they “introduced cost saving and efficiency programs(sic), including reducing office costs by closing two of its regional offices, reducing headcount and implementing IT systems to support home working”.
So what did they do all year as they sat at their new computer screens at home? They added 152 new ideas to their five year total, and are currently engaged on 111 “live projects”. The section entitled “Review of the company’s performance” produced no figures that help a reader to assess value for money or to form any impression of how worthwhile this work promoting new ideas might be. Is spending £10,000 per “live” idea a good diea? What are we buying for this money? Why can’t the companies and Health trusts who innovate advertise their own ideas and draw royalty or other income from them as appropriate?
The network of regional Innovations companies looks like an easy source of savings.