Letter to Dr Roy Spendlove,
I am writing to ask you to accept a revised remit and title for your Division. The Coalition government as you know is dedicated to deficit reduction and to managing the public sector better. Ministers are worried there will not be enough special projects to keep your Unit as busy as before. I have pointed out that there are two very large computerisation programmes at the Revenue and DWP that could go wrong, and have reminded them of their wish to see large projects like Crossrail and HS2 pursued actively. They are nonetheless concerned that your Division might not add value as they wish. They do wish to abolish it.
Ministers have agreed that we do need a Division that supervises transition to smaller and more effective government, as they put it. They see the Revenue and Welfare computer systems as part of that process as we seek to bring all private and public sector payroll and benefits under a single central system and control. I have suggested we call such a divison the Division for transition to smarter government. Ministers have provisionally accepted my advice, and would agree that you should head it. Whilst they wish the new Head to go through a process of identifying what staff are needed, they have not ruled out using members of your existing team. I suggest you do the best you can, and recommend that you do not increase the total numbers in the first instance. If subsequently as I fear the workload goes up we can sort that out when we alert Ministers to the good news that we are making progress with their transition agenda but will need extra resource to do so.
My own Unit has successfully transformed from the Unit for coordinating cross cutting initiatives and partnerships to the Unit for greater efficiency, quality and resource control. We have taken over a couple of quangos, so we have the extra staff we need for the very demanding workload. Your new Division will continue to report to me. I will need a Deputy or two to help me handle the extra reporting from the new people.
In urging you to accept this change I would stress that I do understand worries about the public spending settlements and direction of travel. However, to encourage you to take the role, I would also point out that Ministers have grown into office well and are reasonable when you explain the facts of public sector life to them. The civil service has had a particularly fine week this week. We have helped the government change and tone down its health proposals. We have explained to them the force of EU law on recycling, and helped them drop expensive proposals for restoring weekly bin collections. We have reassured them of the need to support the work on bails out for Greece in the EU and IMF. They understand the UK does need to put more money into the IMF so it can help Euro area economies at risk. I think they started to show real maturity when they dropped their forest proposals. The Archbishop has been helpful in reminding them of the alternative view to their own. The first year of the government after all the debate did see a 5.1% increase in current spending in cash terms. We will continue to urge Ministers to be more realistic about spending levels for future years. It is difficult to believe they will keep cash spending increases to below 2% in the two years prior to an election.
As you will appreciate, this is a personal letter so I am sending it by a different route. I would appreciate it if you would treat it as such.
Unit for greater efficiency, quality and resource control.