Leaked letter from the new government Unit for greater efficiency, quality and resource control


Letter to Dr Roy Spendlove,

Miscellaneous Projects

Dear Roy,

               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.


Lucy Doolittle


Unit for greater efficiency, quality and resource control.


  1. lifelogic
    June 16, 2011

    Just halve the number of employees in the state sector now otherwise they will all be writing such letters to each other at our expense for ever more.

    I listened to a section of the Governor of the Bank of England speech (sad I know). He seemed to like to blame world energy and increasing commodity prices for everything. Increasing mainly when measured in the devalued UK currency terms, I assume he means. With the pound still continuing to devalue at 4%+ PA I assume this will continue.

    1. lifelogic
      June 16, 2011

      I see that US solar physicists now predict that the sun is likely to be heading for a prolonged period of low activity.

      So even if you believe the CO2 hypothesis exaggerations and you accept that the world will all hold hands and work in happy unison to reduce CO2 (both rather unlikely I suggest) then you could very well just be making a cold period even worse.

      If you are going to take a so called precautionary principal, it is perhaps best to be fairly certain that you are at least taking it in the right direction.

    2. lifelogic
      June 16, 2011

      Will Chris Huhne ever tell us how many Kilo Watt Hours he has had so far from his house wind turbine. I am sure we are all very interested or perhaps he has something to hide. Does it yet exceed those that were used in the van of the people who fitted it and in its manufacture or perhaps he has just not bothered to look? Surely if he wants us to use these silly things (part paid in government grants) he should at least check that they work in his CO2 terms first – if that is his conjecture and justification for using tax payers money in this way.

      What is his great plan as the government’s “Climate God” if these reduced sun activity forecasts prove to be accurate.

    3. Tim
      June 16, 2011

      This is a national disgrace and proves we don’t really have an elected Government but an elective dictatorship. Narrow issues decided by David Cameron and a small clique. National issues decided by the unelected EU and administered at huge expense by our “leftie” civil service. Maturity = surrender to EU and the left. Public servants are institutionally left wing socialists who have no understanding of patriotism, nationalism or national interest. The whole lot should be sacked and a quarter of the number recruited who have balanced views and the nations needs at its heart. When Mr Redwood?

  2. Mike Stallard
    June 16, 2011

    I really wish that I could laugh at this excellent letter.
    I can’t.
    When you have put two years of your retirement into believing the government about free schools and then seen Lucy Doolittle and Roy Spendlove gently and carefully putting the kybosh onto it, actually, you see red.
    Looking at other comments, not only on this blog, I realise that I am certainly not alone either.

  3. Bill (Scotland)
    June 16, 2011

    Amusing – and unfortunately very reflective of what is going on with the ‘cuts’. Presumably Ms Doolittle is Sir Humphrey Appleby’s married daughter? Her daddy taught her well, if so.

  4. Edward.
    June 16, 2011

    Civil servants run the country, under direction, leadership and control of the EU commission.
    Throughout central government, metropolitan councils, quangos and governmental departments, the money hose pumps – spray on undisturbed since McDoom ran the show.
    13 years of preparation, 13 years of McDoom pumping money into union war chests and 13 years of the good times-a-rolling has emboldened our apparatchiks even more.

    Trouble is, a financial tsunami is about to crash in on all their gilded palaces, rebellion is in the air and the civil servants will be in the firing line.
    Britain is broken, broke and fed up, petty tinkering, strategies and empire protection, strikes and unrest will only make matters worse. There is no sympathy for the apparats at all.

    All round, there is going to be a reckoning.

    1. electro-kevin
      June 16, 2011

      Emptying my green bin every week and perhaps clearing up a bit of litter now and then is all that they would have had to have done to have fooled me that I was getting reasonable value for money.

      But hey ! I work on the railways. I’m a fine one to talk.

      Imagine what a great country this would be if we spent more time doing things right rather than ripping each other off.

    2. REPay
      June 16, 2011

      If only this were true. A lifetime of BBC consumption, left wing teachers and millions of PS jobs, has made most people believe only the state can help them…

      1. lifelogic
        June 16, 2011

        This is true in part but many in the state sector know only too well that they are actually doing nothing useful for anyone.

  5. Caterpillar
    June 16, 2011

    “I am leaving this race with one eye laughing and one eye crying” – Michael Schumacher after the Montreal Grand Prix

    “I am leaving this letter with one eye laughing and one eye crying” – Me after this thought for today, sadly hilarious.

  6. A David H
    June 16, 2011

    It is good to see that you are retaining your sense of humour. I’m not too sure that everyone else is managing so well.

  7. alan jutson
    June 16, 2011

    Think you forgot to include the new purchasing quango now proposed for the HNS, to replace the original proposed services that Doctors were to purchase directly, which was to replace the existing Primary Health Care Trusts which are regional, and not National at all, or have I got that wrong.

    I am now so confused about the proposed NHS changes, I think I need medical advice.

  8. Geoff not Hoon
    June 16, 2011

    I may be repeating myself but the letter, probably like half of Whitehall, reminds me of the Yes Minister episode of the hospital without a single patient but the management and admin were working flat out writing memo’s to one another and attending meetings discussing the need for more meetings and of course more staff.

  9. Gary
    June 16, 2011

    Yes, Animal Farm. We have arrived. And all it takes is a PR man in charge to sell it.

  10. Winston Smith
    June 16, 2011

    JR. I understand your frustration and despondency over the failings and direction of the current Conservative leadership. Now is not the time to sit on your hands moaning. The nation is crying out for a new Party, whether that be an amalgamation of existing fringe parties or a new entity. So many of my peers (aspiring lower middle-class) refuse to vote for any of the current lot. As a long-standing Party member I spent a lot of time convincing doubting family and friends to vote Conservative. Now I am deeply angry at the drop of so many manifesto commitments and the outright duplicity and hypocrisy of so many cabinet members. Having known two current MPs I know how their personal political stances, which are wholly Thatcherite, but I also know they are deeply ambitious and will do or say anything to further their careers. Most such MPs are deeply unprincipled. Whilst Cameron and friends are in control, these MPs will be submissive to their whim. Therefore, change from within is impossible.

    I would like to see a group of disillusioned Tory MPs meeting with UKIP to come to thrash out the formation of a new right of centre (for people that need left/right labels) party. Yes, its a big risk that may cost you your seat, but what other political future do you have?

    1. Scottspeig
      June 16, 2011

      I would support this new party.

      I also think that the heavy-weights in the Conservative party would lend a large credibility to the new party too. If done now, then they could carry on in the coalition and last another 4 years building the party too.

    2. Jim Hutchinson
      June 16, 2011

      Well said Winston Smith . As a life long Conservative , this senior partner of the coalition is not the Conservative party I recognise nor voted for as they are subservient to the EU , despite their protestations to the contrary .
      We need someone to take us out of the EU pdq and put the ” Great ” back into Britain . I won’t hold my breath as currently their is no-one on the horizon capable or strong enough to do so .

  11. Richard
    June 16, 2011

    I do enjoy these letters, you should write a modern version of “Yes Minister” as there is more material to use now than ever before.
    I read recently that UK Government spending is now 48% of national income and rising.
    My economics teacher defined socialist/communist countries as ones where over 50% of spending was controlled by the state, so not so long to go now.

    I have also been reading about the history of Russia and the decline into financial chaos of the USSR. The author spoke about the way the original pyramid shaped structure of Russian society had gradually turned upside down over decades; starting with just a small elite at the top with the masses below them and how it had ended up with 80% of the people employed by the state, leaving the 20% to try to pay for it all.
    Sometimes history repeats itself.

  12. Acorn
    June 16, 2011

    Dear Luce
    After the Cab Sec statement yesterday; I have the whole department trying to work out, how a civil servant on median pay of ¬£23,000 needs a pension pot of ¬£500,000. Even the buggers with a spouse getting a 50% on death, only needs ¬£300,000 for two thirds pay as pension. And; that’s with a 3% hike in pension every year. Must assume the Treasury has its own unique Annuity Tables; we do know they are not good at arithmetic.

    We congratulate you on getting this lot of ministers painted into corners in a circular room. They don’t know if their ar**s are bored or countersunk; the tail is now well and truly wagging the dog. The guys at Health are collecting on their winning bets, and looking forward to cruising through the next four years. The great white elephant that is the NHS; has turned into the great white shark and bitten lumps out of the government front bench. We wont see them back in the water anytime soon.

    BTW. The lads reckon that we can get Lady Nine Bins at DEFRA, up to a round dozen. There are some tricks in the EU waste directive that WRAP haven’t used yet. Public hangings for wrong bin use; WRAP (enforcement-ed) Officers for every post code etc, etc.

  13. Bryan
    June 16, 2011

    On reading this letter I firstly checked the date to make sure it was not April 1st. I was not reassured!

    Other than screwing up the plans and schemes of the elected Government what else does the Civil Service do?

    Seems Ms Doolittle is aptly named?

    1. REPay
      June 16, 2011

      That is its aim…Rewatch Yes Minister – I now realize it was a hard hitting undercover documentary. Of course, nowadays Sir Humphrey would be unlikely to have a double first from Oxford. More likely an ex-journalist civil service PRO with social commmitment and Estuary English. Probably vetted by Alastair Campbell a few years back!

  14. Scottspeig
    June 16, 2011

    The biggest concern I had, is that I thought this was a serious letter until reading the comments.

    The fact I think it is so realistic frightens me somewhat.

  15. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    June 16, 2011

    Why should we put more money into the IMF when we are not in the EURO ?

    Don’t these people know what happened when John Major and Norman Lamont attempted to bring our economy into line with Europe – people lost their Jobs and Homes. Negative Equity wiped peoples savings out and the City of London celebrated with bumper profits.

    We do not want to put ANY money in the IMF – it is a fundamentally corrupt – or at last; ill judged method of “Helping” countries out.

    Ask any Greek if they think the IMF is helping Greece. Greece wants out of the EURO and does NOT want to be restricted by IMF conditions. The only way it can escape is outside of the EURO.

    A Country that cannot control it’s own money – controls NOTHING.

    For God’s sake – stop throwing my money – and other tax payers money at this dead donkey called the IMF and the EURO. Stop giving aid to India. And stop cutting public services and educational support for student tuition fees.

    Greece is almost at the point of Civil War because of this vicious debt cycle – partly promoted by the IMF and the European Central Bank.

  16. Julian
    June 16, 2011

    I can’t allow myself to believe that this isn’t a joke; these bureau-chameleons are the characters of nightmares. To find a likeness in reality isn’t right.

    Dr Spendlove & Ms Doolittle… really?

  17. REPay
    June 16, 2011

    I remember Sir Humphrey’s quote – the minister is our PR in government. The coalition is looking wonderfully house-trained…exception Michael Gove?

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