24 April 2013

Lord O’Donnell, the former Secretary of the UK Cabinet Office and Head of the Civil Service, is apparently contemplating the role of Governor of the Bank of England.  Baron Gus O’Donnell (“GOD”) had training as an economist. Appointments during his career with both the IMF and the World Bank perhaps indicate appropriate experience.  The current Deputy Governor, the heir apparent, may have a lesser view of Lord O’Donnell’s suitability.  An inference may be that challenges as a cross bench member of the House of Lords have little continuing attraction.

Today, he will deliver an Inaugural Speech as a Visiting Professor at University College.

The speech is titled Building a Better Government: the Political and Constitutional Reforms necessary to build Better Governments. A trailer for the speech suggests that he considers political change to be as important as any contribution of the bureaucracy to better government.

The New Zealand drive for Better Public Services has kept clear of expecting changes by politicians but other aspects have identifiable equivalents to Lord O’Donnell’s proposals. According to the Constitution Unit blog he will make a forthright and political declaration about needing “… to build a consensus for change that will be embraced across the political spectrum. The goal is a noble one: to increase wellbeing sustainably and reduce inequality. Better politics for a better Britain.”  He recommends:

  • A joint Office of Taxpayer Responsibility (OTR) and Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) to cost and evaluate new policies and each major party’s election manifesto.
  • A smarter bureaucracy to make greater use of behavioural sciences to assess the needs and responses of the public for better services.
  • A new agency, along the lines of the Canadian Public Tenders, to ensure the taxpayer doesn’t miss out commercially in negotiations with the private sector.
  • An emphasis on improving wellbeing, rather than just meeting targets, leading to better policies in areas like health and welfare, while living within budget constraints.
  • Reform of the political decision making process, including
    •  training and development opportunities for backbenchers to prepare them for ministerial office, and
    • a way for the centre of government to assess the performance of departments at the political as well as the policy level.
  • A greater diversity among politicians to better represent communities, leading to policies more suited to social diversity.