29 August 2013

The Institute for Government has published Whitehall Monitor 2013 in its continuing series about the implications of UK Government reforms. The  IfG promotes the report as aiming “… to build a systematic framework for thinking about the effectiveness of Whitehall. It focuses on the three elements needed to judge effectiveness: the resources Whitehall has available to it (inputs), what it does with them (outputs) and whether it achieves its goals (outcomes)…”

The report acknowledges the drive for transparency and the accessibility of data but questions the usefulness of much of it.  The criticism is that the data has too few links that explain the effect of Government actions.  An interesting aspect of the input material is of the changes in civil service “headcount and diversity”. Some Departments have had dramatic reductions in staffing, but the ethnicity, gender and disability representation has not improved in the restructured agencies.

Despite the reducing headcount, redundancies must continue on a more rapid scale to meet Government targets for 2015. In the last two years the Department for Work and Pensions has reduced staff by 20,000, the Ministry of Defence by more than 15,000 and a number of  smaller departments, by more than 20% of their 2010 establishment.

The target under the  Civil Service Reform Plan is 380,000.

The Whitehall Monitor highlights the absence of substantive data about the impact of, and difference made by, these input changes.

“…A lack of useable public information on how well Whitehall meets its objectives makes assessing overall government effectiveness ‘an impossible task’…” The IfG wants the Government to make it easier to find out what data is produced by publishing an index of available information, with an explanation of the purpose and coverage of each data set.