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WHOLE GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE and responsibility for it

posted 7 Aug 2017, 07:49 by Peter Webb   [ updated 7 Aug 2017, 07:59 ]

In August 2017 a Surrey County Councillor emailed: “Council finance is in difficulties but it is Central Government which is causing this by handing out responsibilities without funding”. The ‘Nothing to do with me, guv” syndrome. He is right. Ultimately the Prime Minister, Parliament or the Privy Council is responsible. It is not clear which. Most of funds come in the form of central grants and capped council tax.  Performance must accordingly be judged in the round and as a whole. In fact there is overwhelming recorded evidence of fundamental flaws: 

Politicians’ disinclination to be professionally responsible for the generality of government performance has produced a management void. Disunity between the political and the ‘treasury’ causes uncontrolled debt. This extends to Europe-wide real flaws of principle and in UK downwards to devolution arrangements.   

 The Prime Minister is traditionally not equipped for control of the public finances because not knowing and not managing. The ‘scoreboard is not up to date and budgets are not produced on the same basis. Long out of date figures and suspected qualified audit report have in medieval fashion been withheld  from electors' view during the general election and still haven't appeared. Constant resort to borrowing is not “Living within our means” and weakly suggests a real “magic money tree”. Context for voter understanding is accordingly left blank which is no help to the responsible governing authority. 'Government speak' is confined to a  cash "deficit" only. The true and larger expenditure deficit reflects borrowing from accrued past-service pensions underfunded, and PFI contracts.

 The Treasury and Cabinet Office fail to drive called for method and machinery change. This is as noted by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee report "Accounting for democracy: Making sure Parliament, the people and ministers know how and why public money is spent".  The report opens "The House of Commons is supreme in matters of finance. Parliament can only exercise this supremacy if it understands….." and is fed from below.

 In fact Parliament, the people and ministers don't  know how and why public money is spent! Management accounting is unstructured and open-ended in the management void. There is no budget for comparison. Cabinet Ministers seem not to know what management information they need.  The specification would be properly determined given a fixed Cabinet agenda spot for period Treasury and departmental reports for minuted action or signing off.

 A letter has been forwarded to the Prime Minister stating this case and suggesting a directive to the Treasury and Cabinet Office. At the same time three questions have been forwarded to the Chancellor asking when changes in accounting and reporting will be made.

Peter Webb,
6 Nov 2017, 02:59
Peter Webb,
6 Nov 2017, 02:56