Friday 8 October 2010

Ooooh! Let's Not Be Too Hasty, Now!

Peter Preston bewails the loss of quangos, fearing the baby is about to go down the plughole with all the bathwater:
When 177 quangos perish at a stroke, there are always victims.
Indeed. We're looking forward to seeing them driven before us, and hearing the lamentation of the women. And the men...
But there are a few lessons, too. It's easy enough, examining the long list of quangoid casualties and threatened species, to wave many of them a light-hearted goodbye. Who, in a supposed new age of localism, needs a central advisory panel on local innovation awards? Did the national policing improvement agency stop car-bound constables racing round with sirens blaring? Observe how many of the doomed were basically regulators regulating other regulators in ripe quango areas like medicine and the law.
Well, quite. How better to provide sinecures for all those ex-MPs and former council honchos?
There is, however, a deeper theme here, one we (and David Cameron) may come to rue when the back-covering chaff has been swept away. Of course the quango mountain has been piled too high. Of course, when you scan the people who sit on such bodies, there are uncanny overlaps of the great, the good and the politically willing. But why did Whitehall and Westminster reach for them in the first place?
Because it's an easy way to be seen to be 'doing something'? And because it creates a nice, cozy little niche job for them when the electorate wise up and vote them out?
You can usually (in crude terms) judge an organisation by the number of outside consultants it employs to tell it what to do. The mere act of picking up the phone is often a blank shrug of despair. So, when a crisis breaks, it is creating some sudden strip of organisational sticking plaster to proclaim it solved.
And I can't see any signs that the Coalition is going to be so very different to Labour in this respect...
It's the same old Whitehall, remember, only with fewer back-office boys around: and the same old political instincts, leaving council tax bands well alone. Prepare, then, for a few utterly predictable disasters after this chronicle of the damned. What does the fated Public Guardian Board do? It supervises the public guardian, who defends the legal rights of mentally ill and disabled people (in short, helpless people). Is there anything in recent history to make one suppose that the public guardian, unsupervised, is capable of getting things right every time?

Absolutely not. Sometimes you need belt and braces. Sometimes the defenceless need defending.
Sometimes they do. Certainly, they can't rely on the kindness of strangers authority, now can they? But how come the Public Guadian Board so frequently drops the ball? Is it really worth saving?
Too many facile thumbs down in too speedy and heedless a cull? You can bet on it.
Hey, it's not like Dave's Taliban are blowing up the Bamyan Buddhas, is it? If it emerges that we do need a quango or two, we can always reinstate them. With a much better focus on their role and, more importantly, the right people in place, this time.
Who leaked these bloody plans anyway? It's a disgrace, a betrayal, a threat to national security … I'll report them to Baroness Butler-Sloss and her Security Commission. But oh, they're on the hit list too.
Well, yes. Because they've proved themselves to be about as useless as a chocolate fireguard.

So I'm afraid it's good riddance, quangos. Or at least, a good start...


Woman on a Raft said...

I was checking a government-related website the other day and at the bottom were a cluster of badges such a "Innovators in People" and "Charter Mark".

Now, if I were unprincipled I'd just copy and paste these on the bottom of my website, under the idiotic impression that they might influence people reading it. As far as I'm concerned they do, but only in way arse-antlers make me think about fools and tattoos.

However, experience suggests that somewhere there is an organization which is awarding the trampstamps and that the applicant body is wasting some time and labour filling in a self-assesment, maybe even writing a cheque.

The mark isn't needed and if someone has applied for one, they probably aren't needed either.

Macheath said...

'...seeing them driven before us, and hearing the lamentation of the women'

Sheer, unadulterated brilliance!

JuliaM said...

"...and at the bottom were a cluster of badges such a "Innovators in People" and "Charter Mark"."

Are they still going? My pals in HMRC say they have stopped going for these badges, and recently were told to remove them from any letters and stationery.

Around about the time the morale started going downhill rapidly, following the bungled merger with the Inland Revenue.

A total coincidence, I'm sure... ;)

"Sheer, unadulterated brilliance!"
Not entirely. I had that song in my head all day yesterday!

JuliaM said...

Oh, for an edit button! Blogger, sort it out!

Macheath said...

Re Conan; should have added that much as I enjoyed the reference, the earworm has been with me ever since you first posted it - in fact, I find myself singing it every time I get stuck in traffic.

Sounds as if you have a case of it too.

JuliaM, what have you unleashed?