Headlines: January 18th, 2000

The wide cracks between central government departments are continuing to allow problems to fall through. A Performance and Innovation Unit Report to the Prime Minister concludes that departments are poor at dealing with cross cutting issues such as tackling drug addiction and encouraging sustainable development. There are too many uncoordinated departmental initiatives and unnecessary obstacles to joined-up working.The report was drawn up by a team from the public and private sectors and guided by a Steering Group which included representatives from the Local Government Association, the National Audit Office and the Audit Commission.

The focus of the report is on resolving the tensions and weaknesses within Whitehall. It urges that Ministers and senior civil servants should be given greater incentives to look beyond departmental boundaries and should get credit for leading successful cross-departmental initiatives. The report is critical of the present inward looking approach and stresses the importance of giving greater emphasis to external advice from service users and service deliverers.

Other recommendations include better training in promoting and managing cross-cutting polices and services; more cross-cutting budgets; encouraging Parliament and public sector auditors and inspectors to respond to new approaches to cross-cutting working and innovative accountability arrangements and giving more support from the centre (No 10, Cabinet Office and Treasury) to cross-cutting policy making and service delivery.

Link http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/innovation/1999/wiring/coiwire.pdf