Margaret Hodge, who chaired the Commons’ public accounts committee in the last parliament, attacked an unaccountable Whitehall “freemasonry” while speaking at Policy Exchange in February, alleging that the PAC has been threatened with break-up if it did not moderate its treatment of civil servants.
Mrs. Hodge’s tenure has been marked by penetrating criticism of civil service management of big projects [a search on this site will find several instances] – also shining a light on big companies, such as Google, whose tax affairs her committee exposed.
A researcher at the Institute for Government think-tank was said to have passed on comments from senior civil servants, one accusing the PAC and the National Audit Office of being “modelled on the red guards”. Another asked: “Should the PAC be broken up?”
In the past, Total Politics has commented: “Aircraft carriers, IT projects, border checks – the slippery Sir Humphreys are forever hiding behind their department’s ministers to avoid proper accountability for the sometimes very expensive decisions they make”.
The FT reported Margaret Hodge’s statement that the sad truth was – in a battle between Whitehall and politicians – civil servants were most likely to win because whereas we are here today and gone tomorrow, they are there for the long term.
As 26,000 civil servants in the Home Office had not been able to keep up with an era where services were delivered by “a plethora of autonomous health trusts and academy schools” and private providers were delivering public services through “a range of fragmented contracts”, Ms Hodge suggested the principle that had worked when there were 28 civil servants in the Home Office was no longer sustainable.
As noted on this site under the ‘reward for failure’ category, Ms Hodge stressed that those responsible for “dreadfully poor implementation” were rarely held to account for their failures and all too often showed up again “in another lucrative job paid for by the taxpayer”.
Next post: an insider’s view from a civil servant
At least, one writes, there will not be the heartache of watching such a team fail – as did the widely hailed Blair and Obama – beset by vested interest and failing to fulfil expectations. Instead on past record there will be:
- more austerity for the ‘have-nots’, continuing as senior bankers flourish – despite causing the economic crash;
- declining public services;
- sub-standard education and training for the young from poorer families;
- ‘aspirational’ housing built on green spaces as council housing lists grow;
- the revolving door between big business and government continuing to spin, ensuring that decisions are made in favour of the rich;
- courting of foreign investment
- more poorly monitored, polluting incinerators;
- permission given for fracking in the politically opposed north;
- exploitation of smaller food producers, favouring food for export;
- lavish expenditure on HS2 and Trident;
- private companies entering the NHS and putting profit first;
- increasing export of armaments, causing mayhem in other countries;
- assistance for America’s military aggression.
And perhaps more: