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Major projects report 2019: the road ahead for government’s biggest building schemes

4 hours 4 minutes ago
Feature

All this week, CSW brings you a snapshot of progress on the Government Major Project Portfolio across four categories: military capability, ICT, infrastructure and construction, and transformation and service delivery. This section looks at some of Britain’s biggest building projects

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32 projects, £210bn whole life cost

1 Red | 8 Amber/Red | 18 Amber | 5 Amber/Green

The biggest GMPP classification by whole life cost, the infastructure category includes a number of major road and rail initiatives such as the London Crossrail project. The schemes have an average duration of 11 years, and, alongside the military capability category, infrastructure contributed to a year-on-year decrease in the number of red-rated projects across the whole GMPP. In 2018, the category had three red projects, but this fell to only one in 2019. Indeed, all of projects rated red in 2018 improved – the Department for Transport’s Intercity Express Programme and the Home Office’s much-delayed Emergency Services Network scheme (both from red to amber-red) and DfT’s project to deliver a permanent freight lorry area on the M20 motorway to replace Operation Stack in Kent (red to amber). However, the deterioration in the Crossrail project, which has seen the opening of the line delayed indefinitely, saw its rating fall from amber to red. Before 2018, it had only ever been rated amber-green.

Case studes

A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme | Department for Transport | Whole life cost £1.4bn

Rating: Amber/Green

The biggest road upgrade currently under way in the UK is the project to widen the A14. The main aim of the project is to beef up road connections between the East Anglian ports – which handle much of the UK’s freight trade with Continental Europe – and the West Midlands, where the nerve centre of the UK’s logistics network is located.

The road’s importance in the UK’s freight network is reflected in the fact that HGVs make up just over a quarter of journeys on the A14, compared to a national average of 10%.

This level of heavy goods traffic contributes to significant levels of congestion on the existing road, which is also the major transport artery between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

The upgrade to the A14 is also a planning condition for the go-ahead of the new town being developed at Northstowe in Cambridgeshire, which is one of England’s key growth areas.

The project, which first emerged in 1989, was shelved twice under New Labour before finally being green-lit under the coalition government.

The £1.5bn budget for the A14 upgrade was fixed in 2016 and work officially started in November that year.

The project is designed to upgrade 21 miles of the road by adding new lanes to existing carriageways in both directions.  It includes a new bypass to the south of Huntingdon, which the A14 currently runs through, and a new 750m long viaduct that will lift the road across the Great Ouse river and East Coast rail line.

The first stretch of the upgraded road has been open for about six months.

Mike Evans, a senior project manager at the Highways Agency, tells CSW the aim is for the bypass to open toward the end of the year.

The official target is for the upgraded road to be fully open to traffic by the end of 2020, although the agency is hoping to have completed it by next summer.

Highways England has also applied to DfT for permission for the A14 to be classified as a motorway once the upgrade work is complete.

The IPA rated the project as amber/green in its latest report. This marked an improvement on the previous year when it received an amber rating, with the department saying that “good progress is being made which supports a high level of confidence the scheme will be delivered on time”.

A key lesson from the project has been the advantages of bringing together the contractors working on different stages of the upgrade into a single integrated delivery team.

This has generated considerable spin-off efficiency benefits, Evans says: “We’ve been able to move plant and machinery around to suit the circumstances of the programme.” David Blackman

5G testbeds and trials | Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport | Whole life cost £217m

Rating: Amber/Red

Announced by then-chancellor Philip Hammond in his 2016 Autumn Statement and started in February 2017, this programme aims to support the introduction of fifth generation (5G) mobile technology which will work much faster than current 4G networks.

The programme aims to accelerate the deployment of 5G networks, maximise their productivity and efficiency benefits, create new opportunities for UK businesses and attract inward investment. In March 2018 it funded projects covering agriculture, tourism and internet access in several rural areas; augmented and virtual reality tourism at sites including Bath’s Roman baths; a project exploring 5G’s use with connected and autonomous vehicles; use of the technology to connect areas of Liverpool which currently have limited access to reliable broadband; and use of 5G in two Worcestershire factories.

In September last year DCMS and the West Midlands Combined Authority announced the Urban Connected Communities Project, a large-scale 5G pilot across that region with at least £25m of government money available. This is at an earlier stage, with planning completed in early 2019 and “in-depth market engagement” underway. Projects will cover infrastructure deployment across the region’s seven local authorities and a demonstration of a connected ambulance able to send scans to hospitals.

There is also work on how to provide 5G to rail passengers and road vehicle users and the department has allocated £10m to security, working with the National Cyber Security Centre. It has also announced collaboration with South Korea’s government, which will introduce mobile infotainment services to Seoul’s subway system – both governments are offering £1.2m in grant funding to participating organisations.

The IPA data shows the programme had a slow start, spending just 54% of its planned £79.15m budget in the 2018-19 financial year. In comments released with the data, the department blamed “delays in equipment availability and complex programme setup”, adding that it still expects to deliver on its objectives by the programme’s March 2021 end date.

“Our 5G testbeds and trials programme aims to support the development of new 5G applications and we remain confident it is well placed to deliver its objectives,” DCMS told CSW, adding that the red/amber rating was based on an evaluation that was conducted at an earlier stage of the programme.

The programme has also announced further competitions for funding. One will make £40m available to the logistics and manufacturing sectors. Another, detailed in late August, will make £30m available to support up to 10 rural locations in using 5G for business growth, enhancing people’s lives and encouraging innovation.  SA Mathieson

Crossrail | Department for Transport | Whole life cost £15.5bn

Rating: Red

Crossrail has been in gestation since plans for a new line straddling east and west London were first hatched in the late 1980s, but only recently has delivery seemed to go off track.

The proposal eventually received the go ahead under the last Labour government in 2007 and, until last summer, appeared to be on track for the opening of the core tunnel section, connecting Paddington and Canary Wharf, in December 2018.

But Crossrail Limited (CRL), the company set up by Transport for London to build the project, announced in August 2018 that the opening of the central London section would be delayed.

The project’s chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme and chair Sir Terry Morgan both resigned following the delay’s announcement.

Due to the uncertainties surrounding the project, CRL now says services will not start running on the central London section until a six-month window between October next year and March 2021. This excludes Bond Street station where additional work will be required.

Wolstenholme’s replacement Mark Wild said in August that trial running of services is due to start in the first three months of 2020, but admitted that work to integrate the train operating and signalling systems had yet to be completed.

Engineering experts told CSW that the track record of past rail schemes, such as the even more heavily delayed Thameslink scheme, suggests the biggest headaches usually emerge at the end, when new signalling systems have to be integrated with those used by existing lines and services.

Crossrail’s cost was estimated at £14.8bn, which had been revised down by £1bn in the early phase of the project, before last summer’s delay.

This cost envelope increased to £17.6bn, subsequent to the IPA’s project data including the award of an additional £1.3bn by DfT to the Greater London Assembly and the inclusion of a £750m contingency fund. However the Public Accounts Committee concluded in a recent report on Crossrail that the final cost of the project “still remains unknown”.

PAC criticised Crossrail for splitting the main works into too many separate contracts, and expressed scepticism about DfT’s ability to oversee major rail projects until it had “properly” learnt lessons from the programme.

Despite the delays, Crossrail has not performed badly compared to similar sized mega projects around the globe, according to Nick Davies, programme director of the Institute for Government. “If they bring it in on the new timetable and budget, it will be relatively good compared to other similar sized projects,” he tells CSW.

“The really concerning thing is how poor the communication was and that we got so close to the point it was meant to be open before it was clear that the time and budget weren’t going to be met.

“It’s clear that there has been a significant breakdown of communication somewhere.”  David Blackman

Author Display Name Civil Service World Tags Digital, Data & AI Operational Delivery Project & Programme Management Transformation Categories Science, technology and research Transport Image description PA Twitter Link

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Richard Johnstone

DWP criticised as study claims food bank hikes linked to Universal Credit rollout

4 hours 31 minutes ago
News

Department says data does not prove Universal Credit is to blame for rise in food bank usage, despite previously acknowledging possible link

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The government has been urged to act on “shocking” figures which show a link between how long Universal Credit has been in place in an area and a rise in foodbank use.

Research by The Trussell Trust found that where the benefits scheme has been in place for at least a year, foodbanks in its network had seen a 30% increase in demand.

It also showed the figure rose to 40% over 18 months and then to 48% in areas with Universal Credit for at least two years.

The charity called on ministers to end the five-week wait applicants face before receiving their first payment from the system, which was designed to combine six working-age benefits into one but is yet to be rolled out in full.

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It said the stretch would see more claimants "plunged into poverty" and said that government loans provided as a stopgap were “pushing more people into debt”.

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive, Emma Revie, said: “Universal Credit should be there to anchor any of us against the tides of poverty. But the five-week wait fatally undermines this principle, pushing people into debt, homelessness and destitution.

“Universal Credit was designed to have a wait. Now it’s clear that wait is five weeks too long, and we must change that design.

“The recent Spending Review was a lost opportunity to protect people on the lowest incomes. Our prime minister must take action to end this wait, and help prevent thousands more of us being swept away by poverty."

Although former work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd admitted when she was at the department that the increase in food bank use could be linked to the introduction of Universal Credit, a Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said that Trussell’s data “categorically does not prove that Universal Credit is the reason behind increased food bank usage”.

In a statement, the spokesperson said the report “uses unrepresentative data to reach an entirely unsubstantiated conclusion”.

“With Universal Credit, people can get paid urgently if they need it and we’ve changed the system so people can receive even more money in the first two weeks than under the old system.”

In a Commons statement in February, Rudd acknowledged that “challenges” during the Universal Credit launch may have driven up food insecurity.

“We are committed to a strong safety net where people need it,” she said. "It is absolutely clear that there were challenges with the initial rollout of Universal Credit.

"And the main issue that led to an increase in food bank use could have been the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough.”

The government made changes to Universal Credit rollout in 2018, including an additional two weeks of benefit payments to out of work claimants to bridge the gap before their first Universal Credit payment, but Trussell’s data is based on the rollout since 2015.

The charity later condemned the government’s latest response, insisting that its “food bank referral data is trusted and the best available data on food bank use in the UK”.

It added: “It is very disappointing to see the Department for Work and Pensions’ response to this research. The experiences of people on Universal Credit cannot be denied.

“While the system may work well for many, it’s clear from the evidence of food banks and countless organisations there are also many people being failed.”

Author Display Name Nicholas Mairs and Richard Johnstone. Tags Operational Delivery Policymaking Spending Review Categories Employment Government and politics Society and welfare About the author

Nicholas Mairs is a news reporter for CSW's sister site PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared. He tweets @Nicholas_Mairs. Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Richard Johnstone

Home Office commissions Right to Rent scheme evaluation

4 hours 37 minutes ago
News

Review comes as Home Office prepares to appeal court judgement that found scheme causes discrimination

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The Home Office has handed a contract worth £267,000 to a major UK research agency to carry out an evaluation of the department’s Right to Rent scheme.

BDRC Continental Ltd. has been chosen to lead a review of the scheme, which requires landlords in England to check the immigration status of prospective tenants before letting to them, the department announced in a contract notice yesterday.

The evaluation, announced in March, came after a damning High Court judgement that found the scheme caused landlords to discriminate against both foreign nationals and black and minority-ethnic British citizens.

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The judgement also barred the Home Office from continuing with a planned roll-out of Right to Rent checks to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland without further evaluation of the scheme.

The department has so far published few details of its plans for the review. After the High Court judgement, then-immigration minister Caroline Nokes said her department would was “looking at options for a further evaluation of the operation of the scheme”.

“As part of this, we will look to develop further mechanisms to monitor the operation of the scheme to provide ongoing assurance about its impact,” she said.

CSW understands the review could be modelled on a 2015 evaluation of the Right to Rent pilot, which used surveys, focus groups and mystery shoppers to assess the introduction of the scheme across four West Midlands boroughs before the nationwide rollout. Members of the Right to Rent consultative panel – a group of experts appointed to advise on the scheme – have been critical of the initial review, with one panel member calling it “a bit lightweight”.

The terms of reference for a consultative panel sub-group convened to advise on the process, seen by CSW, confirm mystery shopping will be a core part of the review.

Panel members have urged the Home Office to carry out a full evaluation of the scheme for years, a request that has been repeatedly knocked back. One panel member – David Smith, policy director of the Residential Landlords Association, which backed the High Court case – has said the legal challenge “could easily have been avoided” had the department listened to calls to review the scheme.

“Many of the problems with Right to Rent were made clear repeatedly in meetings at an early stage and these concerns were ignored,” Smith told CSW last month.

The Home Office has not said when the review would be completed, but BDRC Continental’s contract will last until December 2020, according to the public notice.

The company, which bills itself as “one of the UK's leading research agencies, with a track record of helping clients find effective insights to the trickiest challenges”, came out ahead of all the other bidders for the contract in the Home Office’s tender process, according to an award letter.

Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal announced it had set a date to hear the government’s appeal, withh the case will be heard on 14 and 15 January.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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Beckie Smith

Home Office to text no-deal Brexit passport renewal warnings

5 hours 5 minutes ago
News

Department to inform citizens that they may need to renew their passports earlier than expected if UK leaves EU without a deal

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The Home Office is to text one million passport-holders to warn them that a no-deal Brexit could disrupt their travel plans if they fail to renew their passport.

The department said that, in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal, “new passport validity rules will apply for travel to most European countries”.

There are two rule changes of which citizens should be aware, according to the Home Office.

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The first of these is that, from 31 October, any UK passport holders travelling to other parts of Europe will need more than six months left on their passport.

Moreover, if the passport in question was renewed early and, consequently, was issued for longer than the standard 10-year term, this extra time may not count towards the six months.

The new validity rules for UK passport-holders will apply for trips to all other countries in the European Economic Area – with the exception of Ireland – as well as Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Switzerland.

The planned deadline for leaving the EU of 31 October is just over six weeks away. Given that “it will normally take up to three weeks to renew a passport… [and] may take longer if more information is needed”, the government is advising those with imminent European travel plans to check whether they need to take action as a matter of urgency.

“The texts will be sent to those who provided their mobile number when they applied for their current passport,” the Home Office said. “Not everyone provides a mobile number, and contact details may have changed, so even those who do not receive a message should check their passport.”

The department added: “Other advice to people travelling to Europe after Brexit includes getting travel insurance so they are covered for healthcare, making sure they have the right driving documents and getting a health certificate for their pet.”

The text-message spree forms part of the government’s £100m ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ comms campaign, which includes a dedicated website and online questionnaire.

Author Display Name Sam Trendall Tags Brexit Digital, Data & AI International Affairs & Security Operational Delivery Categories International Relations Science, technology and research About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology, where a version of this story first appeared.

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Richard Johnstone

Forget blunders – here’s what we can learn from great policy successes

1 day 3 hours ago
Opinion

Mallory Compton and Paul ’t Hart argue that knowing what went wrong in the past doesn’t always help governments get things right in the future

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Women mark International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer in Jakarta, Indonesia, on the anniversary of the signing of the Montreal Protocol. Photo: Xinhua/Veri Sanovri

It’s easy to get the impression that governments are incompetent, slow, inefficient, unresponsive to ordinary citizens’ needs, and prone to overreach and underdeliver – particularly with Brexit as the public’s main measure of competence.

But most of the time, the bulk of public projects, programmes and services don’t perform badly at all. Sometimes they do spectacularly well. Sadly, these cases rarely receive attention.

Looking at the negative doesn’t always help us understand the possible. In policymaking, and as citizens, we hone in on failure, not on the possibilities that could lie ahead, and we don’t value learning from success. Instead, media, political and academic debate are saturated with accounts of policy failures.

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This institutionalised focus on endemic failure risks producing a “learned myopia” in how we observe, debate, and assess our systems of governance. As public policy researchers, we need to shift the focus. We need to transform how we teach, research and discuss policymaking – by seeking to learn as much from positive outcomes as we do from failures. In Great Policy Successes, we do this through 15 case studies of standout public policy accomplishments across a range of countries, sectors and challenges that experts and academics highlighted.

Examples include Brazil’s Bolsa Família cash transfer scheme, built to lift millions out of extreme poverty; Norway’s Petroleum Fund, which has channelled national oil revenues into what has become the world’s biggest national pension fund; the Montreal Protocol global regulatory regime, which has helped the ozone layer recover from decades’ worth of damage; and the UK’s work to frame tobacco as a health concern to build support for the initially unpopular smoking ban.

Each case study in our book is accompanied by a Centre for Public Impact analysis using their Public Impact Fundamentals framework.

We need to learn what worked and why

Studying cases of failure can help us diagnose the causes of policy shortcomings. Studying great policy achievements allows us to identify the circumstances conducive to success. The cases in our book illuminate not only what worked but also why. CPI’s work in helping governments understand how to achieve public impact has demonstrated the value of this approach.

One lesson is that pacing the work of change is a fine art. In many cases, success followed extensive consultation, bargaining, and negotiation over many years. Copenhagen’s highly successful urban planning regime has evolved over half a century, for example, while the revitalisation of Melbourne took shape over two decades. Both were iterative processes.

“Talking about what went wrong and dressing up evidence about what will work better is appealing and even vote-winning, but it is rarely a good idea”

Secondly, strategic politicisation and top-down leadership can help – sometimes. Former prime minister Tony Blair’s public commitment and personal resolve to reduce NHS waiting times is an example of the politicisation of the status quo in a policy domain providing momentum for change. But top-down political willpower isn’t always enough. Faced with the existential challenge of how to ensure there is still a country left to inhabit if sea levels rise and the rivers swell, the Dutch government turned depoliticisation into an art form. It empowered a studiously apolitical authority to operate as a “consensus architect” to tap local knowledge and forge broad support for smart and pragmatic solutions.

Thirdly, many cases made judicious use of inclusive and exclusive participation strategies. In consensual democracies such as Denmark and the Netherlands, inclusive consultation, deliberation and codesign is second nature to policymakers and offers a reliable solution to what could easily become political deadlock. CPI and Engage Britain’s new report Tackling Challenges Together will have more on this. But even in less consultative political systems, such as Australia’s, it was the incorporation of grassroots voices and initiatives the policy mix that drove Melbourne’s regeneration success. By contrast, New Zealand’s remarkable economic turnaround in the mid-1980s and early 1990s was engineered by a relatively closed circle of politicians and Treasury bureaucrats, working in what was a strictly majoritarian and unicameral political system.

Tipping the odds in your favour  

So what increases the odds of success? Some point to one-size-fits-all solutions such as “evidence-based policy”, “behavioural economics” or codesign. But they should think again. Our study demonstrates that there are many different pathways to successful public policy, including: a confluence of seemingly disparate initiatives across different domains; alliances between strange bedfellows; or knowing when to push forward and when to wait. The challenge is to sort out what combinations of design practices, political strategies and institutional arrangements are both effective and appropriate in context – because we’ve seen that there is no “best way”.

Talking about what went wrong and dressing up evidence about what will work better is appealing and even vote-winning, but it is rarely a good idea. And with institutional memory and nuance becoming things of the past, these case studies demonstrate that focusing on failures at the expense of understanding successes will, in the end, not bring us the imaginative and smart governments we so badly need. 

Author Display Name Mallory Compton and Paul ‘t Hart About the author

Mallory Compton (Texas A&M University) and Paul ‘t Hart (Utrecht University) are the co-editors of Great Policy Successes with the Successful Public Governance research team at Utrecht University. The Centre for Public Impact is a global not-for-profit foundation dedicated to helping governments to bring about better outcomes for people. This collection of case studies and others like them can be found on The Public Impact Observatory website.

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Beckie Smith

Home Office slammed over 'staggering' rush to accuse international students of cheating

1 day 3 hours ago
News

Committee says design of visa system "left it open to large-scale abuse"

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The Home Office "rushed" to accuse international students of cheating in English language exams without checking whether the evidence against them was reliable, a scathing report by MPs has concluded.

The cross-party Public Accounts Committee said the department had shown a "staggering" lack of concern for the welfare of those affected by "systemic failure by a private company", as they drew parallels with the Windrush scandal.

The latest report from the committee focuses on a crackdown launched by the Home Office in the wake of a 2014 BBC Panorama documentary which exposed cheating on the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC).

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The test – run at the time by the American firm ETS – was used to support visa applications to ensure those studying in the UK had a sufficient understanding of the English language, and the department took action against over 50,000 individuals following the documentary alleging wrongdoing.

But PAC found that hundreds and "possibly thousands" of those removed from the country by the Home Office "continue to protest their innocence". It said 12,500 appeals have been heard by the courts since 2014 – 40% of which have been successful at tribunal.

The committee said the way the Home Office designed the visa system "left it open to large-scale abuse", and accused the department of having "rushed to penalise students without establishing whether [exams provider] ETS was involved in fraud or if it had reliable evidence of people cheating".

While the department "acted swiftly against thousands of individuals by cancelling their visas, refusing pending applications or inviting them for interviews", the MPs said it had failed to carry out  "a thorough investigation of what had happened or whether the evidence ETS provided was reliable".

The committee said the Home Office had "been quick to act on imperfect evidence, but slow in responding to indications that innocent people may have been caught up in its actions".

The MPs added: "The Home Office’s decision to revoke the visas of thousands of individuals before properly verifying evidence provided by ETS has led to injustice and hardship for many people. 

"The department recognises that hundreds of students maintain their innocence but continues to suggest that there is only a small risk that people have been wrongly caught up in their actions. We are staggered that the department thinks it is acceptable to have so little regard for the impact its actions might have on innocent people."

The committee has called on the Home Office to set up a "fair and trustworthy means of helping all individuals who may have been wrongly accused" of cheating within the next three months, and ordered the department to carry out a major review of its contracts with overseas providers by early next year.

'Real injustice'

Meg Hillier, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said the government's handling of the affair had "led to real injustice for many thousands of overseas students taking English language tests".

"It beggars belief that despite known flaws in the Tier 4 student visa system, the Home Office designed an English language testing system that failed to recognise the potential incentive for cheating. It was then shocked when widespread cheating did take place," she said.

She added: "And to rub salt into the wounds, shortcomings in the contractual arrangements the Home Office had with its outsourcing partner meant despite incurring £21m in costs, it only recouped £1.6m for the taxpayer – a miniscule sum."

Responding to the report, a Home Office spokesperson said: "The 2014 investigation into the abuse of English language testing revealed systemic cheating which was indicative of significant organised fraud. 

"The scale of the abuse is shown by the fact that 25 people who facilitated this fraud have received criminal convictions totalling over 70 years. The courts have consistently found that the evidence the Home Office had at the time was sufficient to take action."

Author Display Name Matt Honeycombe-Foster About the author

 Matt Honeycombe-Foster is news editor of CSW's sister site PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared.

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Beckie Smith

Treasury more focused on ‘managing the numbers’ than public spending impact, IfG says

1 day 4 hours ago
News

Finance ministry must do more to hold departments to account on public spending value, says think tank

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The Treasury must do more to monitor how the money it allocates is being spent and to ensure it is being spent as effectively as possible, a think tank has said.

In a report this week, the Institute for Government said the Treasury is “too focused on ‘managing the numbers’ – making sure that departments do not spend more than they are allocated” and does not pay enough attention to the impact of that spending.

The think tank has called on the exchequer to “address intended performance with the same thoroughness as it does spending – with much stronger use of data and evidence”, and to set and enforce clear standards for departments on public spending.

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It said at the moment, there is “much cause for concern” about how public spending is used and monitored.

“Spending and accountability are often not adequately lined up; information is not used properly to inform decisions; the government does too little to understand or plan the impact of spending on metro or county areas; spending is planned wastefully; and the government does not explain its intentions clearly,” the report said.

“The Treasury’s current ways of working contribute strongly to these problems,” it added.

The IfG researchers argued that departments are not being given a clear enough indication of the government’s priorities when putting spending decicions into practice. It said No.10 and the Cabinet Office must present departments with a clear, public statement about what it wants to achieve through its spending, and that the Treasury must contribute to the process and ensure it is put into practice.

The IfG researchers also identified a disjointed process between the Treasury and departments in developing Single Departmental Plans. It said departments see SDPs as “being run by the Cabinet Office and as detached from their financial planning conversations with the Treasury”.

This not only makes it difficult to track the impact of spending in individual departments, but also means the Treasury does not have a clear picture of the “combined effect of various spending decisions on public services and different parts of the country”, they said.

The government’s push to embed the Public Value Framework, which departments will use to ensure projects achieve value for money, in SDPs is welcome progress but does not go far enough to fix the flaws in the system, the IfG report argued.

And there are weaknesses in the PVF, among them that the tool is “peripheral to the conversation that departments regard as essential – namely the one with the Treasury about their spending allocation,” the report said.

The report concluded that despite the introduction of measures to improve public spending such as the PVF and SDPs, the Treasury is “not currently doing enough to ensure results are well managed”.

“It still tends to focus on individual policies within departmental boundaries rather than whole-of-government priorities and the quality of departments’ planning. It still does not publish clear enough information on spending or results to allow outsiders, be it parliament or the public, to scrutinise either properly.”

The report stressed that efforts to improve public spending plans must be made transparent. Its authors called on the Treasury to publish more information about its spending plans in an accessible way, including plans drawn up in the next Spending Review and the evidence and analysis underpinning them.

Commenting on the report, IfG senior fellow Martin Wheatley said: “Brexit has wrecked the Treasury’s plans to run a serious spending review this year. It must consistently and seriously focus on how money can be spent to achieve as much impact as possible and at least cost. The recently announced Public Value Framework, while a step in the right direction, is nowhere near enough.”

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Finance Spending Review Categories Government and politics About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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Major projects report 2019: are government tech reforms switched on?

1 day 4 hours ago
Feature

All this week, CSW brings you a snapshot of progress on the Government Major Project Portfolio across four categories: military capability, information and communications technology, infrastructure and construction, and transformation and service delivery. This section looks at projects to improve government ICT for civil servants and citizens 

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27 projects | £10bn whole life cost

1 Red | 9 Amber/Red | 12 Amber | 3 Amber/Green | 2 Green

The smallest category in the GMPP by both number of projects and whole life cost, the ICT project basket is home to schemes to upgrade tech and digital services across government. Schemes range from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' Unity Programme to replace the ministry's tech services, to the Home Office’s biometrics programme.

Like the transformation portfolio, the number of schemes under the ICT heading has fallen since 2015, from 48 to 27, reflecting that a number of major digital schemes have been completed in recent years, for parts of government as varied as the Student Loans Company to an ICT procurement programme for the Crown Prosecution Service

There was one red-rated ICT scheme in 2019, compared to none in 2018, with GOV.UK Verify moving into the red from a previous amber rating. There were also more amber-red rated projects (nine, up from seven). However, there were also two green-rated projects in the category, when there none in 2018.

Case studes

Technology Communications Capabilities Development programme (CCDP) | Home Office | Whole life cost not disclosed

Rating Green

The Home Office’s CCDP supported police, spies and other public authorities to access digital communications. As the green rating indicates, it has been successfully delivered, ending early on 31 March 2018, two years before its original 2020 end date. Its work has since transferred to the Communications Data and Lawful Intercept Service Partnership.

According to the most recent data, CCDP started on 1 May 2010. However, it can be seen as a rebadging of the Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP), first launched in April 2006 under the last Labour government, and which has major projects data from 2014. The initial IMP plans would have created a central database of all UK internet and telephone communications data – including email headers, websites visited and telephone billing data, although not actual content – allowing for state analysis of everyone’s online and phone activity.

In 2009, following criticism on privacy grounds, then-home secretary Jacqui Smith said the data would instead be held by communications service providers with public authorities applying for access when needed. Service providers would be paid to hold this data (which they often already retained for purposes such as billing) with a total cost to the government of £2bn over 10 years.

The coalition government continued with this model for CCDP, along with greater openness and oversight of state surveillance. According to the most recent report by the investigatory powers commissioner Lord Justice Fulford, more than 500 public authorities are authorised to apply for communications data and they acquired 758,000 such items in 2017, with the vast majority of applications made by law enforcement (92.6%) and intelligence agencies (6.5%). The number of applications has risen since 2010 when 553,000 requests were made, but has been stable for the last couple of years.

The Home Office has released little information on CCDP. In May 2014 the Major Projects Authority rated it amber-red for the 2013-14 fiscal year, “due to uncertainty around communications data legislative proposals and potential issues with long term affordability”. It added: “The programme has, however, re-focused effort under existing legislation and has re-scoped accordingly taking forward work with stakeholders in priority areas.” Later assessments of the project showed gradual improvement to green in the most recent iteration.

Following the programme, the Communications Data and Lawful Intercept Service Partnership has been formed to maintain the capabilities across government. As of April this year, 85 civil servants in the Home Office are directly contributing to the CDLI partnership.  SA Mathieson

Unity programme | Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs | Whole life cost £1bn

Rating Amber

UnITy is a programme to revamp ICT services across Defra, and a number of the key agencies that it sponsors.

It replaces the previous arrangements under which services were delivered via separate contracts by Capgemini and IBM to the Environment Agency and Defra respectively.

These big contracts are being replaced by a multi-supplier model, disaggregating the existing arrangement in line with the long-established government priority to move away from monolithic contracts. The new services will operate across the Environment Agency, Rural Payments Agency, Natural England, Marine Management Organisation and the Animal and Plant Health Agency alongside Defra.

As well as more flexible contracts, this multi-supplier model aims to deliver more modern ICT, supporting new ways of working and enabling the department to move from its current reliance on in-house data centres and regionally dispersed server rooms.

According to Defra’s director of group infrastructure and operations Chris Howes, hosting its applications in the cloud will enable the department and its agencies to better increase and decrease capacity in line with ebbs and flows of demand.

This will in turn help Defra, which is the lead department on sustainability across government, to contribute towards the 2020 Greening Government Commitments.

The IPA’s most recent review gives the project, which is scheduled for completion by 2020-21, amber status.

The rating is based on the grounds that the programme faces significant risks. The inherently complex nature of breaking up large-scale contracts is compounded by other departmental reforms and by Brexit, according to the department’s submission to the IPA.

In April last year, Defra announced that it had agreed a 17-month contract extension with IBM to help it cope with application development pressures surrounding Brexit, with an estimated cost to the department of around £30m.

But the high-level plan for UnITy continues to make “significant progress” with all key service procurements having successfully completed to schedule, according to Defra’s submission to the IPA. It also concluded that implementation has begun on all of the programme service contracts.

However, the year-on-year phasing of costs has been reprofiled following a 31% increase for 2018-19.

This was due to what the department described as “significant” investment during the last financial year. This variance has not though materially changed the whole life costs of the programme, which is on track to deliver savings forecasts.  David Blackman

GOV.UK Verify | Cabinet Office | Whole life cost: £209.6m

Rating Red

GOV.UK Verify is one of just four major projects with a red rating indicating that successful delivery appears unachievable. In some respects this is surprising, given that Verify already provides millions of people with a way to access online government services. Users choose a commercial organisation that will verify their identity, such as by viewing passports or driving licences, and get a multi-purpose log-in.

“Verify is a world-leading example of how to enable people to use services securely online, and demonstrates that the government is working at the forefront of new technology,” said a Government Digital Service spokesperson. “To date, over 4.5 million accounts have been created and Verify has been used to process over 12m secure transactions.”

“The vast majority of use cases for digital ID exist in the private sector” Lisa Barnett, GDS

But these numbers are far below the project’s original ambitions. GDS started public trials of its predecessor, the Identity Assurance Programme, in October 2014 at which point it expected to eventually support 100 government services. Two years later this had been pruned to 46 services by March 2018, with fees paid by government departments making it self-funding. It also expected 25 million users by 2020 – but is less than one-fifth of the way to reaching that.

Earlier this year, the National Audit Office said Verify only supported 19 government services (GDS has since added one more, allowing health service employees to claim NHS pensions). At least 11 could be accessed in other ways, many through HM Revenue and Customs’ Secure Credential Platform, which has recently taken over from its Government Gateway system. When Defra and the Rural Payments Agency attempted to use Verify in 2014, many users reported difficulties with the system, leading the department to bring in its own interim solution – which is still in use.

Verify’s failure to attract users, both citizens and departments, means it has failed to save money. Its 2016 business case projected benefits to the government of £873m for 2016-20; this has since been cut to £217m. The NAO concluded that it showed many of the common failings of major programmes “including optimism bias and failure to set clear objectives”.

Red status also indicates a project in need of re-scoping, and the Cabinet Office is doing just that, having said in October 2018 that it would stop funding Verify in March 2020 with the hope of shifting responsibility to the private sector. In June, minister Oliver Dowden announced a call for evidence on the digital identity market, open until 15 September, with ideas including the use of Verify for loan or credit card applications.

“Looking at ways to scale, we have found that the vast majority of use cases for digital ID exist in the private sector,” wrote Lisa Barnett, who GDS recently appointed to lead on digital identity. She added that fewer than five million users is “only a small proportion of what’s possible”. The question is whether Verify can attract enough business, both from the private and public sectors, to make it sustainable. SA Mathieson

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Home Office urges civil servants to volunteer with the police

1 day 4 hours ago
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Civil servants offered extra leave to volunteer as special constables in drive to sign up officials

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The Home Office has today called on civil servants to sign up to volunteer as special constables with their local police force after 19 government departments agreed to expand the paid leave available.

Civil servants volunteering as special constables will get up to 12 days' paid special leave a year to spend with their local police force, in a move coordinated by the Home Office. Currently the leave available varies between departments, and can be as little as five days.

The Cabinet Office and the Treasury are among the 19 departments to have signed up, while the Home Office has also provided central guidance to support civil servants who want to become special constables. These voluntary officers have many of the same powers as their regular colleagues, wear the same uniform and, if permitted by their force, drive the same vehicles as full-time police officers.

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For the first time, guidance sets out information on how to apply, who is eligible and the types of roles available, and support in one place.

The effort to get civil servants to sign up comes as the department begins its drive to recruit 20,000 more police officers to fulfil a key pledge made by prime minister Boris Johnson, which will reverse cuts made since 2010.

Launching the volunteering initiative, cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill said officials who volunteer “are citizens who serve twice”.

“I hope that colleagues from across the civil service will follow the lead of those from the Home Office who’ve become special constables – warranted police officers who keep their fellow citizens safe – developing their own skills and leadership too.”

Home Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam added: “Special constables play a pivotal role in meeting some of our most important priorities: tackling knife crime, safeguarding the vulnerable and keeping the public safe.

“Civil servants who take this opportunity will gain professionally and get an insight into frontline policing, which will be valued across government."

One civil servant who has served as a special constable, Peter Brown of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said people should not hesitate to “give it a go”.

“I’ve been a special constable for five years and yet every day has been different – from working beats and leading teams to helping manage the deployment of officers.

“Having 19 departments offering this special leave policy to support the work of special constables is a big step forward.”

The Home Office is hosting a Q&A session about life as a special constable on Friday 20 September at its Marsham Street headquarters between 2.15pm and 3pm.

The full list of government departments offering 12 days of paid special leave a year are:

  • Cabinet Office
  • Civil Service Fast Stream
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
  • Department for Culture, Media and Sport
  • Department for Education
  • Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
  • Department for Exiting the European Union
  • Department for International Development
  • Department for International Trade
  • Department of Health and Social Care
  • Department for Transport
  • Department for Work and Pensions
  • Foreign Office
  • Government Legal Department
  • Home Office
  • MI5
  • Ministry of Justice
  • Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
  • Treasury
Tags Justice and Public Safety Leadership & Management Operational Delivery Partnership working Categories Government and politics Public order, justice and rights About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Major projects report 2019: is the government on the right track to boost military capacity?

2 days 2 hours ago
Feature

All this week, CSW brings you a snapshot of progress on the Government Major Project Portfolio across four categories: military capability, information and communications technology, infrastructure and construction, and transformation and service delivery. First up, this section looks at three MoD projects to boost military capability

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31 projects | £138bn whole life cost

1 Red | 8 Amber/Red | 16 Amber | 3 Amber/Green | 3 Exempt

The element of the GMPP with the longest lead-in time – 15 years – the military capability category is focused on providing new equipment and technology for the armed forces, with all projects led by the Ministry of Defence.

The longevity of the area is illustrated by the fact that 14 of the 28 military capability projects that were part of the GMPP in 2012-13 still remain on the GMPP in 2018-19. And while it has the second lowest number of schemes of the four GMPP categories – at 31, it has only four more projects than the ICT category – it has second highest whole-life cost, at £138bn. This is nearly 14 times more than the cost of the ICT schemes.

All but one of military schemes rated red in 2018 have improved this year. The Protector programme to deliver a remotely-piloted air system moved from red to amber-red, while a further two – the design, development and manufacture of Astute class submarines and the core production capability programme to deliver nuclear reactors for the Royal Navy – moved to amber. The Marshall programme, intended to deliver sustainable air traffic management capability, saw the biggest improvement, improving from red to amber-green in a year, .

Data on three projects is exempt on national security grounds: the Joint Crypt Key Programme to improve the MoD's information security, the Nuclear Warhead Capability Sustainment Programme, and development of the Type 31e warships programme.

Case studes

Clyde Infrastructure Programme | Ministry of Defence | Whole life cost £1.7bn (All figures IPA data, unless otherwise stated)

Rated Amber/Green

This is one of the MoD’s newer projects, having only been established in 2015, but it has a huge challenge to meet. The programme is charged with redeveloping HM Naval Base Clyde to enable it to become home to the UK’s entire submarine fleet.

Its aims include providing “infrastructure that is fit for purpose” to enable the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent to function until at least 2067, as well as “the establishment of a submarine centre of specialisation from 2020”.

The scope includes all capital infrastructure projects at the Faslane nuclear base and the armaments depot at Coulport.

These range from docking facilities and weapons processing to protecting the sites, providing submarine training, roads and living accommodation.

Last year VolkerStevin, Kier Graham Defence and Morgan Sindall were announced as the key contractors on the project.

The MoD’s commentary on the IPA data says: “Infrastructure on track to be delivered within the whole life cost budget over the duration of the Clyde Infrastructure Programme.”

MoD permanent secretary Sir Stephen Lovegrove, in a letter to Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier in January, said that despite being “challenging”, the programme was “assessed as deliverable with the incremental delivery of benefits occurring as new or upgraded facilities are completed”.

He added: “The programme is currently transitioning from the delivery of new build infrastructure facilities, to a greater emphasis on the more challenging refurbishment and midlife refit of existing operational facilities.”

Some £227m has so far been spent on the project, which has an end date of March 2024.

Trevor Taylor, professorial research fellow at think tank the Royal United Services Institute, cautions that costs could spiral due to circumstances outside the MoD’s control, such as changes in the regulations governing nuclear safety.

“The regulatory side of nuclear infrastructure programmes has caused issues before at Devonport, and there are some suspicions that the Faslane infrastructure needs to catch up from a period of relative neglect,” he tells CSW.

The decision to concentrate Britain’s entire submarine force on the Clyde “makes a lot of sense at both the military and economic levels” according to Chris Bellamy, professor emeritus of maritime security at the University of Greenwich.

“However, there is one wild – or not-so-wild – card,” he adds. “What happens if Scotland becomes independent? I suspect what we might see is the remainder of the UK leasing the Clyde submarine bases from Scotland, much as the Russians leased Sevastopol from Ukraine until they took the peninsula over.”  Jonathan Owen

Project Marshall | Ministry of Defence | Whole life cost £1.8bn

Rated Amber/Green

Concerns over the decrepit state of defence air-traffic infrastructure led to the Joint Military Air Traffic Services project, which began in 2006.

An assessment phase was approved in 2008 and completed the following year.

The project is ambitious in its scale and scope, seeking to create a defence air-traffic system that is fit for purpose, including the replacement of obsolete equipment.

In 2010 it was renamed Project Marshall and the following year a tender for the contract was issued. This was awarded to Aquila Air Traffic Management Services – a joint venture between National Air Traffic Services and Thales – in 2014.

Around 80 contracts have been merged into one service contract and the project is tasked with providing air-traffic management services at more than 100 locations in the UK and overseas, including 65 airfields. It is also investing in advanced equipment and infrastructure to replace ageing radars and control centres.

Progress has been patchy. The project was rated red last year, indicating the difficulties it was in.

The IPA’s 2018 report revealed that it had missed its initial operating capability milestone. The project had to seek re-approval from the Investment Appraisals Committee and planned to “reset the contractual baseline to a taut, realistic and deliverable schedule.”

The end point is now 2024, four years later than previously envisaged.

Earlier this year it emerged that there had been clashes between the MoD and Aquila over the project. Gemserv, a professional services firm, stated: “To prevent project failure, we were appointed by Aquila to undertake a fundamental review in order to turn the project around and successfully deliver the intended benefits whilst avoiding any costly and potentially public dispute.”

Fundamental changes were made to the project plan, including the reprioritisation of “key and non-dependent deliverables to meet deadlines,” according to the company.

The project has made significant progress over the past year, reflected in its rating improving from red to amber/green, and this summer it was expected to mark a major milestone.

The departmental narrative on the IPA data says the project “is scheduled to deliver initial operating capacity two months and full operational capacity 18-24 months ahead of our approval dates (30 June 2019 and 31 December 2024 respectively).”

At the time of writing the MoD was unable to confirm whether the 2019 milestone had been reached.

Trevor Taylor, professorial research fellow at RUSI, says: “The integration of dozens of contracts, information systems, technologies and geographic locations was never going to be an easy ask and real risk was and is unavoidable.”  JO

Armoured Infantry 2026 | Ministry of Defence | Whole life cost £1.5bn (MoD equipment plan)

Rated Red

This is a project that has been rated red – which means that successful delivery appears to be unachievable – for the past two years.

It aims to “deliver an armoured infantry that is more capable, with significantly enhanced lethality, upgraded situational awareness, better integration with dismounts and improved combined arms cooperation”, according to the IPA’s project profile.

The project is the latest umbrella for the long-running Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme, announced in 2009.

In 2011 Lockheed Martin was awarded a development contract to provide new Warrior infantry fighting vehicles for the Army, with an expected in-service date of November 2018.

The contract was reset in March 2014 in an attempt to ensure that the new vehicles would be in service by 2020.

But continued problems in testing and development have resulted in the timescale and costs increasing further.

The project is now running at least three years late, with costs having increased by £227m. This means that the initial whole life cost of £1.3bn is currently projected to rise to more than £1.5bn, according to the 2018 defence equipment plan.

“Value for money is yet to be indisputably proven given that the demonstration phase is not yet complete” Sir Stephen Lovegrove on Armoured Infantry

In a letter to Meg Hiller, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, earlier this year, MoD permanent secretary Sir Stephen Lovegrove admitted the project is “not achievable within the original 2011 parameters”.

However, he added: “Early difficulties in the demonstration phase are now being overcome. A major contract renegotiation in 2017 re-baselined the programme and it has since been robustly managed to prevent further cost growth and ensure the prime contractor meets its obligations.”

By June this year, trials of test vehicles “should have proved that the design is safe, reliable and meets the department’s requirement, leading to the start of manufacture negotiations and subsequently a further submission to commit to manufacture in early 2020,” Lovegrove said.

“Value for money is yet to be indisputably proven given that the demonstration phase is not yet complete nor a manufacture deal agreed,” he added.

It will not be until next year at the earliest that the MoD will be in a position to consider ordering upgrades needed to extend the life of Warrior vehicles due to come to the end of their service life in six years’ time.

RUSI’s Trevor Taylor comments: “There seem to be technical issues here and also questions of whether it is worthwhile to spend on an old chassis in the numbers involved.”  JO

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DIT perm sec launches investigation after department flouts Saudi Arabia military sales ban

2 days 3 hours ago
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Probe comes after trade secretary apologises "unreservedly for the error" in granting two licences

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A man walks in front of buildings destroyed by airstrikes in Dhamar province, Yemen, on Sept. 4, 2019. Photo Wang Wei Xinhua News Agency PA Images

Department for International Trade permanent secretary Antonia Romeo had launched an investigation after the department approved the sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, despite a pledge not to allow the export of goods that could be used in the civil war in Yemen

International trade secretary Liz Truss revealed the breach of DIT's undertaking in a letter to the House of Commons Committee on Arms Export Controls.

The UK suspended arms sales to Riyadh earlier this year after the Court of Appeal ruled that ministers had failed to assess whether the weapons could be used against civilians in the long-running Yemeni war.

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In a letter to MPs, Truss said she had informed the court of "two inadvertent breaches" of a vow by her predecessor Liam Fox not to "grant any new licences for the export of arms or military equipment to Saudi Arabia for possible use in the conflict in Yemen". These included a license for £435,450-worth of radio parts that was issued for use by Saudi land forces in July, while a licence for a £200 air cooling system for a land force vehicle had also been authorised by her department.

“I have apologised to the court unreservedly for the error in granting these two licences," Truss told the committee.

Romeo has launched a full investigation to establish the precise circumstances in which these licences were granted and whether any others had been awarded. The probe will also examine the procedures in place to prevent further mistakes.

Truss said: “During the course of this investigation, all decisions made on licences for the export of military goods to [the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] and its coalition partners will be subject to additional compliance processes to ensure that no further licences are issued in error for possible use in the conflict in Yemen.”

Shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner said Truss must “provide a full account of why her department failed so miserably”, adding that if she cannot control her department, she should resign.

He added: “The department has failed to conduct proper assessments and essential information is not being relayed between government departments."

"The people of the United Kingdom do not want to be complicit in fuelling the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the secretary of state must immediately suspend all arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Thousands of people have been killed in this war and it is staggering that the trade secretary thinks an apology will get her off the hook.”

The United Nations estimates that the conflict in Yemen – which pits its Saudi-backed government against Houthi rebels – has cost more than 7,000 civilian lives and left 80% of its population in need of humanitarian assistance or protection.

Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, which brought the original court case against the government, said the breaches undermined the government's claims that it has "rigorous and robust" arms export controls.

“The reality is that, no matter how appalling the crisis in Yemen has become, the government has always been far more concerned with arms company profits than it has with the rights and lives of Yemeni people," he added.

Author Display Name Matt Honeycombe-Foster and Richard Johnstone Tags International Affairs & Security Leadership & Management Legal & Constitutional Procurement & Commercial Categories Government and politics International Relations Public order, justice and rights About the author

Matt Honeycombe-Foster is the news editor of PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared.

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Bonus blow to Fast Stream civil servants despite Brexit burdens

2 days 4 hours ago
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£225 cuts to some payments comes as graduates take on demanding, EU exit-critical roles, FDA says

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Bonuses for civil service fast streamers have been reduced, despite officials in the scheme playing a key role in government’s preparation for Brexit, the FDA trade union has revealed.

The union told CSW that cuts to the performance awards for the around 1,300 graduates who enter the Fast Stream programme, which is intended to create future leaders for the civil service, every year risked taking some of the government's best and brightest recruits for granted. 

In 2018, those who “exceeded” expectations and objectives received a £1,123 bonus, while those who “met” them got £385.

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Under the revised structure, those who exceed expectations will be given only £963. “High performers” will receive £385, while a third category of “achievers” will only get £160 – a potential reduction of £225 from last year, although the number of people who receive the awards will not be known until next year.

The FDA’s fast stream committee called on the Cabinet Office to reassess the approach.

In an email to members, the committee said: “This is particularly disappointing for those on the second year of the scheme, many of whom will have gone 'above and beyond' in their first year on the scheme in demanding, EU exit-critical roles only to find that they now have been rewarded with what is in effect a pay cut.

“At a time when the civil service is faced with delivering the biggest national challenge since the Second World War, and Fast Stream civil servants in particular have had extraordinary demands made of them, the decision to devalue the performance awards is unacceptable. It is devaluing dedicated public servants.”

FDA national officer Steven Littlewood said that the government needs the skills, energy and commitment of fast streamers to deliver Brexit.

“Taking these civil servants for granted is poor policy and cutting their performance awards is a false economy. The minimal saving are not worth the morale cost. The government needs to rethink its strategy and stop gambling with fast streamers’ good will.”

The bonus blow to Fast Stream officials comes after the FDA revealed in March that two-thirds of fast streamers are so unhappy with their pay that they have “seriously considered” quitting the hugely sought-after programme.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told CSW: “This pay award was negotiated with trade unions.

“Fast streamers enjoy many of the civil service benefits on offer and their pay is currently being reviewed, which the unions are being engaged on.”

Tags Brexit HR Operational Delivery Categories Government and politics About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Latest leak reveals trucks to be turned away from ports in no-deal Brexit

2 days 4 hours ago
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All "non-compliant" vehicles without correct paperwork to be turned away at some ports, leak reveals

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Michael Gove, Cabinet Office minister in charge of no-deal Brexit preparations, visits Holyhead port. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA

Disruption at ports across the country could be worse than previous estimates published by the government, it has emerged.

As many as two-thirds of trucks exporting goods to the EU via some UK ports could be prevented from crossing the border, according to documents drawn up by the Department for Transport and leaked to the Financial Times.

Documents published this month detailing a reasonable worst-case assessment of the impact of a no-deal Brexit as part of the government’s Operation Yellowhammer contingency planning said there would be a “low risk of significant sustained queues at ports outside of Kent which have high volumes of EU traffic”.

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But the latest leak has revealed there could be queues if thousands of vehicles are turned back at several UK ports because they do not have the right paperwork.

The documents, dated August – the same month as the Yellowhammer dossier – suggest around two-thirds of vehicles arriving at ports in Liverpool, Holyhead and Portsmouth with the hope of crossing the border could be deemed “non-compliant”.

“One hundred per cent of non-compliant vehicles will be turned away, which means the resulting flow rate is 29% at Holyhead, Heysham and Liverpool, and 32% at Portsmouth,” it says.

The documents did not set out how these checks would affect traffic near the ports. However, they did say that at Portsmouth, “local arrangements preventing HGVs that have been turned back from blocking inbound flow” would be needed to keep imports moving smoothly.

And at Dover, the documents estimate, disruption at the port could lead to queues of up to 8,500 vehicles, lasting for up to two days in the worst cases, according to DfT’s assessment.

The Yellowhammer documents estimated the “flow rate” through Dover could drop to 40-60% of normal levels for up to three months.

And arlier this month, the former head of the government’s Border Planning Group, said that some disruption was likely even in a reasonable best-case scenario, with flow rates of around 70-80% through Dover. “But even in those circumstances, which seem just as unlikely as a reasonable worst case, you would still get delays,” Karen Wheeler told parliament’s Exiting the European Union Committee.

Appearing alongside Wheeler, the chief of the Freight Transport Association, James Hookham, said he was unable to “quantify that reliably” how many of the FTA’s members would have the correct paperwork in time to export goods to France by 1 November.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the leak showed assumptions published in the Yellowhammer documents were “practically meaningless” as they did only provided part of the picture. “Much of the analysis only seems to consider those vehicles which have the correct paperwork and totally overlooks the impact of those HGVs which won’t,” he said.

Responding to the leak, a DfT spokesperson said border disruption would be “limited” if trucks transporting goods to the EU ensure they have the right documents.

“We have implemented a major campaign to ensure hauliers can take action to get ready and are able to operate and that trade can continue to move as freely as possible between the UK and Europe after Brexit,” the spokesperson said.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Brexit Operational Delivery Categories Government and politics Transport About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith

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‘A model across government’: We hear from the award-winning team who recruited 2,500 new prison officers

2 days 6 hours ago
Award

We spoke to the communication insight and evaluation manager of the 2018 Communication Award winners about how strategic use of data led to a highly successful campaign

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In November 2016 the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) committed to recruiting an additional 2,500 prison officers by the end of 2018. Official figures released the month before showed that the number of frontline prison officers had been falling steadily – from 20,000 in 2010, to only 14,607 in September 2016.

A recruitment campaign was implemented to manage the employment drive, with a focus on using data and insight and a multi-disciplinary team.

Ultimately the campaign was successful, and recruited the additional 2,500 prison officers 7 months ahead of schedule.

We asked Giles Gibbins, communication insight and evaluation manager of the team, some questions.
 

Tell us a bit about the project?

The campaign was recognised by the Cabinet Office as one of the highest-performing government recruitment campaigns. Alex Aiken, executive director of the Government Communications Service, praised the department’s overall approach to strategic communications and described the campaign as a model across government. The campaign also won 2 awards; Public Sector campaign of the year by the Association of Measurement and Evaluation (AMEC), and the Communication award in the Civil Service Awards. Judges in both campaigns praised the use and analysis of data.

My role was varied. I work as an evaluation and insight manager in communications and marketing at MoJ and supported the project from a communication and marketing perspective. This meant being responsible for making evidence-based recommendations, alongside carrying out primary research from applicants, colleagues and wider stakeholders, in addition to developing systems to process the vast amounts of communications data.
 

What did you learn from your work on the Recruitment Campaign Team? 

The team had a common goal and was structured to put data at the heart of it. We had colleagues from a wide range of roles, including HR, Communications and Analytical Services, alongside wider suppliers, all working collaboratively. The recruitment campaign project was an opportunity to put theory into practice - for example, data is often said to have 4 uses; Describe, Diagnose, Predict and Prescribe. We used this framework to structure our approach to data (see box-out below). 
 

What was the biggest challenge you faced in this project, and how did you overcome it?

The prison officer recruitment project team was formed at pace, bringing together staff and suppliers who hadn’t worked together before, with a firm deadline. From the outset there was a culture that promoted using data to improve existing processes, underpinned by a common goal and good project management. Staff had agreed roles and responsibilities and new software (Power BI) was purchased to have a single data source. This included anything on the existing workforce to a breakdown of where in the recruitment process each applicant was.

The team were also geographically dispersed, so technology was used to bring everyone together and there were regular social events which enabled us to get to know the broader team.
 

What has happened with the project since you won the award?

Processes have embedded and become viewed as ‘business as usual’, with continued emphasis on data and improvement. We are now harnessing the knowledge learnt during prison officer recruitment on other recruitment campaigns for the wider Prison and Probation Service, and these can be found here.
 

What is your best advice for others building a recruitment campaign?

Look to use a variety of data at every opportunity. We used quantitative data, such as website polling data, and supplemented it with qualitative data from focus groups. We also leant on secondary data sources such as local employment data and data from suppliers, which gave us a much richer insight. The culture of the project promoted using data, but not only internally – we also expected our suppliers to put data at the heart of any decision.
 

The 'Four Uses of Data' in practice:

  • Describing

This was a HR led project and they had a wealth of data including actual vs staff target, turnover rates along with demographic data. This was useful for communications and marketing as it showed there were specific locations that needed marketing support, and this informed the strategy. For example, we approached the work as a series of regional campaigns rather than a national campaign. But we were unsure of wider perceptions about HMPS, and what potential applicants thought about working for the organisation. We commissioned polling, using this data as a Key Performance Indicator. Website data also showed that the recruitment site was getting thousands of visits, but only a few were converting (applying and starting employment).

  • Diagnosing

Data showed that sufficient numbers were starting an application, but insufficient were completing and submitting the application. To understand why, polling and focus groups were commissioned, and these illustrated that the creative proposition ‘Have you got it in you’ was too intimidating, and failed to sell the benefits of the role (career progression and training development, etc.). We used this insight and worked alongside an Agency to develop a new proposition, ‘One Career, Many Roles’, whilst simultaneously developing a new website – using data from the exiting website to inform the design of the new.

  • Predicting

Digital marketing facilitates an understanding of the user journey, so we analysed data to identify which media source yielded the most successful candidates, enabling us to predict the required level of marketing spend. We adopted an agile approach to media buying which included established channels such as job boards, social, and programmatic, alongside untested channels such as mobile apps and Gumtree. We would regularly review the data and move budgets accordingly.

  • Prescribing

Data provided insight that could be acted on immediately, such as the need to improve the reputation of the Prison Service. We structured the team so that there was a dedicated member of staff working with local media to highlight the variety and benefits of working as a prison officer. But data also asks questions that need longer consideration. The time it was taking for candidates to progress through the process was increasing, and our data identified the blockages. This led to process improvements such as changing the content and language in the emails candidates receive from the application system.

The 2019 Civil Service Awards shortlist will be announced on the 10th October. More information can be found here.

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Trio of leaders sought to build ‘data-led DfE’

2 days 12 hours ago
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Department recruiting for three senior managers in new-look data directorate

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The Department for Education is recruiting for three senior managers to lead its drive to become a “data-led” organisation.

The department intends to “transform the data directorate… to become an enterprise-level data-service function supporting DfE to become truly insight-driven”. To this end, it is hiring three deputy director-level roles in the areas of data engineering, data service lines, and data operations. All of them will report into chief data officer Neil McIvor.

“DfE has a broad range of rich data and data-savvy people, but our tools, processes, data services and approach need to evolve to meet growing demand, so that everyone has easy access to an effective evidence base to meet the needs of those delivering a world-class education system,” the department said.

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It added that the recruitment of the three deputy directors will “enable us to deliver industrial, world-class data products and services, including data as a service, insight and statistics, knowledge and information management, and profession data and statistics advisory service”.

The deputy director of data operations “will be responsible for delivering the strategic direction for operational excellence”, while the successful candidate for the data service lines role “will be tasked with the definition and successful delivery of end-to-end data services”.

A newly created data engineering unit will be led by a deputy director, a post which comes with a remit of “building internal capability to ensure that we are equipped to develop and operate a range of new data products and services”.

Each of the positions comes with an annual salary of £80,000. The roles will be based at one or more of the department’s offices in Bristol, Coventry, Darlington, Manchester, Sheffield, and Nottingham.

Applications are open until 2 October.

Author Display Name Sam Trendall Tags Digital, Data & AI HR Leadership & Management Policymaking Skills & Education Categories Education and skills Government and politics About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology, where a version of this story first appeared.

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Perms secs urged to take charge of outsourcing to address 'repeated failures'

3 days 3 hours ago
News

IfG highlights outsourcing failures, but concludes blanket reversal would lose benefits of approach

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The Institute for Government has called on permanent secretaries and other senior officials to do more to improve commercial skills in departments due to “repeated outsourcing failures”.

In a review of the government’s outsourcing policy, which followed a number of high-profile failures including the collapse of major supplier Carillion, the think tank called for an enhanced role for permanent secretaries in boosting government skills to agree outsourcing deals.

The review, based on more than 50 interviews with current and former government officials, suppliers, academics and industry experts, found senior politicians had consistently overstated how much money is saved by outsourcing services, but also warned that implementing a Labour Party policy to bring all services back in-house by default would be a mistake.

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The report said government's outsourcing of public services to the private or voluntary sector had been expanded over the past four decades. Beginning in local government, successive governments have since extended outsourcing to areas including frontline services and major IT projects, and more recently to probation and employment services, as well as private financing of construction projects.

The IfG found outsourcing had worked best in the initial round of support services first outsourced in the 1980s and 1990s, such as waste collection, cleaning, catering and maintenance.

The initial round often managed to save around 20% of annual operating costs while maintaining service quality. However, the picture is murkier for more complex services, according to an red-amber-green success rating. 

Private prisons are cheaper to run and have introduced innovations, including in how staff treat prisoners. They perform better on some quality metrics and worse on others, but the introduction of competition has improved performance in public prisons. Outsourcing has provided extra capacity in the NHS and, in some cases, improved the performance of public hospitals, but there is a lack of comparable data on cost and quality, and some case studies show damaging failures.

But a probation drive that began in 2013, has “failed on every measure” and hindered ex-offenders’ efforts to rebuild their lives. These failures led to the scrapping of the Ministry of Justice’s controversial probation reforms this year.

“The heavy costs show why government should be cautious about extending outsourcing of frontline services and only do so when it is confident it will work,” the IfG said.

The report set out a number of recommendations for government to improve provision, with a particular focus on the role of permanent secretaries to ensure departments adopt best practices. They should also work closer with government commercial chief Gareth Rhys Williams to strengthen commercial skills and capabilities, the report said.

Perm secs should work with commercial and HR directors to ensure that officials have the time and resources needed to implement the government’s outsourcing playbook of contracting standards. The playbook includes requirements for pilots in any new outsourcing, the development of key performance indicators, and living wills in cases where the outsourcing provider fails. It also requires government to undertake a make-versus-buy analysis to determine if services should be run internally.

Department chiefs should also work with directors to ensure that contract managers are involved in contract negotiation – the lack of which Rhys Williams told CSW last year was equivalent to playing football without goalkeepers. The IfG said Rhys Williams should commit to publishing an annual progress review of the playbook, beginning in 2021.

The authors also called on officials to be made more accountable for contracting decisions. They said select committees should be able to recall ministers and officials who have subsequently left their post to answer questions about the decisions made during outsourcing projects. 

However, overall the report concluded that bringing all outsourced services back in house “would end 40 years of continuity”,

While outsourcing has suffered a string of recent failures, the evidence does not support the view that outsourcing overall has failed, IfG senior researcher Tom Sasse said. 

“A lot of confusion continues to crowd the debate over outsourcing. Labour’s policy of bringing services back into government hands by default risks throwing away the benefits of outsourcing. But at the same time, the government must address the causes of repeated outsourcing failures.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “This government will always champion the private sector's vital role in delivering our public services. Over the past year we have made great strides in improving how we work with the private sector, including introducing an outsourcing 'playbook', which has been welcomed by industry and bringing in new rules to ensure government suppliers pay their bills on time.”

Tags Commercial Policymaking Procurement & Commercial Categories Government and politics About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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'Case has not been made' for more judicial oversight of immigration detention, Home Office says

3 days 3 hours ago
News

Home Office also rejects call for time-limit on immigration and extra protections for LGBTQI+ detainees

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The Home Office has said it sees no reason to add more judicial or other independent independent oversight to the way it decides whether and for how long to detain people in immigration detention, despite repeated calls from MPs and human rights groups to do so.

The department has rejected a call by the Home Affairs Select Committee to impose a 28-day limit on immigration detention and to ensure that a judge reviews every Home Office decision to detain someone within 72 hours, as in the criminal justice system. The response came after the department rejected similar recommendations by the Joint Committee on Human Rights last month.

"The government does not believe that the case has been made for a radical redesign of the current judicial and other independent oversight arrangements," the department said. It said the comparison with prisons “does not stand close scrutiny”, and argued that existing measures were enough to ensure decisions were fair. 

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These measures include case progression panels that review detention cases, and plans to give people an automatic bail hearing after two months in detention. Progression panels have been criticised for their lack of independence from the Home Office by both the Joint Committee on Human Rights and Stephen Shaw, who first recommended their introduction in a review commissioned by the department. Shaw said last year that the panels had not been “implemented as I had envisaged”, citing their lack of independence and “missed opportunities” to move cases forward more quickly.

The Home Office plans to add indepedent members to the panels. It said it was making "good headway" in identifying individuals and "considering potential models for their involvement".

The department refused to commit to ensuring immigration caseworkers meet people they are deciding whether to detain at least once either before or shortly after detention. “Whilst we accept the broad thrust of this recommendation, the practicalities of meeting every detainee in the way described are more difficult,” it said.

The response rejected 24 of the 45 recommendations in the committee’s report, which was prompted by the exposure of abuse at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre. The March report said the Home Office had “utterly failed” to oversee the safe and humane detention of individuals who were due to be deported.

The Home Office accepted 18 of the recommendations and partially accepted four. In several instances, it did not set out new steps it would take but instead quoted existing policy – which the MPs had said the department “too often” failed to follow.

It agreed with the MPs’ finding that people should not be detained if there is “no prospect of imminent removal”, saying its guidance already reflected this – despite the committee bring told that some people had been held for months without any indication of when they would be deported. 

It said it was already planning to recruit more UK Visas and Immigration caseworkers to speed up the asylum process, as suggested by the committee.

The department did agree to amend a project it had already begun to improve its screening process to identify vulnerable people – including torture victims – in light of the committee’s call for improvements. It said it would update the project to “include a broader approach to considering and assessing vulnerability”.

However, it rejected the committee’s finding that LGBTQI+ people should be considered “at risk” in detention centres – a status already given to trans and intersex people in Home Office guidance. It said it would “consider” publishing statistics for LGBTQI+ people in detention, as recommended by the committee.

But it declined to publish quarterly statistics on the number of people it wrongfully detains, because it would require too much work.

Other recommendations the government rejected included introducing legislation to ban the separation of nursing mothers from their babies, as well as separation of children from parents if it would lead to the child going into care. The Home Office said its existing policy prevented both of these scenarios, making legislation unnecessary.

It also rejected the MPs’ calls to introduce a policy to avoid detaining people over the age of 60, except in exceptional circumstances; end night-time transfers in and out of detention; reverse restrictions to legal aid access; and appoint a medically-qualified adviser to help develop health policy for detention centres.

It partially accepted the committee’s call to give people who have been convicted of a crime the same legal protections as other immigration detainees. However, it did not commit to speeding up the removals process to ensure people could be deported immediately upon being released from prison, rather than being detained for longer.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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Latest civil service & public affairs moves — September 16

3 days 4 hours ago
News

New appointments in the civil service, UK politics, and public affairs, via our colleagues at Dods People

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Government departments

  • Amber Rudd resigned as secretary of state for work and pensions and as minister for women and equalities.
  • Theresa Coffey was appointed as secretary of state for work and pensions (formerly minister of state, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).
  • Zac Goldsmith was appointed as minister of state, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Department for International Development, in an attending cabinet capacity (formerly parliamentary under-secretary of state, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Department for International Development).
  • Elizabeth Truss was appointed as minister for women and equalities, in addition to her sole as secretary of state for international trade.
  • Chris Skidmore was appointed as minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation in the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (formerly Minister of State for Health).
  • Edward Argar was appointed as minister of state for health (formerly parliamentary under-secretary of state, Ministry of Justice).
  • Chris Philp was appointed as parliamentary under-secretary of state, Ministry of Justice (formerly parliamentary private secretary to the chancellor of the exchequer).
  • Helen Whately was appointed as parliamentary under-secretary of state for arts, heritage and tourism, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
  • Rebecca Pow was appointed as parliamentary under-secretary of state, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (formerly parliamentary under-secretary of state for arts, heritage and tourism, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport).
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Stephen Hickey has been appointed Her Majesty’s ambassador to the Republic of Iraq in succession to Jon Wilks.
  • Rehman Chishti MP to replace Lord Ahmad as envoy for greedom of religion and belief.
  • Department of Health and Social Care: Fran Leddra and Mark Harvey to become interim joint chief social worker for adults.

House of Lords

  • Conservative peerages to be conferred on Gavin Barwell, David Brownlow, Stephen Parkinson, Joanna Penn, Elizabeth Sanderson, Zameer Choudrey, Byron Davies and Raminder Ranger.
  • Crossbench peerages to be conferred on Simon Woolley, Ruth Hunt, Harold Carter, Heather Hallett and Kim Darroch.
  • Labour peerages to be conferred on Christine Blower, John Hendy and Debbie Wilcox.
  • Green Party peerage to be conferred on Natalie Bennett.
  • Non-affiliated peerages to be conferred on John Mann and Margaret Ritchie.
  • The Duke of Wellington was Conservative and is now sitting as non-affiliated.
  • The Earl of Oxford and Asquith was Liberal Democrat and is now sitting as non-affiliated.
  • The Earl of Selborne was Conservative and is now sitting as non-affiliated.

House of Commons

  • John Bercow is to stand down as Speaker on 31 October.
  • Angela Smith joined the Liberal Democrats.
  • Amber Rudd resigned from the Conservative Party and now sits as Independent.
  • Treasury Committee - Catherine McKinnell appointed as interim Treasury Committee Chair after the election for Chair was postponed until the House returns.

Devolved Authorities

  • Scottish Parliament: Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee - Donald Cameron appointed to replace Jamie Greene, and Mike Rumbles appointed as a member; Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee - Jeremy Balfour appointed to replace Alison Harris as a member; Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee - Rachael Hamilton appointed to replace John Scott as a member; Education and Skills Committee - Alison Harris appointed to replace Oliver Mundell, Daniel Johnson appointed to replace Johann Lamont and Beatrice Wishart appointed as a member; Finance and Constitution Committee - Alex Rowley appointed to replace James Kelly as a member; Justice Committee - James Kelly appointed to replace Daniel Johnson as a member; Local Government and Communities Committee - Sarah Boyack appointed to replace Alex Rowley as a member; Public Petitions Committee - Maurice Corry appointed to replace Rachael Hamilton as a member; Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee - Neil Findlay appointed to replace Elaine Smith as a member; Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body – Ruth Davidson was elected to replace Jackson Carlaw as a member.

Local Authorities

  • Newport Council - Debbie Wilcox to stand down as Leader after being named as a member of the House of Lords.
  • Norwich Council - Laura McGillivray to stand down as Chief Executive later in the year.
  • By-election Results 12 September: Rushmoor Council – Thomas Mitchell elected for St Mark’s – Liberal Democrat hold (caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Alain Dekker); Shropshire Council – Ruth Houghton elected for Bishop’s Castle - Liberal Democrat hold (caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Jonathan Keeley); Wellingborough Council – Andrew Weatherill elected for Finedon – Conservative hold (caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Barbara Bailey); South Northamptonshire Council – Mark Allen elected for Middleton Cheney – Liberal Democrat gain (caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Jonathan Riley); Rutland Council – Richard Coleman elected for Ryhall and Casterton – Conservative gain (caused by the disqualification of independent councillor Chris Parsons).

Industry 

If you and your organisation would like to be included in this section, then email us at editor@dodsgroup.com

Interest Groups

  • FACT UK: Eddy Leviten took up the role of chief operating officer.
  • National Citizen Service Trust: Michael Lynas to stand down as chief executive next year.
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‘No timetable’ for DWP to get rid of faxes

3 days 13 hours ago
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Minister claims usage of machines will ‘naturally reduce’ over time

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The Department for Work and Pensions has not set any specific goals or schedule for eliminating the use of fax machines, but rather believes that usage will “naturally reduce” as other communications channels grow in prevalence.

A recent written parliamentary question from Labour MP Mark Tami asked work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey whether she could “set out a timetable for ensuring that all fax machines in her department and its executive agencies are replaced with secure email”.

In response, one of the department’s junior ministers – minister for employment Mims Davies – said that the “DWP does not currently have a set timetable in place to reduce [or] remove the ability to send and receive fax messages”.

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She added: “However alternative, wider digital channels of communication will become available to customers and DWP colleagues that will naturally reduce the need to utilise faxes by viewing and sharing data information at source, under secure measures.”

The use of faxes in the public sector has come under scrutiny this year in light of health secretary Matt Hancock late last year announcing his intention to, effectively, ban them from the NHS. Since January, NHS entities have been barred from purchasing any new units. Hancock’s goal is to entirely eliminate faxes from the health service by 31 March.

Author Display Name Sam Trendall Tags Digital, Data & AI Operational Delivery Parliament Science & Technology Transformation Categories Government and politics Science, technology and research Society and welfare About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology, where a verion of this story was first published.

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Ex-minister laments ‘unfairly low’ staff pay at DCMS

5 days 21 hours ago
News

Tracey Crouch also details Whitehall push-back over fixed-odds betting terminals, Brexit's opportunity cost and ‘complete pain in the arse’ Matt Hancock

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Tracey Crouch Credit: FCO

Former sports minister Tracey Crouch has spoken of her “shock” at staff pay levels in the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport and of the initial pushback she experienced over her reforms to controversial fixed-odds betting terminals.

Crouch ultimately resigned as parliamentary undersecretary of state for sport and civil society in November last year when the government confirmed it was delaying the implementation of a cut that to maximum permissible stake at the terminals from £100 to £2 for six months.

In the latest batch of Ministers Reflect interviews conducted by the Institute for Government, Crouch talks about her deep respect for the “underpaid” civil servants she encountered during her time at DCMS and recalls the departmental buy-in that helped get momentum for her fixed-odds betting terminal (FOBT) reform.

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“I loved my civil service,” Crouch told the IfG’s Catherine Haddon and Daniel Devine. “I think DCMS officials are really undervalued in the whole big scheme of things – the whole department is – and I was really shocked to hear that they have much lower pay levels than other departments, whereas what the department does and the impact that it has on the economy, GDP, productivity or whatever, is huge.”

Crouch subsequently returned to the topic of pay towards the end of her interview – underscoring the depth of her feelings on the topic.

“I don’t think it is fair that DCMS officials are paid less than other officials in Whitehall, just because they do some of the fun stuff as well,” she observed.

IfG data presents a mixed picture on DCMS pay. While median pay at the department is among the highest in Whitehall at £40,000 a year – only exceeded by the Department for Transport, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Department for International Development – DCMS has relatively few staff at the civil service’s lower pay grades. However, the think tank’s figures for 2018 also suggest that pay for executive officers at DCMS rank towards the lower end of departmental comparisonsm.

Crouch’s IfG interview also unpacked initial resistance she faced to a review of FOBTs – seen as a major generator of income for high-street betting shops, but a major driver of poverty and despair for gambling addicts who struggle to keep away from the machines.

“On [my] very first day, I said I wanted to review stakes and prizes on gambling, and it took a while for that to actually start, because there was some push back from the civil service to begin with,” Crouch said.

“Once it began... it did actually take three and a half years to finish, but we got there in the end.”

Crouch said that part of the reason her work on gambling got off to a slower start than she would have liked was because the relevant policy team had only just completed another major piece of work on the issue and felt they needed to focus on lottery reviews, the National Lottery and horse-racing problems.

“My view, though, was that you’re a big team, you can definitely juggle all of these issues – it shouldn’t just be one thing for one team at one particular time. So, it did take a bit of push, but we got there in the end,” she said.

“Once we did, I think the gambling team were fully on board with the idea of conducting a wholesale review of stakes and prizes, of which fixed-odds betting terminals was just one element. But I think there was also a realisation and a complete appreciation that the industry that we were dealing with were very… well, they’re quite litigious.”

Crouch said that it was absolutely clear that there was a risk that policy processes would become the subject of High Court challenge, which was part of the reason the review was “a really hard slog” for her team.

Crouch added that while HM Treasury were “quite dominant in their opinion” against FOBT reform, when Theresa May became prime minister it was clear that she was committed to making sure the reform happened.

“We also gathered up lots of support from around other departments,” Crouch said. “DWP, at the time of Iain Duncan Smith, was incredibly helpful, because Iain saw it from the perspective of people who were his stakeholders becoming vulnerable to the actions and behaviours of the [gambling] industry.

“Once DWP had kind of started in that process, that was an enormous help. But we had to gather lots of different views and people are changing all the time within those departments, so it was continuous stakeholder management from a departmental perspective.”

Although Crouch failed to make then-chancellor Philip Hammond introduce the FOBT maximum-stake changes effective from April this year while she was still in office, the furore created by her resignation forced the government’s hand.

Elsewhere in her IfG interview, Crouch expressed her concerns over the impact Brexit secondments had on DCMS policy work – and on wider work across Whitehall.

“I feel enormous sympathy for officials and civil servants who have been working on issues for years and it’s just ground to a halt because of Brexit,” she said.

“Nothing is happening and the one thing I know from my time in Whitehall is that officials want to get stuff done. You know, their modus operandi is not: ‘Let’s not have any change’. They’re there to deliver policy change and legislation and I genuinely feel for them at the moment.”

Crouch said that although her portfolio was “wonderfully” Brexit light, DCMS as a whole had to rein in its policy ambitions as staff were seconded to Brexit work.

“The department itself saw quite a big change in the number of people that were going off to the Brexit delivery units, so the teams became fewer in number, which made it more challenging for them,” she said.

“As a result, I had to temper some of my own thoughts and ideas, because they couldn’t be delivered as we just didn’t have the resources to deliver them. So, certainly we had to start to prioritise the areas that we wanted teams to look at, which is a shame because there was a lot of good stuff that in normal circumstances could have been done.”

After being generous on the modus operandi of civil servants, Crouch was nothing but frank in her assessment of Matt Hancock – now secretary of state for health and social care – during his time as a DCMS minister, a situation that only changed after he was promoted to the department’ helm.

“Matt was a very different secretary of state to minister: he was a complete pain in the arse as a minister – and I say this to his face – he was a complete pain, but as secretary of state, he was fabulous,” she said.

“He was a really good leader of a team, he was full of energy, he was 100% supportive of ideas and policies, he had a really good gut feeling about what would work, what wouldn’t work.

“If he made a decision that was counter to what you were recommending, he would always explain his position and why he came to that view and be enormously apologetic, and you couldn’t help but say OK fine, you’re the secretary of state.

“I worked really well with Matt and I was sorry for me that he got promoted, although I wasn’t sorry for him.”

Crouch said she believed everyone who had served under Hancock as a secretary of state had supported his bid to become Conservative Party leader this summer.

Her full interview can be read here.

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