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Civil Service World News

HMRC seeks digital platform for fraud officers

2 days 15 hours ago
News

Tax agency issues procurement alert for ‘notebook application’ for evidence-gathering

An image of the word 'Fraud' written on a clipboard, surrounded by a calculator and glassesif (typeof _gaq != 'undefined') _gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Image', 'Impression', 'Fraud concept', 1, true]);

Credit: Alpha Stock Images/Nick Youngson/CC BY-SA 3.0

HM Revenue and Customs is seeking an application to allow its field officers investigating fraud to record and process information.

The tax agency has issued an early engagement notice to inform potential suppliers that it is “considering procurement options” regarding its need for a “digital notebook application”. Such an application is needed to allow the department’s field officers to record evidence and other information during investigations into civil or criminal fraud cases.

HMRC is seeking to deploy off-the-shelf commercial software that can be installed on the smartphones and Microsoft Surface Pro hybrid devices used by its Fraud Investigation Services (FIS) division. The software must also integrate with the department’s wider technology estate and infrastructure. 

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“The application will have the capability to: record notes, take photographs, record video [and] audio, receive witness signatures and perform speech-to-text in multiple languages,” the department added. “All case-related notebook entries will adhere to evidential standards, to ensure that contents are admissible as evidence in court. The application will have GPS and date/time-stamp functionality, which will be recorded against the file note when uploaded and saved. Once saved, the file will 'lock' editing functionality.”

FIS is “responsible for the department's investigations to protect funding for UK public services”, HMRC said.

The division “embraces future ways of working and technology to enable our staff to work efficiently and effectively”, according to the tax agency. 

Prior to the launch of any formal procurement exercise, HMRC will host an online “market-engagement exercise”, in which suppliers will be invited to register to receive more information about the department’s needs and answer questionnaires.

Author Display Name Sam Trendall Tags Digital, Data & AI Operational Delivery Science & Technology Categories Science, technology and research About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of CSW's sister site PublicTechnology, where this story first appeared.

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Richard.Johnstone

MHCLG civil servant stabbed in attack outside Home Office

2 days 16 hours ago
News

Injuries to official said to be not life threatening after attack on Marsham Street yesterday

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Photo: PA

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government civil servant has been stabbed in an attack outside the department’s headquarters, which it shares with the Home Office in Marsham Street in Whitehall.

The incident, which occurred yesterday lunchtime, led to the building being locked down, but both MHCLG and the Home Office have told Civil Service World that the building was open today, with staff coming in and out as normal.

Communities Secretary @RobertJenrick statement following today's incident on Marsham Street. pic.twitter.com/DKdmzj0wph

— Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Govt (@mhclg) August 15, 2019

MHCLG confirmed that the man attacked, whose injuries are not thought to be either life threatening or life changing, was a civil servant in the department.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I am deeply shocked by this horrific attack on a colleague. My thoughts, and those of all my staff, are with him and his family. We are ready to provide as much support as we can and we all wish him a speedy recovery.”

He said the department would revise security across the MHCLG estate. “All our staff must feel safe as they go about their important work,” he said.

“I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the police, ambulance service and our staff for their swift response.”

A MHCLG spokesman told CSW that the department would be working with the Home Office and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, which is also based in the 2 Marsham Street bulding, to review security at the site.

In a statement, the Metropolitan police confirmed that officers attended to find one man with knife injuries after a call at 13:06 yesterday.

“The Met’s specialist firearms officers attended within six minutes to find a man, aged in his 60s, suffering with knife injuries.

“London Ambulance Service attended the address and took the victim to a central London hospital. The injured man's family has been notified.

The force confirmed the stabbing happened inside the building.

“Officers quickly detained a 29-year-old man near the scene at Smith Square who was arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and possession of CS spray. He was taken to a central London police station where he remains in custody," the statement said.

"At this early stage of the investigation, the incident is not being treated as terrorism-related, although officers are still keeping an open mind with regards any possible motive. Enquiries remain ongoing to establish the full circumstances of the incident.”

A Home Office spokesperson said yesterday: "The Metropolitan Police is investigating a knife attack which took place outside the Home Office this afternoon. The victim is receiving medical care.

"This is a deeply concerning incident and our thoughts are with him and his family.

“As this is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

A London Ambulance spokesperson said its crews responded to the Marsham Street. “We treated a man at the scene and took him to a major trauma centre.”

Home secretary Priti Patel said on Twitter her thoughts were with the victim after what she called a “horrific unprovoked knife attack on Marsham Street”.

All my thoughts are with the victim and their family following horrific unprovoked knife attack on Marsham Street.

— Priti Patel MP (@patel4witham) August 15, 2019 Tags Justice and Public Safety Categories 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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Sedwill urges vigilance after attack on MHCLG civil servant

2 days 17 hours ago
News

Cabinet secretary says that there is ‘no evidence to suggest that the attack was anything other than an isolated incident’ at this stage

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Police outside the Home Office after the incident Photo: PA

Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill has urged civil servants to be vigilant after a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government civil servant was stabbed in an attack outside the headquarters the department shares with the Home Office.

In a message sent to civil servants this morning, seen by CSW, the cab sec said that all of government was thinking of the victim of what he called “this unprovoked attack”.

“You will be relieved that his injuries are not life-threatening,” Sedwill, who is also head of the civil service, said.

He told officials that “at this stage, there is no evidence to suggest that the attack was anything other than in isolated incident”.

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“So, while I would reiterate the need for colleagues everywhere to be vigilant and to take reasonable precautions for their own security, you should not be alarmed.”

However, he called on staff to “look out for any signs of anxiety or distress that the incident might have caused a colleague” on the grounds that “it is normal to be unsettled by news of this kind and you should not hesitate to seek help if you think you might need it”.

“If they or you would find it helpful to talk to someone, please speak to your line manager about the staff support available in your department,” Sedwill said.

“And please remember that if you have any concerns about your department’s security or your personal safety, or if you spot any unusual behaviour, report it to your department's security team.”

MHCLG confirmed that the attacked man was one of its civil servants.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I am deeply shocked by this horrific attack on a colleague. My thoughts, and those of all my staff, are with him and his family. We are ready to provide as much support as we can and we all wish him a speedy recovery.”

He said that the department would review security across the MHCLG estate. “All our staff must feel safe as they go about their important work,” he said.

“I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the police, ambulance service and our staff for their swift response.”

A MHCLG spokesman told CSW that they would be working with the Home Office and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, which is also based in the 2 Marsham Street offices, to review security at the site.

Tags Justice and Public Safety Leadership & Management Categories 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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Richard.Johnstone

HMRC seeks digital platform for fraud officers

2 days 18 hours ago
News

Tax agency issues procurement alert for ‘notebook application’ for evidence-gathering

 

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Credit: Alpha Stock Images/Nick Youngson/CC BY-SA 3.0

HM Revenue and Customs is seeking an application to allow its field officers investigating fraud to record and process information.

The tax agency has issued an early engagement notice to inform potential suppliers that it is “considering procurement options” regarding its need for a “digital notebook application”. Such an application is needed to allow the department’s field officers to record evidence and other information during investigations into civil or criminal fraud cases.

HMRC is seeking to deploy off-the-shelf commercial software that can be installed on the smartphones and Microsoft Surface Pro hybrid devices used by its Fraud Investigation Services (FIS) division. The software must also integrate with the department’s wider technology estate and infrastructure. 

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“The application will have the capability to: record notes, take photographs, record video [and] audio, receive witness signatures and perform speech-to-text in multiple languages,” the department added. “All case-related notebook entries will adhere to evidential standards, to ensure that contents are admissible as evidence in court. The application will have GPS and date/time-stamp functionality, which will be recorded against the file note when uploaded and saved. Once saved, the file will 'lock' editing functionality.”

FIS is “responsible for the department's investigations to protect funding for UK public services”, HMRC said.

The division “embraces future ways of working and technology to enable our staff to work efficiently and effectively”, according to the tax agency. 

Prior to the launch of any formal procurement exercise, HMRC will host an online “market-engagement exercise”, in which suppliers will be invited to register to receive more information about the department’s needs and answer questionnaires.

Author Display Name Sam Trendall About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of CSW's sister site PublicTechnology, where this story first appeared.

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Richard.Johnstone

Sedwill ‘non-committal’ on purdah-period Brexit question, claims Corbyn

2 days 19 hours ago
News

Labour leader tells MPs cabinet secretary’s written response to query should inform plans for combatting an election-time EU exit

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn Credit: PA

Jeremy Corbyn has accused cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill of being “non-committal” over the legality of a purdah-period Brexit if a general election is called in the run-up to October 31.

The Labour leader wrote to Sedwill last week seeking clarity on how Whitehall would handle the rules on key decisions during election periods if new prime minister Boris Johnson called a snap poll or the government lost a vote of confidence.

Corbyn had argued that if Johnson tried to force through a no-deal Brexit during the run-up to election day, it would be “an unprecedented, unconstitutional and anti-democratic abuse of power”. He asked Sedwill for assurances that such a move would be blocked.

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However Sedwill’s three-paragraph response, circulated by Corbyn to party leaders and other senior MPs, said only that purdah rules were set out in chapter two of the cabinet manual.

“Let me reassure you that I am ready to ensure their full and proper application according to the circumstances at the time,” Sedwill said.

Corbyn revealed Sedwill’s response as part of his call for cross-party backing to form a “strictly time limited temporary government” aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit on October 31 – the next notional Brexit day.

The letter told recipients including SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford; Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson; Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas that Sedwill’s response was “non-committal” and “should inform our discussions” on countering a no-deal Brexit.

“While it is likely that the issue will be contested in the courts, our priority should be to work together in parliament to prevent a deeply damaging no-deal being imposed on the country, denying voters the final say,” Corbyn said.

Institute for Government director Bronwen Maddox said Corbyn may have decided to take an overly pessimistic view of Sedwill’s response in light of the cabinet manual’s rules on purdah – designed to stop governments taking unfair advantage of their incumbency during an election period, when parliament is dissolved.

“It is possible that Sedwill offers him more reassurance than he has chosen to take,” she wrote on the IfG website.

“[The purdah rules] say that the government can carry on essential business during a campaign but cannot initiate or announce major policy decisions or take actions of a long-term character. 

“Sedwill’s remark could be interpreted to mean that he is open to arguments that it would not be proper for the government to let the UK leave the EU during the campaign.”

Sedwill’s letter concluded by stating that the timing of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union was “a matter for the European Council under A50 of the Lisbon Treaty and Parliament under the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018”.

Proponents of a purdah-period Brexit would argue that because the UK’s currently scheduled departure date from the European Union is October 31, no key decisions would be required to enact it in the event an election was called.

Corbyn said MPs from across parliament had “responded positively” to his call.

SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was prepared to work across party lines to stop a no-deal Brexit, and urged Swinson to reconsider her stance.

However she said Corbyn’s plan – which aims to lay the ground for a general election in which Labour would campaign for a public vote on a range of Brexit scenarios as well as staying in the EU – was “not the only possible option”.

Plaid Cymru's Saville Roberts published a letter of support for Corbyn’s plan via Twitter.

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Jim.Dunton

Home Office locked down after stabbing on Marsham Street

3 days 12 hours ago
News

Home secretary says her thoughts are with victim of “unprovoked knife attack”

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The Home Office was placed in lockdown earlier today after a stabbing near its Whitehall headquarters on Marsham Street left one man receiving medical attention.

The incident around lunchtime today led to staff being told not to leave the building. The Metropolitan police confirmed that officers attended to find one man with knife injuries after a call at 13:06.

“London ambulance service attended the address, where they are with the injured party. The injuries are not life threatening.” the force said in a statement.

“One man has been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and taken to a police station. Enquiries are ongoing into the exact circumstances of the incident.”

The incident was not thought to be terrorism related.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The Metropolitan Police is investigating a knife attack which took place outside the Home Office this afternoon. The victim is receiving medical care.

"This is a deeply concerning incident and our thoughts are with him and his family.

“As this is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

It has been reported that the injured person is a civil servant, but the Home Office declined to confirm whether this was the case.

A London Ambulance spokesperson said its crews responded to the Marsham Street. “We treated a man at the scene and took him to a major trauma centre.”

Home secretary Priti Patel tweeted her thoughts were with the victim after what she called a “horrific unprovoked knife attack on Marsham Street”.

 

All my thoughts are with the victim and their family following horrific unprovoked knife attack on Marsham Street.

— Priti Patel MP (@patel4witham) August 15, 2019 Tags Justice and Public Safety Categories 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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Rees-Mogg lavishes praise on new civil service team

3 days 17 hours ago
News

Three weeks into his cabinet career, Commons leader says he ‘previously thought only corporate bankers worked such hours’

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Credit: PA

Barely three weeks into his government career, leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has showered his new Whitehall team with praise – in stark contrast to his claims last year that Treasury staff routinely “fiddled figures”.

In a magazine diary column describing the hours immediately after he became Commons Leader and Lord President of the Council, the MP said he had been “deeply impressed” with the civil service and had “immediately gone native” in the Cabinet Office following his July 24 appointment by new PM Boris Johnson.

“My new private secretary had a full briefing ready for me at 11.30 at night and was on parade at seven the next morning with a full team to continue the preparations for my first appearance as Leader of the House,” Rees-Mogg said.

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Rees-Mogg added: “ I had previously thought only corporate bankers worked such hours.”

The MP’s comments in The Spectator stand in stark contrast to a furore last year which saw him pilloried by civil service union leaders and former perm secs for failing to retract comments accusing Treasury officials of “fiddling the figures” in a BBC radio interview.

Former Home Office and Department for Work and Pensions perm sec Sir Leigh Lewis used his CSW column to dub the comments “contemptible” and evidence that Rees-Mogg was “utterly unsuited to high office”.

Former cabinet secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell addressed the comments in the House of Lords, suggesting they amounted to a “form of bullying” directed towards civil servants who could not defend themselves.

Elsewhere in his diary column, Rees-Mogg noted that the “style guide” he issued to his new staff in the hours after his appointment had dominated reports of his ascension to government.

As CSW reported at the time, the guide addressed a mix of linguistic pet hates of the Old Etonian including metric measures, use of the word “hopefully” and the Oxford comma – a comma which comes before the word “and” in a list of three or more items.

Rees-Mogg insisted that the guide was merely  “a few specimens of bureaucratese that I particularly dislike” before going on to apologise for the exclusion of the New Labour mainstay of “going forward”, which he claimed had surprised some.

“It is an otiose phrase that will be included in any future editions,” he said.

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Jim.Dunton

MoD offers £145k apiece for digital director duo

3 days 18 hours ago
News

Department seeks leaders in the areas of digital enablement and cyber risk

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Credit: Amtec Photos/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Ministry of Defence is seeking two senior digital leaders.

The department is advertising two vacant directorial roles: one in the area of cyber and risk; and the other focused on digital enablement.

The successful applicant for the former position will be “responsible for leading defensive cyber activities, including traditional IT, operational technology, weapons platforms and electromagnetic spectrum security”. The chosen candidate will be tasked with “ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information, systems and services” across the MoD.

The digital enablement post, meanwhile, comes with a remit of “leading the digital transformation of UK defence”. This will entail “developing the overall departmental digital vision and strategy, as well as the information technology policy and standards to which the whole department must conform”, the MoD said.

Each role comes with an annual pay packet of £145,000 and will be based in either London or Corsham in Wiltshire. 

Applications for both are open until 15 September, after which the field of candidates will be narrowed over the course of a number of stages, culminating in final interviews during the two-week period beginning on 25 November.

Author Display Name Sam Trendall Tags Digital, Data & AI HR Categories Government and politics About the author

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

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Health department tells social care providers to brace for no-deal Brexit delays to medicine deliveries

4 days 11 hours ago
News

Providers told supplies could take up to five days to deliver – up from three days set out in February guidance

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Photo:  Aaron Chown/PA

The health department has told social care providers that some medicines may take up to five times as long to be delivered as they do now in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with guidance suggesting the government may be expecting greater disruption to supplies than it was earlier this year.

Guidance published this week by the Department for Health and Social Care – just days before the department said its contingency arrangements would ensure medicines would be transported without disruption – warns adult social care providers that medical supplies they are used to ordering from EU suppliers with a day or two’s notice could take up to five days to arrive if the UK crashes out without a deal.

Providers had previously been told to allow “around three days” for these deliveries, in a letter from then-health minister Caroline Dinenage in February, to prepare for a potential no-deal Brexit on 29 March.

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And in an announcement today, health minister Chris Skidmore said DHSC was making arrangements to ensure "supply of medical goods remains uninterrupted as we leave the EU". DHSC opened bids for a £25m "express freight services" contract to transport medicines in a no-deal Brexit last month, and the department said today the deal would ensure medical supplies were delivered "within one to four days".

But social care organisations that rely on short-term deliveries from the EU have separately been told to allow more time for deliveries in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October “to help address any local supply issues”.

This week's guidance also instructs social care providers to ensure they are prepared to receive stock deliveries of medicines outside normal hours.

Providers are also expected to have contingency plans in place that address “risks and issues associated with” the supply of non-clinical goods and services, which include IT service agreements and infrastructure, food and laundry services, it said.

Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, told CSW that the guidance was not wholly unexpected but that "it's not comfortable, it's not easy".

Ahmed said providers would be able to give pharmacies extra notice when ordering regular medicines from pharmacies. She added that DHSC has so far indicated it is confident its contingency planning will work as intended and that any delays will be "short-lived and short".

However, she said it was impossible to predict exactly what would happen on 1 November in a no-deal scenario.

"Delays could have a fundamental impact on the wellbeing of an individual or service. We’ll only know when it starts to happen... what concerns us is if that five days turns into 10," she said.

She added that the Care Quality Commission, which regulates care providers, will measure their performance against the service they provide. "There is no leeway for us so it is imperative that providers have what they’re required to have at the time that they’re required to have it," she said.

She also said there was some uncertainty about the arrangements for delivering drugs needed at short notice or for medicines with a short shelf life, such as insulin. She said providers were working on the assumption that these medicines would be deliered more quickly using the express freight service.

DHSC has urged providers not to stockpile medicines, medical devices or clinical consumables. Pharmaceutical companies have been asked to build up buffer stocks, but individual care providers doing so “could cause shortages in other areas and put other service users at risk”, the guidance said.

“You should also tell service users not to store additional medicines, medical devices or clinical consumables at home,” it added.

Social care and healthcare providers have been told to report problems to the National Supply Disruption Response, a unit set up by DHSC as part of its Brexit contingency planning.

“The NSDR can help with disruption to the supply of medicines and vaccines, medical devices and clinical consumables that normal procedures can’t resolve,” the guidance stated.

The guidance was one of several documents DHSC published this week to help health and social care providers prepare for no deal.

Another sets out arrangements for charging EU nationals who do not live in the UK for NHS services.

The guidance confirms that EU and EEA nationals who live in the UK will continue to access free healthcare, whether or not they have settled status. It confirms that requirements for all patients to provide proof of residence, such as a tenancy agreement or utility bill, will stay in place. Urgent treatment will be exempt so GP services and A&E and maternity departments will be expected to deliver services without this evidence and investigate patients' residential status later, it says.

NHS staff are being told to use an eight-page “toolkit” to determine whether patients are entitled to free healthcare. The document lists questions designed  to demonstrate residency, including whether people can prove they have a UK address or bank account, or that they are working or have family in the UK.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Brexit Health Categories Government and politics Health and social care Transport About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith

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Beckie Smith

Summer reading suggestions for successful policymakers

4 days 12 hours ago
Opinion

Martin Stanley highlights some publications that could help get ideas flowing

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Photo: Clara Margais/dpa

Policymaking is pretty challenging at the moment, what with a new government (and Brexit), increasingly complex and expensive infrastructure projects (think Crossrail, HS2 and Heathrow’s third runway), and frequent attacks on a civil service supposedly resistant to change and uninterested in science, technology and productivity. The good news is that a great deal of help is now available and is being communicated in a much more user-friendly way.

The most obvious development, of course, is the development of the policy profession and its opportunities for learning through networking. Its basic and sound premise is that policy makers need to be able to work in teams – with experts – so as to:

  • develop and use a sound evidence base
  • plan from the outset how the policy will be delivered, and
  • understand and manage the political context. 

The development and deployment of training materials in these three key areas will have the potential to ensure consistent quality across Whitehall departments.

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Separately, the NAO and others have begun to produce some very readable guidance material, full of common sense and sensible advice. I particularly like the NAO’s recent survival guide for those who might need to challenge the cost of major projects. Drawing together lessons from previous detailed NAO reports, this guide offers the refreshingly honest advice that “ministers nowadays get involved in executive decision making more often and this can confuse accountability, and lead to decisions not being sufficiently tested” and that “if a project is not realistically costed once it is in the programme it will be hard to cancel”.  Better still, the guide goes on to offer practical do’s and don’ts and useful questions to ask.

I also recommend the MoD’s ‘The Good Operation’ – a handbook for those involved in operational policy and its implementation.  It has a particularly strong post-Chilcot section containing advice on offering and receiving challenge – i.e. how best to speak truth to power. Other experts – often outside government – have also illuminated this subject, offering interesting analyses of the psychology of powerful people, and how best to speak truth in a way that ensures you will be heard.

And then, from the other side of the pond, this month saw the publication of a De-risking custom technology projects handbook which begins with the words ‘Only 13% of large government software projects are successful’, but then empowers non-technical decision makers with a basic knowledge of the fundamental principles of modern software design so that they can then ask the right questions and identify the right outcomes.

That is all very well, of course, but how will anyone find all this good advice when they need it maybe months or years from now?  The answer is that I have brought it all together in a new website – Understanding Policy Making – featuring advice from experienced policy makers as well as an online reference library containing all the documents mentioned above, and much more.

The website also recognises that many organisations outside the civil service – including large companies as well as local authorities, police forces and others – employ sophisticated policy teams and/or numerous senior execs working to adapt their organisation’s behaviour to economic, social and political developments. They seldom call themselves policy specialists, but that it what they are. They face very similar challenges to their opposite numbers in government, and I hope that the new site will help us learn from each other.

I would of course be delighted to receive further material that colleagues believe deserving of a wider audience.

Author Display Name Martin Stanley About the author

Martin Stanley is a former senior civil servant whose roles have included chief executive of the Competition Commission and head of the Better Regulation Executive. His new site, https://www.understandingpolicymaking.org.uk, is part of the Understanding Government collection of websites, at https://www.understanding-government.org.uk/

  

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Richard.Johnstone

Brexit and IT projects drive £267m temp staff and consultancy spending hike

4 days 13 hours ago
News

Extra staff drafted in as departments feel the strain of Brexit preparations and major tech projects

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Photo: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Government spending on consultants and temporary staff rose by nearly 20% last year to hit £1.8bn, as departments drafted in outside help for Brexit preparations and IT projects.

A CSW analysis of spending figures across 18 government departments shows annual spending on consultancy services and temporary staff has risen by £267m, or 17.9%, since 2017-18.

Departmental annual reports showed that the 2018-19 paybill for temporary staff alone reached £1.1bn, up 18.3% from £929.9m the previous year, with several ministries saying they needed all hands on deck to prepare for Brexit.

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Around two-thirds of the total spent on hiring short-term staff was across six departments: the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The figures include all spending across departmental groups, which include both the core ministries and their various agencies and arm’s-length bodies, on workers drafted in on short-term contracts. The way spending is reported varies across departments, but is usually categorised under temporary or off-payroll staff, contractors or contingent labour.

The MoJ alone accounted for around a fifth of the total spending on temporary staff, shelling out £222.3m across all of its public bodies. The majority was in the core department and its agencies, which include HM Prisons and Probation Service, HM Courts and Tribunals Service and the Legal Aid Agency.

HMCTS, which is in the midst of a major courts digitisation programme to modernise the justice system and cut costs, spent £70m – nearly a third of the MoJ group’s total. Last year, HMCTS had the full-time equivalent of more than 2,000 agency workers and contractors on its books.

The MoD meanwhile spent £135.8m on temporary staff in 2018-19, which it called a “period of fundamental change in the way defence business is conducted”. However, its annual report added that private-sector expertise is of “enduring value to the department”, and that it doesn’t make sense to permanently employ people with all of the specialist skills it needs.

DWP had not only the third-highest temporary staffing bill, at £128.9m, but also one of the sharpest increases in spending compared to 2017-18, when it spent £77.8m. The department brought its previously outsourced IT services in-house under a subsidiary called BPDTS in 2017, but said expanding the digital team’s capacity and skills had taken “longer than expected” and that external experts had been used to “bridge the gap”.

The team worked on several large-scale digital projects last year, including an online jobs board and a checking service for state pensions.

Spending on temporary staff also shot up at Defra, which has one of Whitehall's highest Brexit-related workloads. Costs across the Defra Group, which includes Natural England and the Environment Agency among others, came to £124.6m in 2018-19.

The core department alone spent £86.5m – double its 2017-18 total and more than the £73.2m spent across the entire group that year – on fixed-term staff. Defra said the increase was to support Brexit preparations, which affects 80% of its work, and UnITy, an IT programme dedicated to breaking up two major contracts between the department and the tech supplier IBM, and the Environment Agency and Capgemini.

The Home Office spent £96.7m, up 18% on the year before. Just over a third paid for agency staff at UK Visas and Immigration, the Passport Office and Immigration Enforcement “to deal with backlogs in migrant casework, passport application/examination, asylum applications and in preparation for exiting the EU”.

The rest was spent on contractors and interim managers to help deliver its transformation plans, Brexit preparations and digital strategy.

BEIS said its £70m spend – up from £60m – helped ensure it had “the right skills and capacity” to prepare for Brexit.

Several other departments with smaller budgets but sizeable Brexit-related workloads ramped up their spending on short-term staff as contingency planning intensified. The Department for Exiting the European Union’s spending more than doubled from £1.4m to £3.1m, while the figure at the Department for International Trade rose from £15.6m to £25.6m.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government’s temporary workforce paybill doubled to £13.4m, with extra staff hired to help roll out new software, bolster its digital function, and meet “urgent resourcing requirements” for Brexit projects – including the central no-deal contingency structure Operation Yellowhammer.

Consultants cash in

The 18 departments analysed by CSW spent £663.7m on consultancy services in 2018-19, up from £581.6m the previous year, with Brexit preparations and IT projects driving up consultancy bills across several organised.

Government departments have come under scrutiny over the last three years as several have reported paying out substantial sums to consulting firms in EU exit-focused contracts. An analysis by the public contracts database Tussell in May found £160m worth of deals were signed in the latest wave of contracts, with some set to run until next spring.

Despite being lower down the spending table for temporary staff, the Department for Transport spent more than any other department on consulting services last year. Its bill hit £145.6m in 2018-19 – half as much again as the year before. The increase was driven mostly by Network Rail, the formation of the East West Rail company in 2017 and Brexit preparations.

The Treasury spent £144m – down from £166m the previous year – followed by the MoD at £65.2m and BEIS at £61.9m. Defra saw the biggest proportional increase in its consultancy bill, rising £17m to hit £54.5m, which it attributed to the same Brexit and IT projects that caused it to ramp up spending on temporary staff.

The Cabinet Office meanwhile saw a more than 50% increase in consultancy spending, to £36.9m, which it said was down to extra resources being put into the National Cyber Security Programme and Brexit preparations.

Lower down the spending table, MHCLG’s consultancy bill increased eightfold to £3.3m, while DIT's quadrupled to £2.8m. DIT said two large consultancy contracts were responsible for the increase: one for a learning and development programme at the Trade Remedies Authority, the post-Brexit watchdog it is in the process of establishing, and another to support the development of trade policy.

By contrast, DWP cut its consultancy bill by a third to £28.5m, having wrapped up several projects requiring external expertise the year before.

Asked about the overall spending figures, a government spokesperson said: “It is often more cost-efficient to draw upon the advice of external specialists for short-term projects requiring specialist skills, including work on our EU exit priorities." 

Author Display Name Beckie Smith About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith

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National Leadership Centre to build digital service to connect top public officials

4 days 16 hours ago
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Recently launched National Leadership Centre to create online platform allowing leading officials to seek each other out

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The government is to build a digital service to help the public sector’s most senior leaders connect with each other.

The newly established National Leadership Centre is seeking a supplier to assist in developing the service, which has already completed a discovery exercise and is expected to reach the end of its alpha phase this month. A prototype, including a website and a directory, is currently being tested by users.

The NLC said that an online tool dedicated to helping leading public officials find and work with one another is currently conspicuous by its absence.

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“User research and market analysis shows there is no existing service to bring together the most senior public sector leaders. Use of external services – [such as] LinkedIn – is not consistent, and use of sector-specific services does not cross organisation boundaries,” it said. “The most senior leaders of our public sector cannot find each others' details, contact each other across boundaries with confidence, provide feedback to the prime minister as a group, and access cutting-edge support and content, curated for them.”

The tool will ultimately be used by about 1,500 public-sector leaders across the UK, the NLC said. Bids for the project are open until 21 August, with work due to start on 16 September. The contract is expected to be worth about £460,000 to the chosen supplier.

The winning bidder will work with the NLC until around the end of March. During the alpha and discovery phase, the organisation worked with digital transformation firm Convivio.

The NLC, which is housed within the Cabinet Office, came into being last year and is due to begin work in earnest in September.

Launching the digital platform is one of the three “key objectives” set out by the government for the NLC. The centre is also expected to deliver “a flagship leadership programme for around 100 public service leaders each year”, as well as conducting research into how leadership, wellbeing, and productivity relate to each other.

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

Sam Trendall is editor of CSW's sister site PublicTechnology, where this story first appeared.

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DfT insists new West Coast rail franchise is ‘departure from flawed system of the past’

4 days 16 hours ago
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Virgin Trains, which has run the line since privatisation, loses out to new operator including Italian state-owned firm

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The Department for Transport has insisted that the new West Coast rail franchise represents a new model for railway operation that is a “departure from flawed systems of the past”.

It was today announced that a joint venture of transport company First Group and Italian state rail operator Trenitalia will take over the running of the line from December, with a contract to run until 2031.

The operator will replace Virgin Trains, which has operated the route since privatisation in 1997. Virgin is a joint venture between Stagecoach and the Virgin Group, but it was banned from bidding to retain the line after the DfT said it had submitted “non-compliant” bids for another route amid a dispute over a pensions funding black hole.

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The new partnership plan for West Coast is intended to improve the working arrangements between the rail franchise operator and state-owned infrastructure firm Network Rail.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the franchise would also be in line with the emerging recommendations of the department’s rail review, which is chaired by former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams. Williams has already stated that franchising “cannot continue the way it is today [as] it is no longer delivering clear benefits for either taxpayers and farepayers”.

Shapps said today’s award, which will also mean the introduction of new trains and 263 extra services every week, was “positive news for passengers, with more services, more direct connections and ambitious plans for a cleaner, greener railway, and also represents a decisive shift towards a new model for rail”.

He added: “It is a partnership supported by Keith Williams, built with the flexibility to respond to his recommendations and deliver fundamental reform to a flawed system. Meeting Keith last week confirmed our shared determination to deliver a future that puts passengers at the heart of the railways, and get our trains to run on time.

“That is why I have asked Keith to produce his recommendations for a white paper, with fearless proposals that will deliver a railway system fit for the 21st century."

DfT said it had used a new financial measure, called the forecast revenue mechanism, to avoid a repeat of the problems on the East Coast mainline, where franchises have twice been taken over by government as a result of unrealistic revenue projections. This mechanism will be supported by an annual review process to ensure partnerships work effectively, the department said.

Williams said that the railway “needs reform that prioritises the customers and communities it serves, with an absolute focus on delivering benefits for passengers”.

But he said his review should not delay investment and innovation.

“This West Coast Partnership delivers for passengers. It is a step forward that is firmly in line with the review, introducing benefits for passengers today and capable of incorporating the reforms needed for the future.”

Among the planned service changes are the introduction of more smart ticketing options, as well as free onboard wifi and improved onboard mobile connectivity, and better compensation for delayed passengers.

Extra services will mean new destinations for the franchise, including routes from London to Llandudno and Gobowen, while Walsall will receive its first direct intercity services. Two trains per hour will run between Liverpool and London, subject to approval from the Office of Rail and Road watchdog, while Motherwell will become a major calling point for most West Coast Partnership services.

First Trenitalia will also act at the shadow operator responsible for the High Speed 2 rail route, although a government review into whether to give the final go-ahead to the line is expected later this year.

Tags Commercial Operational Delivery Procurement & Commercial Categories Business and industry Transport About the author

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

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Independent unit needed to report on crime "without obfuscation", Home Office told

4 days 17 hours ago
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Think tank also calls for merger of policing watchdogs after warning current set up 'places a heavy bureaucratic burden on individual forces'

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Boris Johnson announced a 20,000-officer police recruitment drive last month. Photo:  Yui Mok/PA

The Home Office should set up an independent National Crime Analysis Unit to monitor crime trends and inform its approach to policing, the Policy Exchange think tank has said.

The independent unit should report “honestly and openly on the underlying causes of crime levels and without obfuscation”, the think tank said in a report today, which also called more resources to be directed to the National Crime Agency to tackle organised crime.

Policy Exchange has made several recommendations following the prime minister’s announcement that the Treasury will release funding to recruit 20,000 more police officers – reversing cuts that have been made since the coalition government's austerity drive began in 2010.

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It argued that the recruitment drive would be a “catalyst for rekindling British policing”, but said they should be deployed strategically to ensure they are as effective as possible.

To inform its work, the report said an independent analysis unit should provide updates on the drivers of crime and monitor the delivery of a national police resource plan to deliver the promised increase in officer numbers over the next three years. These reports should be public because “too often in the past, Ministers have massaged crime figures and used crime statistics selectively,” the report said.

The unit would be directed by the National Policing Board, which Boris Johnson announced in July to drive his planned recruitment of police officers. The report said the home secretary should use the NPB to set “clear national and regional priorities and streamline decision making”. The majority of the freshly recruited officers should be used to restore community neighbourhood teams back to 2010 levels, it added.

They should also be used to tackle what it called the “less visible threats” from serious and organised crime, which had increased substantially, the think tank said. Funding has not matched this increase and there is now a “growing capability and capacity gap” in the NCA and regional and organised crime units, it said.

In May, NCA director general Lynne Owens said serious and organised crime represented a “chronic and corrosive” threat to the UK, and that an extra £2.7bn was needed every year to tackle the problem – £650m of which should go the crime agency.

Responding to today's report on Twitter, Owens said: “I support all of the recommendations that relate to serious and organised crime.

“The public can not afford for it to be the poor relation – crushed between the valued visible neighbourhood policing and the acute counter terrorism threat.”

Elsewhere in the report, Policy Exchange said the Home Office should establish a “police technology innovation hub” to report to the National Policing Board on opportunities presented by technologies such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition.

“The technological revolution is radically impacting and often outpacing policing, for instance, through the opportunities presented by body worn cameras and digital media exploitation of phones and other media devices,” the report said. It recommended that the hub be chaired by a senior chief constable and draw on the expertise of private sector experts and venture capitalists “who can help advocate change directly with the home secretary”.

It also called for the the two watchdogs that oversee policing, the Independent Office for Police Conduct and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, to be merged into a single body.

Maintaining both bodies is expensive, costing around £100m a year in total, and “places a heavy bureaucratic burden on individual forces”, it said.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government is taking action to protect the public by recruiting 20,000 new police officers and we are working with our policing partners to make this happen.

"Consideration will always be given to the changing demands of policing and this includes [police community support officers], who play an important role. Police forces themselves can decide the individual needs within existing budgets.

“The National Policing Board will bring senior leaders from the sector together to discuss how well we are collectively delivering against our priorities.”

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Justice and Public Safety Categories Government and politics Public order, justice and rights About the author

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

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Johnson asked if jobcentres will get funding boost to prepare for Brexit

5 days 16 hours ago
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Work and pensions select committee chair asks if DWP network will benefit from no-deal Brexit prep funding

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The work and pensions select committee has asked senior government figures including prime minister Boris Johnson for further information on the government’s planning for a no-deal Brexit, including whether extra funding will be given to jobcentres to prepare.

In a letter to the prime minister, which was also copied to work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd and chancellor Sajid Javid, committee chair Frank Field said the MPs had heard warnings of a 30% risk of the economy contracting in 2020, while Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has said leaving the EU without a deal would be an “instantaneous shock” to the UK economy.

In light of these warnings, Field urged Johnson to set out the government’s preparations for a potential future recession or economic shock.

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He asked whether the government had modelled the effect of a recession or economic shock on welfare spending in general, or Universal Credit spending in particular, and whether the government would share this information. He also asked whether the government had analysed or planned how Universal Credit would operate in a recession, given that the reform began in2013 and has not been tested in a recession.

Field also said Robert Chote, the chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility, had told the committee that “one of the sensible things that was done ahead of the previous recession was to make sure that jobcentres are adequately funded for this when it hits, having learned the experience from previous times”

In light of recent announcements of increased government spending on no-deal preparations, Field asked whether No.10 or the Department for Work and Pensions had "any plans to increase funding for and staffing of Jobcentre Plus in the case of an economic shock or recession”.

The letter comes after the government's announcement that it would spend up to £2.1bn to prepare for a possible no-deal Brexit on top of previously allocated funding, with chancellor Sajid Javid urging departments to “intensify" their planning.

No.10 Downing Street has been approached for comment.

Tags Brexit Operational Delivery Categories Government and politics Society and welfare About the author

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

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Former terrorism legislation watchdog to lead probe on Home Office Prevent strategy

5 days 17 hours ago
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Lord Carlile will consider if programme is fit for purpose

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Lord Alexander Carlile QC, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has been appointed to lead a review of the Home Office’s anti-radicalisation strategy Prevent.

The appointment of Carlile, a barrister who was named a CBE in 2012 for services to national security, was announced days after a coalition of human rights and community groups criticised the Home Office’s decision not to hold an open recruitment process for the role.

The Home Office announced plans to review the Prevent strategy, which came into force in 2012, under an amendment to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill in January.

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Under the legislation, schools, universities and other institutions must report people they suspect are vulnerable to extremism, described as a “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values” such as democracy and tolerance of different beliefs. Critics have said Prevent could encourage discrimination or have a chilling effect on free speech.

Carlile, a high-profile barrister who defended Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell against charges that he had stolen some items from the late Princess of Wales' estate, was Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire for 14 years up to 1997. He became a life peer in 1999, sitting first for the Lib Dems before leaving the party in 2016.

He was independent reviewer of terrorism legislation from 2001 to 2011, and has led a number of government probes including a 2006 inquiry into physical restraint, solitary confinement and forcible strip-searching of children in prisons, and a follow-up public inquiry in 2011. 

In a letter to Home Affairs Select Committee chair Yvette Cooper yesterday, home secretary Priti Patel said Carlile’s appointment demonstrated the Home Office’s “commitment to ensuring that our strategy for supporting people vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism is as effective as possible in the future”.

The review examine how Prevent is being delivered and make a series of recommendations for the future in a report to parliament by August 2020, the Home Office said,

Patel said a team had been appointed to work on the review, and that terms of reference would be published “shortly”. The team will be independent of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, the Home Office unit that oversees Prevent, she said.

In a letter to security minister Brandon Lewis this weekend, 10 groups including Liberty, Index on Censorship and the Muslim Council of Britain said an “incredibly broad range of people and organisations”, including politicians, health and education workers, had raised concerns about Prevent.

The letter, seen by the Independent, warned that the lack of an open recruitment process for Carlile’s post did “not inspire confidence that the government is seeking to appoint a reviewer with the expertise and independence required to thoroughly scrutinise the logic, remit and impact of Prevent”.

The groups said the review must examine Prevent’s “underlying assumptios and evidence base, its human rights implications, and, ultimately, whether it is fit for purpose”. 

Liberty, a human rights charity, has pushed for an independent review of Prevent, which it has said “worsens the problems it seeks to combat by facilitating discrimination and alienating whole communities, spreading fear and suspicion, shutting down debate and driving those with violent views [and] ideas underground”.

Carlile’s successor as terrorism legislation reviewer until 2017 David Anderson, said in 2015 that a review was needed because there was an “undeniable” lack of confidence in Prevent and that it was “possible… that aspects of the programme [were] ineffective or being applied in an insensitive or discriminatory manner”.

Announcing the review in January, then-security minister Ben Wallace said: “This review should expect those critics of Prevent, who often use distortions and spin, to produce solid evidence of their allegations.”

He said annual statistics for the programme “clearly show that Prevent is not about singling out any particular group or ideology but is similar to other forms of safeguarding, carried out every day by social workers, teachers and police”.

According to the Home Office, more than 1,200 people have been “supported by tailored mentoring and support” through Channel, the rehabilitation arm of the programme. In 2017-18, the most recent year for which figures are available, 394 were referred to Channel, 45% for concerns related to Islamist extremism and 44% related to right-wing extremism.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Justice and Public Safety Categories Government and politics Public order, justice and rights About the author

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

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Opinion: Is public policy trapped in think tanks?

5 days 17 hours ago
Opinion

Policy think tanks have become important in the development of policy in a relatively short space of time. Colin Talbot and Carole Talbot ask if this a good thing

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Think tanks are a relatively new political and policy development and they are still relatively poorly understood. Which is shame, because they are a big and increasingly important part of the policymaking environment.

There are about 150 independent think tanks in the UK alone (and that is not including University-based policy analysis organizations, which probably total another 2 or 3 times that number). One estimate, for around only 30 UK-based think tanks, puts their combined annual income at £65m – equivalent to almost half the combined annual income of the Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, which was £111m in 2017.

Nor is this just a UK phenomenon – one global database lists over 2,700 think tanks. There seems to have been an initial explosion in numbers of think tanks in the 1970s and 80s in Europe and North America, followed now by the rest of the world. Today they identify almost 100 in Africa, 400 in Asia, 400 in North America, over 600 in Latin America, and more than a thousand across Europe.

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What are think tanks?

So what are think tanks and what do they do? The late Carole H Weiss, of Harvard, who probably did more to pioneer research on think tanks than anyone, called them “organizations for policy analysis” in a 1992 book she edited, sub-titled “helping governments think”.

Of course, governments already have lots of their own people to help them think about policy – the Westminster government has around 17,000 civil servants employed in the policy profession. They have also sometimes set up their own internal think tanks – like the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) set up by Ted Heath in 1971, or 30 years later the Strategy Unit established by Tony Blair in 2001.

The UK’s universities also have a lot of people who ‘do policy’. When we surveyed University of Manchester academics back in 2012 we identified over 500 academics (roughly 10%) who did some sort of policy work. Mostly this was contributing evidence and expertise to policymaking based on their day job as scientists and social scientists, but there were also two dozen or more centres and institutes that played significant policy analysis roles.

So what do think tanks do that government and universities can’t?

Unlike policy analysts in government, think tanks are unconstrained by departmental silos, the demands of having to run services and, crucially, the fear of asking embarrassing questions or delivering politically awkward answers to policy problems.

Unlike universities, think tank-researchers are free of the burdens of academic publishing, teaching and the rigors of applying for peer-reviewed research grants. They can usually respond much faster than university-based policy analysts.

And, especially in social sciences, academics are often constrained by what we have called ‘discipline oriented social science’ which rewards single discipline research and expertise. By contrast, think tanks can usually engage in what we’ve called ‘problem oriented social science’ which is much more likely to be trans-disciplinary.

What do think tanks do?

Think tanks make two central claims about themselves: the first is that they possess specialist knowledge and expertise, and the second is that they are independent. Let’s examine each in more detail.

Expertise

Think tanks claim expertise in policy processes, in one or more policy area like education, security or the economy, and the application of rigorous analysis and creative methods to address policy problems.

But they don’t all do all of these things. So we can drill down a little further by separating the policy process out into four phases:

  • Shaping a policy issue by curating and analysing data – factual and opinions.
  • Designing possible policy options to address the problem.
  • Comparing the options for their costs and benefits, possibilities and problems, and feasibility.
  • Choosing and advocating for the ‘best’ options.

Some think tanks confine themselves mainly to shaping. One of the most prominent of UK think tanks, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, puts most of its effort into analysing government finances, taxes and spending and, to a lesser extent, comparing various policies and their likely consequences. It rarely designs solutions and it virtually never advocates for a specific one.

At the other end of the spectrum some think tanks are highly activist in choosing and advocating for policy options – these are usually the more political ones like the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) or Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) on the right or the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) or Demos on the left.

Independence

This leads neatly on to the question of think tanks’ independence – independent from what and who?

The organisations we’re discussing here are clearly independent of government, universities and direct allegiance to a political party – even when some have fairly transparent broad political or ideological leanings. But understanding how truly independent they are is a much murkier area.

The first and most obvious question is – who funds them? The website Who Funds You, have rated 30 UK Think Tanks for their funding transparency.  The results are, shall we say, mixed.

Even where funding is transparent its not usually clear what influence, if any, the donors exert on the Think Tanks. Using the Who Funds You data, and adding our own analysis, we’ve identified the political/ideological leanings their 30-odd Think Tanks and their incomes (which gives some idea of their size and activities).

It shows that the 11 right-leaning think tanks received £15.5m, compared to £12.9m that went to left-leaning ones. The only obviously centrist organisation, got just £600k, whilst the bulk of income – £35m – went to the eight politically neutral outfits.

Organisation Income RIGHT CENTRE  LEFT NEUTRAL Adam Smith Institute Not disclosed Not disclosed       Bright Blue £445,138 £445,138       Centre for Cities £1,298,658       £1,298,658 Centre for Labour and Social Studies £148,898     £148,898   Centre for Policy Studies £863,087 £863,087       Centre for Social Justice £1,179,150 £1,179,150       Chatham House £17,872,000       £17,872,000 Civitas £828,707 £828,707       Common Vision (CoVi) £257,639       £257,639 Compass £285,586     £285,586   Demos £969,023     £969,023   Fabian Society £731,455     £731,455   Hansard Society £811,526       £811,526 High Pay Centre £94,239     £94,239   Institute for Fiscal Studies £8,834,706       £8,834,706 Institute for Government £4,387,284       £4,387,284 Institute for Public Policy Research £5,288,160     £5,288,160   Institute of Economic Affairs £1,913,000 £1,913,000       Legatum Institute £4,398,079 £4,398,079       New Economics Foundation £3,519,786     £3,519,786   Policy Exchange £3,553,565 £3,553,565       Policy Network £903,022     £903,022   Reform £1,439,426 £1,439,426       Resolution Foundation £1,562,924       £1,562,924 ResPublica £928,959 £928,959       Smith Institute Not disclosed     Not disclosed   Social Market Foundation £624,653   £624,653     Tax Justice Network £944,020     £944,020   TaxPayers’ Alliance Not disclosed Not disclosed       Unlock Democracy £279,997       £279,997 TOTALS £64,362,687 £15,549,111 £624,653 £12,884,189 £35,304,734

Source: calculated from http://whofundsyou.org/compare

Some accounts of the history of think tanks suggest they have become very influential in the policy process. Richard Cockett’s Thinking the Unthinkable (1994) claims that various right-wing economic think tanks, especially the IEA, were critical in the ‘counter-revolution’ of liberal economics in the 1970s and the policies of Margaret Thatcher. Madsen Pirie makes similar claims in his “Think Tank: the story of the Adam Smith Institute” (2012).

The title of Diane Stone’s excellent historical analysis on think tanks in Britain and America – Capturing the Political Imagination (1996) – neatly summarises the role that they can play. It is not, according to Stone’s analysis, mainly a matter of think tank A directly influencing policy B – it’s more how they shape the intellectual climate and frame policy arguments. To use another public policy idea, they can shape the Overton window of what is seen as possible?

Another US think tanks expert, Andrew Selee, points out that they can even put issues onto the political agenda, simply by doing the sort of shaping analysis we discussed earlier. The Pew Hispanic Centre, part of the Pew group of “fact tanks”, was established in 2001 simply to collate, analyse and publish data about the US’s Hispanic communities. Simply by surfacing the facts, it was massively influential in creating an Hispanic policy space.

In an age of many challenges to democratic institutions, think tanks can be a source of pluralistic strength but also a potential back door for malign influences and actors.

Demands that political parties and lobby groups become much more transparent should extend to think tanks too – we need to know and understand a lot more about them and they need to be much more open about their funders, motivations, roles, methods and work.

Author Display Name Colin Talbot and Carole Talbot Tags Partnership working Policymaking Categories Government and politics About the author

Prof. Colin Talbot and Dr. Carole Talbot are research associates at the University of Cambridge

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Johnson revamps MoJ prisons estate plan with promise of 10,000 new places

6 days 16 hours ago
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Johnson said the Treasury would provide £2.5bn to increase prison spaces

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The Ministry of Justice will spend up to £2.5bn of funding for extra prison places as part of a plan to crack down on violent crime, the prime minister has announced.

Boris Johnson said the money would be used to create 10,000 extra prisons places as he vowed to "come down hard on crime".

Johnson said he wanted "criminals to be afraid – not the public", as he also gave the go-ahead for more police use of stop-and-search powers.

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Johnson has also ordered an urgent review of sentencing policy for serious violent crime, saying the government had "no choice but to insist on tougher sentencing laws for serious sexual and violent offenders, and for those who carry knives".

While he acknowledged that would mean "more pressure on our jails" – almost two-thirds of which are currently classed as over-crowded – the prime minister vowed to create 10,000 new spaces to try and tackle the problem.

"The chancellor, Sajid Javid, has agreed to invest up to £2.5bn to deliver this commitment," he said.

"Frankly, this investment is long overdue. It is not enough just to catch the criminals, punish them and deter them from further crime. We must also do far more to turn their lives around, because our penal system is woefully ill-equipped to rehabilitate and reform."

The first prison to be built will be at HMP Full Sutton, plans for which were announced in January as part of the MoJ’s existing £1.3bn prison estates transformation programme.

The estates strategy was put in place in 2016, tied to a Conservative Party manifesto pledge to build up to 10,000 prison places to tackle overcrowding. Plans to build two new prisons in Wellingborough in Northamptonshire and Glen Parva in Leicestershire, which would account for around a third of that figure, were announced last year.

Johnson’s announcement today supersedes the existing commitment, the MoJ said, and does not include the Wellingborough and Glen Parva facilities.

At the time of publication, the MoJ had not yet clarified whether the £2.5bn being allocated to Johnson’s reforms included the money already allotted to the estates strategy in the 2015 Spending Review.

The first new prison to be built using the funds will be at HMP Full Sutton, plans for which were announced in 2017, the MoJ said.

The latest annual crime survey for England and Wales shows that there was an 8% increase in the number of knife offences recorded by police over the past year, with a 3% year-on-year rise in firearms incidents. Knife-related homicides are meanwhile at their highest level since 1946.

Johnson – who clashed with then-home secretary Theresa May over moves to rein in controversial police stop-and-search powers when he was mayor of London – said ministers were now "making clear that the police can and should make use" of those tools.

Police will be able to make greater use of so-called Section 60 orders, which allow officers to search somebody without suspicion if they are in an area where they believe an offence is about occur.

Johnson said: "We are extending an existing pilot so that 8,000 more officers can decide to deploy stop-and-search across an area without a senior officer needing to give the go-ahead."

The latest government figures show that black people are still nine-and-a-half times more likely than white people to be targeted by stop-and-search powers, with Labour warning that the boost to Section 60 powers marked a "recipe for unrest".

But Johnson said: "I know stop-and-search is controversial. I know that left-wing criminologists will object. And, of course, it is right that stop-and-search should be done courteously and in accordance with the law – something that the use of police body cameras has helped to support.

"But I also know that the people who back this intervention most fervently are often the parents of the kids who are so tragically foolish as to go out on the streets equipped with a knife, endangering not only the lives of others but their own."

Author Display Name Beckie Smith and Matt Foster Tags Justice and Public Safety Spending Review Categories Government and politics Public order, justice and rights About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith. Matt Foster is news editor of PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared.

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Cabinet Office unit to tackle Brexit news 'inaccuracies'

6 days 17 hours ago
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Creation of rapid rebuttal unit around UK’s EU exit in addition to existing work to respond to fake news

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The Cabinet Office has confirmed the creation of a rapid rebuttal unit to react quickly to “inaccurate media reporting” on the impact of Brexit.

The department has confirmed to Civil Service World that the unit has been formed as part of preparations for the UK’s exit from the European Union on 31 October, either with or without an agreement with Brussels.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who is responsible for leading the government’s planning for a possible no-deal exit, would launch the unit today to provide quick responses to "media myths and half-truths" about the risks of a no-deal Brexit.

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The unit will be run from the Cabinet Office by civil servants with the aim of tackling the spread of “scare stories or falsehoods” on the impact of leaving the bloc.

According to the Telegraph, the unit’s response to inaccuracies could include the issuing of corrections in online tweets or blogs to directly reassuring stakeholders. The paper reports that senior government figures have become frustrated about recent stories on the impact of no deal. In particular one report that around 45,000 dairy cows being slaughtered in Northern Ireland after a no deal exit.

The Cabinet Office told CSW that the unit is separate from the department’s existing fake news rapid response unit, which was founded to tackle fake news stories in government. Examples that the unit have tackled included tackling a story that wrongly claimed the government had passed a vote claiming animals couldn’t feel pain, which followed an announcement in December 2017 that it would introduce legislation recognising animal sentience.

Another is a widely-shared story in 2018 that was entitled “Urgent national frozen veg recall after nine dead”, which the unit characterised as misinformation because it implied nine people had died recently in the UK. In fact, there had been nine deaths across Europe since 2015 caused by listeria, which had been raised as a health risk in frozen vegetable products that were recalled by supermarkets.

A Cabinet Office spokesman told CSW: “All government departments are responsible for responding to inaccurate media reporting in their areas.

“A team focusing on reacting quickly to Brexit related stories is being established as part of preparations to leave the EU on October 31, so as to reassure the public that the government will be fully prepared for the UK to leave then, whatever the circumstances.”

Tags Brexit Communications Media Info Operational Delivery Project & Programme Management Transparency & Open Data 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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Prime minister tells civil service to make no-deal planning 'top priority'

6 days 18 hours ago
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Civil servants told to "communicate clearly with the British people about what our plans for taking back control mean"

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The prime minister has told civil servants to make preparing for a no-deal Brexit their “top priority”, in his first message to all officials.

In an email seen by CSW, Boris Johnson said he wanted civil servants to be in “no doubt” about his approach to Brexit, reiterating that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October “whatever the circumstances”.

“I would very much prefer to leave with a deal... But I recognise this may not happen. That is why preparing urgently and rapidly for the possibility of an exit without a deal will be my top priority, and it will be the top priority for the civil service too,” he said.

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Earlier this month Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who is in charge of no-deal planning, said the government was working "on the assumption" that Brexit would go ahead without a withdrawal agreement

Johnson wrote: “I know many of you have already done a great deal of hard work in mobilising to prepare for a no-deal scenario, so that we can leave on 31 October come what may.

“Between now and then we must engage and communicate clearly with the British people about what our plans for taking back control mean, what people and businesses need to do, and the support we will provide."

The memo, sent on Friday, said civil servants must also rally behind other priorities Johnson has set out since becoming prime minister last month.

He said the government must “protect our precious NHS, seeing to it that the £20bn funding settlement reaches the front line without delay” – although the email did not reference the £1.9bn boost for NHS capital spending and facilities that Johnson announced with some fanfare earlier this month. It has since emerged that more than half of the funds are not “new money” as Johnson said, but money NHS trusts already held but had not been allowed to spend.

Johnson also told civil servants they must support his goal to tackle violent crime and recruit 20,000 extra police officers – reversing cuts since 2010 – by “working across government to get on top of the problem”.

And they must deliver his goal of increasing per-pupil funding in schools to £4,000 at primary level and £5,000 at secondary, he said.

“While there are no grounds for complacency, there is every reason for optimism. Together we can achieve amazing things for our country,” Johnson said.

“And – regardless of whether you are cracking policy problems in the heart of Whitehall, helping people back into employment as a work coach in one of our great towns and cities, or an IT professional shaping the future of digital public services – I look forward to working with all of you to do just that.”

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

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

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