Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Home Office Meltdown- Lessons In The Bleedin' Obvious

OK...big breaths (pleath thupply your own punchline).

As the Home Office lurches from crisis to crisis, it's turning into a sick and horribly tired joke. But somehow we must steady ourselves and draw the right conclusions.

Yes, Clarke is another Big State meddler who wouldn't be able to run a whelk stall in the real world. And yes, he's surrounded by hopeless mandarins and party apparatchiks like Baroness Scotland, Tony Mcnulty, and Andy Burnham. And yes of course we all want to see them sacked.

But this meltdown reflects something much deeper than the personal incompetence of these clowns. And we need to register and act on the real lessons.

First, the HO is much much too big. It employs 73,000 staff, costs £13bn pa, and as we've been hearing over the last 24 hours, like all big organisations, it operates in silos. New Labour used to talk fancifully of "joined up government" without having the faintest notion how to achieve it. Hopefully we can all now see that's not a real world option. SMALL IS ALWAYS BETTER.

Second, its grasp is much greater than its reach. Like all Big Government organs, the HO is constantly seeking ways of accumulating more power, be it centralising police forces or the imposition of ID cards. But in reality, it's unable even to manage its own internal accounting systems- as the PAC will be exploring this afternoon.

Third, it is far too distant from those it is supposed to serve- ie us. Its bureaucratic culture is poor at recognising and dealing with change (witness its appalling inaction over the released foreign criminals), and personal accountabilities are often blurred (as in the accounting fiasco). There is now incentive to serve our communities- only the politicians in charge.

We already know what must be done: further centralisation- like ID cards- must be stopped, responsibilities for most criminal justice must be devolved back to local communities- those elected sheriffs would be a good start- and penalties must be increased (and simplified) to reduce the number of criminals on our streets.

It may be the bleedin' obvious, but we have to make sure we all learn it.

No comments:

Post a Comment