Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Going West

News this morning of the government's latest computer fiasco. This one's yet another clanger from the disintegrating Department for Work and Pensions, and it's reportedly cost us £141m.

Naturally DWP has done their best to cover-up, but the story seems to be that they've pulled the plug on their latest attempt to streamline benefit payments. And it illustrates some familar themes:
  • Gershon- the scheme was designed to deliver £60m of the DWP's allocated Gershon "savings"- regular readers will know these "savings" are largely a PR sham anyway, but here we see a clear example of how they are actually costing us money
  • Pie in the sky- it's very easy for politicos to dream up complex Brownian schemes targeting everything from poverty to R&D, but it's totally beyond the capability of government bureaucracy to deliver them- successful companies were forced to learned KISS years ago: politicos never have, and left to themselves never will
  • Accountability- it might have been their idea, but DWP ministers have smartly stepped aside from its failure, mumbling Labour's increasingly familiar formula about it being a "matter for civil servants". No guys; we don't need more spineless vacuity: we need Tesco government.

PS The Department of Health has now decided to go ahead with outsourcing NHS procurement, despite its chosen supplier being under investigation by the US Department of Justice (see this blog). The incentive is an aspirational ("no, this is not a guarantee") Gershon saving of £1bn over ten years- ie £100m pa. But with total spending projected at £2bn pa, that's only a 5% saving- a rounding error in terms of the NHS. Of course, last night's BBC TV news report from the increasingly unimpressive Robert Peston (didn't he used to be good before he joined the BBC?) reckoned the main angles were that 1700 public sector trade union members were being sold into the clutches of evil capitalists, and that this might encroach on some curious notion described as "public service ethos". No Bob- it's the money, remember?

PPS Mrs T and I are spending a week in a West Country seaside town Tyler knew well in his childhood. Sadly, those Betjemanesque golden memories remain just that. As Mrs T pointed out yesterday, right now the major career option for young women here seems to be single parenthood... and obesity. The young men are missing altogether, hopefully with the Marines serving Queen and Country, but quite conceivably in jail. That's what sixty years of welfare have done out West.

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