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Four essential questions for government


From an Economist article on facing up to the scale of the deficit in the UK:-

Both Mr Osborne and Mr Laws stuck this week to the supposed difference between “front-line” services, which must be protected, and other spending on the public services and administration, where “wasteful” expenditure can be eliminated. The distinction is spurious: could the new ministers function in their “front-line” jobs without the back-up of civil servants?

Now where have we heard about protecting ‘front line services’.

In reality it has longed seem to make sense that we should look at the policies and processes to determine value.

In that context we should continually seek to ensure that government addresses the following 4 questions:-

In Adam’s opinion if these 4 questions were kept in mind at all times then by focusing on benefits and looking at how they are achieved, we may well avoid the artificial distinction between ‘front line’ and ‘back office’ and focus on driving benefit and value to those being served, ie the taxpayer.

Protection of front line personnel numbers may sound all well and good, but doing so may in fact preserve inefficieincies. In Adam’s experience the attack on waste and inefficiency should be end to end and not piecemeal.

  1. 24/05/2010 22:25

    Good questions not just for government but for NGOs and private businesses too.


    • adamsmith1922 permalink*
      24/05/2010 22:33

      I agree, but I wanted to focus on Government

      I should like to think that National does focus in this way, but honestly I am not sure, especially when you see English in the media

      UPDATE: English often seems to come across poorly when interviewed and thus fails to make his case. If he was to address the issues by focusing on value rather than talking about front line he might fare better


  2. adamsmith1922 permalink*
    24/05/2010 18:23

    You are correct. I had taken that as a given, ie that we we were testing the effectiveness of appropriate and worthy policy.

    Though of course the appropriateness of policy is of course seen through the prism of one’s belief system.

    Having said that I would still argue that the 4 questions provide an effective test, subject as you say to an additional up-front test. It has long been a concern that governments of all shades, but especially of the left, seem to consider that Value, Delivery and Organization are nowhere nesr as important as Policy thus wasting much money.


  3. bez permalink
    24/05/2010 18:13

    I am at disagreement with Adam there.
    I’d say the most important part of this diagram is the arrow labelled “policy”.
    There should be an additional little diagram surrounding that arrow, where the vital determination is whether “policy” is actually wanted and warranted, and what the parameters for that policy are. Simply accepting that “policy” is required and then looking at strategies and delivery misses this all-important first step.



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