Targets, what targets? Now Perm Secs targets are “published”


Both the parties that make up the current Coalition government had great fun at New Labour’s expense criticising their “target culture”. All that time-wasting, box-ticking, form-filling, behaviour-distorting, nonsense would be swept away if they were in power. How did that work out then?

I have already pointed out that they did indeed sweep away Public Service Agreements (PSAs) and Departmental Strategic Objectives (DSOs) in a previous post. But I also pointed out that they had replaced them with elaborate Departmental Business Plans in 2011 and 2012 which actually contained MORE targets than New Labour had in their last set of targets (2007).

Now they have done it again – in publishing (some) Permanent Secretaries “Individual Performance Objectives” they have illustrated once again just how much continuity there is between the last government and the current one when it comes to using targets. If you don’t believe me, just have a look at this set for Ursula Brennan (Justice):

Ursula_Brennan-objectives_2012-13

And a couple of small points:

– when they started publishing Departmental Business Plans they claimed this was a “first” – it wasn’t, the last Conservative government started doing that back in the mid-1990s.

– now they are claiming publishing Perm Secs objectives is also a “first” – again untrue, they were available under New Labour.

– and for a pretty hapless ‘implementation gap’ just have a look at the place the Perm Secs objectives are published on the Cabinet Office website. The objectives are published by individual names only, so unless you happen to be a Whitehall insider, or a geek like me,you have no idea who is Permanent Secretary of what without poking about in the files. User friendly? Transparent? Seriously?

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About Colin Talbot

Professor of Government. Universities of Cambridge and Manchester, England.
This entry was posted in Whitehall. Bookmark the permalink.

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