Challenging traditional ways of thinking

IT’S BEEN an action-packed first year in government with legislation, draft bills and reviews moving at a pace of knots. There’s no doubt that by cutting waste and bureaucracy, and taking focused effective action, much has already been achieved.

My own department has been no exception.

Changes to stationery procurement procedures may not exactly grab the headlines, but it’s good to know that a saving of £21m is expected from the new HMRC print contract which will be available to all government departments and replaces 140 contracts with a single one.

The days when there was no strategy and no coherence to the way the government bought goods and services are well and truly at an end.

That’s been achieved by challenging traditional ways of thinking. Like the ‘pay first, check later’ culture which has helped sustain the £21bn of annual fraud in the public sector. Unless you are a member of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, it may have escaped your notice that fraud taskforce pilots testing fresh approaches to eliminating fraud have already delivered immediate savings of £12m in their first few months.

And have you heard of the scrapping of CORE, the database of electors legislated for in 2006 which was to have cost taxpayers more than £11m to build and £2.7m a year to run - with a new independent public body to supervise it. A potential quango snuffed out.

Collectively we have made a good start with the savings we have already delivered – but it is only the beginning. If we are to continue our long term rescue mission on our economy it’s vital that we help our young people get ahead.

Like the high-achieving 16 to 18-year-olds from under-represented backgrounds, who joined me for an interactive session this week at the launch of the Whitehall Internship programme. The aim is to provide interns with a taster of the civil service and give them the confidence and skills to help them advance in their professional lives.

Success will be measured by how far we challenged the established way of thinking on internships – that securing one depends on who you know rather than what you know.

‘Physician, heal thyself’ you may think, and I hope this shows that my department at any rate has been taking the medicine.

The summer reading list from the Whips’ Office has just come to hand and with it the prospect of sun and surf and an opportunity to escape the tyranny of the red boxes. My best wishes to all for a refreshing summer break.


MP for Horsham