17 Jun 2008

   (Janey, I should have used this image for the Bilderberg Post the other day.) 

Brian Cowen said awhile back that senior public servants should be given greater autonomy to take managed risks and to experiment more.  “For the future, we have to… make sure that people have more discretion… to provide good services for the public on the ground… The whole idea is… to encourage innovation, to encourage risk-taking, to try new things,’ etc., etc.,

Nice dream.

Look, who doesn’t want an innovative planning system? Nobody. Unfortunately giving even more discretion to an already discretion burdened planning cadre is not going to achieve it. In fact, if Cowen understood anything at all about why the public service is the mess that it is, he’d realise that the root of the problem is that too many officials are already too free to interpret legislation and guidelines in whatever way they see fit.

The very definition of chaos, to me, is an office full of local authority planners with discretion. Mr. Cowan should know that it’s the Executive – i.e., his own Cabinet – which needs to exercise more discretion, innovation and experimentation. Rather than having a bunch of jobbing vote catchers (his Ministers) sit as nominal heads of Departments – farming out decision making and policy implementation to quangos (HSE, DTA) and Secretaries General as they go –  the public service will remain on its knees until we move to the kind of system they have in other parts of the world where government departments are headed up by qualified people with real knowledge and real power to implement policy. It’s the only way forward.

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