The Week, 11 November 2016

11 November 2016

Previously, the Science and Technology Committee has warned the Government about the impact of further delaying the publication of its Digital Strategy. This lack of direction has not wholly hampered initiatives seeking to increase digitisation in the public sector. Our Reformer, Jim Harra, Tax Assurance Commissioner and Director General Customer Strategy and Tax Design, has simplified the tax procedures for businesses. They will use a software that directly sends in-year updates to HMRC, instead of having to file accounts five times a year. Such initiatives can only be encouraged as they increase process efficiency and are a clear sign of the government becoming an enabler.

Eleonora Harwich, Researcher

Reformers

Jim Harra, for simplifying business accounting procedures through digitisation which will increase accuracy and efficiency.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee, for calling on the Government to scrap the triple lock to ensure the future sustainability of public finances.

Reactionary

The National Health Service for failing to harness to power of technology in order to increase the efficiency and smooth running of its administrative systems and patient record management.

Good week for…

Curbing financial crime

On Tuesday, the Financial Times reported that the cross-agency task force created to deal with the implications of the Panama Papers leak has led to more than 30 people and companies being investigated.

Accountability and consistency

On Thursday, the Department for Education agreed on new financial reporting arrangements for academy schools. This will increase their accountability and allow for a better financial comparison between different school types.

Unpaid work

Also on Thursday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) launched its unpaid work calculator, which will help raise awareness of the value of domestic chores. ONS figures for 2014 show the value of unpaid work totalled to £1.01 trillion, approximately 56 per cent of GDP.

Bad week for…

Universal credit

On Monday, the Financial Times reported that the roll out of universal credit is at risk because of technical issues with HMRC’s IT system.

Public finances

On Tuesday , the Financial Times reported that UK growth and tax revenues have not met the Office for Budget Responsibility’s projections, leaving a hole of £25 billion in public finances.

Patient outcomes

On Thursday, The Guardian reported that bed-blocking in the NHS is on the rise due to the impact of cuts in social care and lack of integration between health and social care.

Quotes

“The welfare state is underpinned by an implicit intergenerational contract. Each generation is supported in retirement by their in-work successors. This is supported by all age groups, but a combination of factors has sent the balance out of kilter. It is now the working young and their children who face the daunting challenge of getting on in an economy skewed against them. (…) Great strides have been made against the scourge of pensioner poverty and the new state pension is at a level to provide an effective minimum income and encourage personal saving. It is time for the triple lock to be shelved. The system we propose protects pensioners and allows them to share the proceeds of future good times, but at the same time is inter-generationally fair. We call on all parties to get behind it”

Frank Field MP, Chair, House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, on Sunday.

“The modernisation of the route has potential to deliver significant benefits for passengers but this is a case study in how not to manage a major programme. The Department’s failure to plan and manage all the projects which now make up the Great Western Route Modernisation industry programme in a sufficiently joined up way, combined with weaknesses in Network Rail’s management of the infrastructure programme, has led to additional costs for the taxpayer. It is encouraging that since 2015 the Department and Network Rail have a better grip and put in place structures to manage the programme in an integrated way. However significant challenges to the timetable still remain and there is more to do to achieve value for money.”

Sir Amyas Morse, KCB, Comptroller and Auditor General, National Audit Office, on Wednesday.

“You’ve got the frankly bizarre situation in which justice secretaries worry themselves about how many books prisoners have got in their cells and the dimensions of their bath mats that they’re allowed to have…I’m absolutely convinced that the long-term, sustainable answer is one where responsibilities for offender management services … are devolved.”

Kevin Lockyer, Director KML Consulting, in the Financial Times, on Friday. Kevin Lockyer’s Reform paper Local commissioning, local solutions: devolving offender management can be found here.

Reform’s week

Events

On Monday, Reform held a private policy event in partnership with Baxter led by Jim Mackey, Chief Executive of NHS Improvement, on implementing the Five Year Forward View.

The Reformer blog

On Tuesday, Andrew Haldenby, Director at Reform, commented on the Rt Hon Liz Truss MP’s speech on prison reform. He welcomed the focus on evidence and data, and suggested decentralisation as a means to enable more rapid reform.

On Thursday, Ben Dobson, Researcher at Reform, wrote about the Work, Health and Disability Green Paper and raised concerns about proposals for employment programmes being voluntary and only available to some claimants.

On Friday, Danail Vasilev, Research Assistant at Reform, argued that permitting employers to hire interns without pay for only a short period could improve social mobility while maintaining a flexible labour market.

Coming weeks

On Wednesday, Reform is hosting a welfare conference with the Rt Hon Damian Green MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in partnership with KPMG and Ingeus Pluss.

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