Whitehall: new buzz words, old woes

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Will the new civil service regime be any better at ‘implementation’ than its predecessor was at ‘delivery’? It seems highly unlikely

Watch out for the word ‘implementation’ in 2012. It’s the new in-word in Whitehall. ‘Delivery’ is out – far too New Labour. Instead, ‘implementation’ is the new buzz word.

It has already started to make an appearance in public, for example when used by David Cameron and George Osborne to explain that the ‘implementation’ of the cuts in Child Benefit might be a bit different from the original announcement.

It’s reported that Dave is becoming increasingly frustrated that Whitehall is not doing the business – budgets have been butchered, policies promulgated, laws leveraged through, but on the ground – nada. At least not what, or as much, as our Dear Leader would like to see happening is happening.

There is even talk of some sort of new ‘implementation unit’ being set up in Downing Street (not a Delivery Unit, oh no, they’ve just got rid of one of those).

The first meeting of permanent secretaries in 2012 under the new regime of Sir Jeremy Heywood and Sir Bob Kerslake spent the whole meeting addressing ‘implementation’.

I hate to say ‘I told you so’, but I have predicted several times that 2012-13 would be the time that the massive cuts and radical change agenda would hit the brick wall of reality – especially the inability of the mandarins to ‘implement’ (must get used to saying that, I still keep wanting to put ‘deliver’).

My slightly whimsical end of year message for 2010 was entitled ‘The Great Train Wreck of 2013’ and a month earlier I’d advised that the government could do with a notice hung in every ministerial office saying ‘It’s the implementation, stupid’. It seems they might just be waking up to the reality. Good luck with that.

This post first appeared on Whitehall Watch

About Colin Talbot

Colin Talbot is Professor of Government in the School of Social Sciences (Politics), University of Manchester, and a former adviser to the Treasury select committee. He writes and comments widely on public management reform. Colin has worked with numerous national and international public sector organisations, as an adviser, consultant and researcher. He blogs at Manchester Policy Blogs.

One comment on Whitehall: new buzz words, old woes

  1. Richard Sturgess says:

    Another buzz word/phrase seems to be “hard-working families”

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