Sunday, 2 August 2009

New think tank

Located in Carlton House Gardens, the new Institute of Government is clearly not short of money. Is this the British Brookings that many people have called for:
Think Tank

It's a cross-party body concerned with evidence-based work on the effectiveness of government. Transitions of government is one interest. The executive durector is former top mandarin, Sir Michael Bichard.

An early report has some interesting and relevant things to say on the core executive. Despite the popular belief that British government is highly centralised, the three departments at the centre - Number 10, the Treasury and the Cabinet Office 'actually have less power over people and budgets, and fewer sanctions to apply than many of their international counterparts.'

This is an issue that is known to concern Dave Cameron and the Conservatives have signalled that they intend to create a 'power house' at the centre of government. Unfortunately, we have heard this before, not least from Harold Wilson. Margaret Thatcher did exert a grip on government through force of personality rather than new structures, but she lost that grip as she surrounded herself with courtiers who would not challenge her.

Sir Michael commented that a small centre had some advantages: 'It avoids bureaucracy and second-guessing. But there are questions to be asked about whether the UK's centre of government has the power and authority to set a clear strategic direction for government as a whole.' These are, indeed, important questions that need to be asked and pursued.

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