Lessons from the UK: why bureaucrats need space to fail


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Francis Maude, minister in charge of reforming the UK civil service, insists you can get more for less in public administration — and reckons bureaucracy outsources too much.

“We have killed forever the seductively comfortable myth that you cannot get more for less. You can. More for less. Better for less. We’ve proved it again and again.”

So argued Francis Maude, Britain’s Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, at a recent speech for the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he is effusive about the impact public service mutuals and joint ventures are having in the United Kingdom. Since the Cameron government came to power in 2010, the number of public service mutuals in England has increased from nine to over 100. Many of these have been “spun out” from previously government-owned agencies.

Maude (pictured), who is responsible for civil service reform, recounted a favourite story demonstrating the strengths of the freedom enjoyed by mutuals. A homeless man with leg ulcers needed hospital treatment, and would have ended up having the limb amputated if he didn’t receive care — but he wouldn’t go into hospital because his only companion was his dog, and he didn’t have the money to have the dog put into kennels. Maude recalled:

“So [mutual] Inclusion Healthcare wrote a cheque for £200 or whatever it cost to have the dog vaccinated and put into kennels. He went into hospital, had his ulcers treated, and he’s fine.

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  • Tubby_Isaacs

    I’m calling complete nonsense on that Maude story.

    For a start “auditing” is what you do afterwards. And if there’s no “miscellaneous” account available, below a certain level of expenditure, then create one! The idea it has to be reorganized into a mutual to do this is utter nonsense.

    What’s this anyway?

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-social-fund-technical-guidance

    Looks like a Social Fund for this kind of unusual expenditure. So worst that would have happened before is that someone would have run the Social Fund up and they’d have paid.