Radical Efficiency in Whitehall

June 24, 2010 at 3:00 pm Leave a comment

By Matthew Horne

A group of senior civil servants met at the Institute of Government in May for an early introduction to the Radical Efficiency report prior to its publication. Sarah Gillinson presented the research findings to a packed room of officials from almost every department. Rob Whiteman, the head of IdeA, responded to the presentation welcoming the research.

The audience discussed the main differences between our proposed Radical Efficiency Zones and the previous government’s Total Place initiative. While Total Place was an exercise in pooling local funds, eliminating duplication and then making recommendations to Whitehall about changes in policy; Radical Efficiency Zones are about devolving greater freedoms and powers to local government in return for a real duty to innovate and act differently from the outset.  

Officials felt that designing systems of public services that encouraged and facilitated innovation (and the diffusion of innovation) was a critical capability for policy makers in Whitehall.

To exemplify the issue the group compared the approach of the National Trust with that of English Heritage. The first is a member owned charity (3m+ members) with a small staff and 61,000 volunteers. English Heritage is a government owned agency with a large staff and few volunteers. By creating the right regulatory environment (through the Charities Commission) and the right financial incentives (allowing families to give land to the National Trust instead of paying Inheritance Tax) the government has created an innovative model of preserving our heritage without having to own and manage the organisation itself.

There was a big discussion about the relationship between civil servants in Whitehall and localities where services are delivered. We came up with an idea that individual Civil Servants should develop a long term relationship with a locality during their career – possibly through requiring their professional development to be linked to that place. This would give civil servants a much more realistic view of how policies are interpreted and acted out in practice.

Radical Efficiency has gained some traction within Whitehall since the seminar and we are currently working with individual departments to help them interpret what it means for them.


Entry filed under: Local Authorities, Public Services, Radical Efficiency, Total Place.

‘Tax and axe’ isn’t the only option Transforming Early Years

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

The Innovation Unit website

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 29 other followers


Twitter Updates

Follow innovation_unit on Twitter

%d bloggers like this: