'No-one cares' about coalition's accountability push

Members of the public haven't leapt with delight at business plans
Members of the public haven't leapt with delight at business plans

By Alex Stevenson

A major push to open up government departments launched one year ago is not succeeding because of a lack of interest from politicians, journalists and the public, a thinktank has warned.

Prime minister David Cameron launched departmental business plans on November 8th 2010 in a move Downing Street claimed was a "major shift in the way government works".

The business plans provided a searchable database featuring information on departmental structures and salaries, ministerial meetings and hospitality and a vast tranche of other data.

According to the IfG the business plans have only been used to a limited extent by parliament and other intermediary groups.

"When the prime minister launched the business plans, there was an explicit intention that members of the public or 'armchair auditors' would be able to access them and the data underpinning them, and then use these to hold government to account," the IfG's senior researcher Justine Stephen said.

"Despite the availability of the plans and some of the data, there is, as yet, little indication that public debate is being affected by them."

The report said government departments were using the business plan alongside existing planning processes. It recommended that business plans should focus solely on the coalition's reform agenda and that ministers should set out how they fit into the broader 'accountability landscape'.

"The business plans can and should work well as an accountability mechanism but at the moment, they are used to varying degrees by different departments alongside other business planning tools," the IfG's director of research Julian McCrae said.

"For the business plans to achieve their potential and become fully integrated in the process of departmental accountability, they have to be a regular feature of departmental planning and delivery, and be seen and used by departmental boards."


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