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Sunday, March 27, 2011

The malaise at the heart of government

For once this is not a rant about the former Labour Government or even the current One Wales Government. It is more of a sigh of despair at the way that Government institutions and civil servants can stifle initiative and work against Britain's best interests.

It may be that I am overreacting but in my experience these anecdotes from former UK Trade Minister, Lord Digby Jones's new book, Fixing Britain are fairly typical:

In a tale which sounds like it could have come straight from a Yes, Minister script, Digby Jones, the former head of the CBI, reveals this weekend that he was so frustrated that he wasn't allowed to drive a British-built car he even offered to use his own Jaguar.

His request was still refused, although it was suggested he might like to refer the issue to the Prime Minister.

The civil service said that Lord Jones had to stick to the Government's list of cars and that meant a Japanese hybrid car.

It continues:

The book, serialised in The Telegraph, also reveals that inward investment opportunities were often squandered because civil servants were slow at responding to requests from businesses that wanted advice.

In one example the Canadian aerospace and engineering company, Bombardier, almost abandoned plans to invest £500m to build business jets in Northern Ireland because it had "heard nothing" from the Government's business department.

Lord Jones, who was contacted by the company, had to bring in Baroness Vadera, a Government minister before the last election, to solve the issue.

It is difficult to say whether the same problem exists in Wales but from contacts I have had from businesses they are equally as frustrated when dealing with the Welsh Government.
Ever heard of WEFO Peter? A layer of civil service dead hands oddly unique to Wales; their role in the dismal (mis)use of EU fundings really should be put under the microscope. As I say, no other jurisdiction bidding for structural funds seems to have an equivalent - I wonder why.

Oh yes, and a friend of mine was refused any assistance to launch a small IT business a year or two ago, because .... he lived in the vale and it was deemed too prosperous already to need to seed enterprise.
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