A few months ago I wrote about a Government cock up that has slipped under the radar
In July Rishi Sunak announced KickStart – a programme to help under 24 year olds back to work. This is a good idea, even if the scheme was essentially a re-tread of a programme that had run under New Labour that was scrapped by David Cameron’s Government.
Rather than simply re-instate the previous, successful, scheme Government SPAds (special political advisors) wanted to write their own policy and plans.
This delayed the start of the programme to September, which made it late for school and university leavers. We were ready to recruit, but were told that if we wanted to use the scheme we would have to delay hiring people.
In September the scheme rules were announced, which put the start back to November. Small businesses were barred from accessing the scheme directly, and had to go through an intermediary, in our case Durham County Council
Each business and intermediary has to be approved by DWP, however no-one thought to write the rules for approval, or set up an approval system. As a consequence there is a massive backlog of approvals, which has made the scheme impossible to operate.
We have now been told that the delays in the approval process mean that no small businesses in Durham will be able to access this scheme until 2021. We are now expecting that we won’t have any recruits under this scheme until Easter next year.
This is just pure incompetence from a Government which is great at slogans and press releases and crap at running the country.
What is worse is that another Government programme – the Green Grants scheme – has exactly the same problem. In this case house owners can access grants to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Companies who want to do the work have to go through a lengthy and expensive accreditation programme. As a result most house owners can’t access the grant scheme because there are no installers in their area. The scheme is due to finish in March, with no prospect of it being fixed in time.
The failures with Kickstart isn’t a one off problem. It is a symptom of bad Government. The same bad Government that played out with PPE procurement, and the failure of track and test.
Partly this is the consequence of a decade of bad decisions – from Cameron onwards Prime Ministers believed that shrinking the state was the right thing to do. Talented public sector employees were pushed out as Ministers preferred yes men and chums.
The crisis of Kickstart and Green Grants reflects a problem deep within Government. It is a Government of journalists and SPAds – great at slogans and policy announcements, but crap at operations and implementation. It doesn’t understand or value these skills, and doesn’t understand why you need them to Govern effectively.
Cummings and Cain, the recently departed super SPAds, managed central Government with the graceful efficiency of Laurel and Hardy moving a piano.
With those two gonks gone Johnson has a chance to reshape his team to focus on delivery not headlines. He won’t take that chance. Things won’t get better.