Mandelson's expensive empire


Back in Gordon Brown's first reshuffle as prime minister, he turned the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) into the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR). He also created a new Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills (DIUS). And according to the Evening Standard's Joe Murphy, this did not come cheap:

The Business, Enterprise and Regulatory, and Innovation, Universities and Skills departments were created in 2007 at a cost of £7million, including £218,063 on rebranding at BERR including emails, a website and headed stationery...

Two years later, and Gordon has been at it again, merging BERR and DIUS to create a new Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). The estimated cost of this rearrangement is £3million.

Maybe it's a better arrangement than old one. Or maybe it's worse. Or maybe it made more sense when we just had one department for 'trade & industry', one for 'education', and one for 'the environment' (instead of having BIS, DECC, DEFRA, DCSF, and DCLG all tripping over one another). Who knows?

And to be honest, I don't much care. But the waste, inefficiency and duplication that all these rearrangements engender does make me wonder if we wouldn't be better off with the American system, where primary legislation is required to create new departments and delineate their responsibilities. Perhaps then prime ministers would think twice about playing departmental musical chairs (at our expense) every time they got bored.