Tony Blair's 1997 election slogan was Education, Education, Education. Cameron's should be Re-Evaluate, Re-Evaluate, Re-Evaluate. There are just too many government programmes that have expanded, and lobbied for their own further expansion, and are now costing us a fortune while producing very little that we really need. The statue book is cluttered with regulations that either haven't worked, can't be understood, or contradict each other. It really is time to re-evaluate every single thing that government does, and whittle out the parts we really don't need all that much.
One expert at that is William D Eggers, Director of Deloitte's Public Leadership Institute. His new book, If we can put a man on the moon, examines 75 major government initiatives across several countries, trying to discover what makes them succeed or fail. Most governments, he concludes, do a really bad job of evaluating and re-evaluating their initiatives. Too often, politicians design things that seem fine to them politically, but which become a bureaucratic nightmare at the implementation stage. A bit of forward planning would save a lot of tears. And there is a tendency for governments to try to do everything themselves, on a grand scale – the NHS IT fiasco is an example – instead of simply buying the skills or IT from the cloud of non-government providers that are out there.
Eggars feels that sunset laws are a good way to force everyone into a re-evaluation of programmes and agencies, provided that those who are doing the sunset re-evaluation are genuinely independent, not involved in the implementation process themselves, and insulated from the blandishments of lobbyists. Making public data genuinely public – posting government cheques online, for example, so that everyone can see what is being spent in their name – is another important step. That, indeed, could bring forward a multitude of people who could show that they were able to provide the same or better service in another way and at lower cost. It's amazing that nobody thought of it before.