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IFG - How to build an effective government

A set of decisions made soon after our next government is formed will help decide whether it can deliver on its policy ambitions, says the Institute for Government: here’s our recipe for success.

Every government comes to power eager to deliver on its manifesto pledges and policy ideas – but too often, they fail to build the tools to turn those ambitions into successful programmes of change. In six two-page documents published today, the Institute for Government sums up the short- and long-term changes required to create a well-functioning central government system that is able to deliver ministers’ policies effectively.

Peter Riddell, Director of the Institute for Government, said:

“According to our polling, only 14% of people think politicians make a priority of running the government professionally, and just 15% believe they focus on fulfilling their election pledges. To win the confidence of the electorate, governments must have the tools to deliver on their promises – and that means making the right decisions as they set up their systems, structures and relationships.

“Unfortunately, serious mistakes are often made here in the weeks after general elections – and as a result, policies fail because they haven’t been adequately developed, coordinated or managed.”

These are the headings of the six papers, with some of the key recommendations for early action:

  • Making a strong start to government. If there’s a hung parliament, manage public expectations and take the time to forge a detailed, robust agreement with other parties.
  • Getting the centre of Whitehall into shape. Resist the temptation to dismantle the existing Number 10 machine; instead, tailor it to meet the PM’s style and goals. 
  • Turning policy priorities into effective change. Consider implementation from day one, setting realistic budgets and schedules, and welcome constructive challenge.
  • Being an effective minister. Make the time for inductions and ongoing training designed to help ministers set priorities and manage the large, complex organisations that they lead.
  • Making quangos an asset not a liability. Develop strong relationships with arm’s-length body/quango chairs, being clear about expectations, roles and responsibilities.
  • Getting a better deal in outsourced services. Try to work with existing suppliers, not against them – drawing on their expertise, and minimising the risk of legal challenges.
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