Editor's Comment

12.10.14

Where the buck stops

Source: Public Sector Executive Oct/Nov 2014

Professor Alexis Jay’s report into the abuse in Rotherham grabbed the national headlines and forced a number of high-profile resignations. It’s also prompted a flurry of new inquiries and investigations, all aimed at finding out just how our systems let the children of that town down so badly – and how to prevent it ever happening again.

We were keen to get expert views on this issue, including from Alan Wood – president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services – and John Cameron of the NSPCC.

Alan Wood argues that previous attempts at solutions have actually compounded the problem. By introducing new levels of governance, oversight and posts, the old certainty about where the buck stopped and precisely who had accountability and responsibility has been lost. The resulting confusion and complexity has helped create the sort of conditions that Professor Jay’s report found in Rotherham. Our interview with him is well worth reading in full, on page 28. That is just one story in a wider section, from page 26-31, looking at this important issue from a number of angles.

Governance, freedom and accountability at academy schools is the topic explored by Stephen Rayner on page 32. His arguments are well-evidenced and will make you question some of the rhetoric we have heard on academy schools in recent years.

We have coverage from the party conferences on pages 24-25, and spread throughout the magazine in fact, with even more online. I was delighted to be asked to chair a panel discussion at the Conservative Party conference fringe, on behalf of think tank ResPublica. The interesting debate focused on HS3, east-west connectivity among our northern cities, and the need for more devolution of powers and budgets for infrastructure development from Whitehall to town halls. The debate featured ResPublica founder Phillip Blond, cities minister Greg Clark MP, Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson, and Lords transport whip Lord Popat. The debate can be found online, at the ResPublica website, if you’re interested.

We also have a Civil Service theme in this edition, including the latest on the reform programme and its new chief executive (p18-19), Sir Simon Fraser, Head of the Diplomatic Service, on talent and diversity (p15), and Stephen Jenner, formerly of the Senior Civil Service himself, on project management (p43).

Public sector exit payments have been a controversial topic, and one on which the government wants action – ensuring directors and executives cannot get large pay-offs, just to return to the public sector in short order. Unfortunately, as our Last Word argues on page 72, the current plans are legally questionable and open to confusion, creating new loopholes and complexity. See what you make of the arguments.

Adam Hewitt

Editor

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