Policymanship

Readers of the late great Stephen Potter’s works on Lifemanship and Gamesmanship may wonder if the same techniques can be applied in government.

The answer is “Of course!”

Here are a couple of examples of Policymanship in action.

“Cutting grant fraud”

Ministers are very keen to launch a big new business grants programme which will transform the UK economy. So keen that the deadline does not allow for effective testing of the process nor to set up strict application controls to avoid fraud.

So the grants programme is launched and the first year results in massive fraud.

Ministers demand action!

The normal Civil Servant will write a paper about engaging with stakeholders, learning from best practice elsewhere, building controls into the service and delaying relaunch until everything is tested. So a 12-18 month delay to achieve a target of a 50% reduction in fraud with a significant investment of both reputational and operating capital needed.

The Civil Servant who has studied policymanship will put up a paper to the Minister saying that the size of grants should be reduced by half as this will cut fraud by 50% and cut be done immediately at no cost. The Minister can stand up in the house the next day and announce a 50% reduction in the losses due to fraud.

Which approach will get Ministerial and Treasury approval? The answer is obvious to our student of policymanship.

“Cat Tax”

The government has announced that it intends to reduce the tax burden on business and individuals. Unfortunately HMTreasury point out that the government’s flagship policies need the current level of taxation.

The normal Civil Servant will write a paper saying that until there has been a Fundamental Spending Review with zero based budgeting it will be impossible to find any scope to cut taxes. They recommend a 12 month review process involving all departments and agencies with the commitment of thousands of hours of effort.

The Civil Servant who has studied policymanship will put up a paper to the Minister saying that the government should announce the planned introduction of a Cat Tax. This would be a tax on domestic cats which would apply to every cat in the country. It would be paid by the owners of the cats in question. Implementation costs are put at £150 million with on costs of £30 million per annum so cat owners will need to pay £500 per cat per year.

There is immediate uproar, petitions are written, marches held. The Prime Minister steps in to make it clear that they love cats and completely refuse to impose a Cat Tax, unlike the mendacious opposition. The country celebrates, the PM becomes more popular and the tax burden has indeed been “cut”.

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