Magazine article Public Finance

Not Fade Away

Magazine article Public Finance

Not Fade Away

Article excerpt

Public servants constantly complain about over-regulation. As one inspector finishes poring over the books, they say, another turns up ready to examine the same documents and pose identical questions.

Well, not for much longer if New Labour has its way. In his Budget speech this week. Chancellor Gordon Brown declared that the number of public sector inspectorates will be slashed from 11 to four. Joined-up and lighter-touch watchdogs will emerge, covering criminal justice, education and children's services, social care and health, and local services.

It could be argued that this is an admission of failure by the government. The Topsy-like growth of the inspection regime since 1997 has been brought, to an abrupt halt. The new regulators, having created more heal than light, will now fade away, leaving nothing more behind than a stash of unused bureaucratic forms.

And yet this would he a hasty and unfair assessment of their legacy. In England - where inspector inflation has been most obvious - hospital waiting times are down, school performance is up and more than two-thirds of councils are now rated either as 'excellent' or 'good'.

The inspectors have made a difference. …

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