One Place to rule them all

9 12 2009

I have been encouraged by some of the government’s efforts this week to usher in the post-bureaucratic age, but the launch of One Place is misguided and ineffective.

From a bureaucratic mindset, the site’s aims are laudable:

“The Audit Commission, Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorates of Constabulary, Prisons and Probation and Ofsted are working together to provide an independent overview of the quality of life in your area.”

These state agencies supposedly ‘provide and independent view’. Independent of what? Not the state by which they are funded, but, in fact, independent of the communities they ‘look after’. In the post-bureaucratic age it is the people who live in the area who can best provide an ‘overview of the quality of life’, and judge how their local authorities are performing. The matrices by which the various state watchdogs rate the provision of services are self-defined, opaque, and consist of the factors which the watchdogs assume matter to local people.

The second part of the short introduction is descriptive of the problems of the site itself, rather than the thinking behind it:

“You can also discover how well local public organisations, such as councils and police forces work together to meet local needs.”

This is not true: You cannot discover this on the site in any meaningful sense. Here is an example of how the site works:

I am from Suffolk, and I would like to find out “how well local public organisations, such as councils and police forces work together to meet local needs.”

I navigate to the Suffolk page, and am greeted by the following:

Suffolk has identified the following priorities for the area:

  • Delivering a Vibrant and Prosperous Economy
  • Learning and skills outcomes
  • Greening Suffolk
  • Ensuring people are safe
  • Ensuring people are healthy
  • Ensuring that communities are inclusive

It is fortunate that I can fund such meaningless drivel all in One Place. I was hardly under the impression that some councils were against keeping people safe and healthy.

Aside from this crap (why must the government treat its citizens like idiots?), the fabled Red and Green Flags are quite interesting: what can other councils learn from Suffolk’s experiences? However, under the current system, this information is only really relevant to other councillors.

I eagerly clicked through to my district council’s ‘Organisational Assesment‘, hoping to find budgets, expenditure, diagrams of how the various services ‘work together’, and all the rest.  Instead, I was greeted by the following enlightening information:

Forest Heath District Council

Managing performance 3 out of 4
Use of resources 3 out of 4

This suggests that the entire One Place project is nothing more than a PR exercise, designed to give the impression that local government is entering the post-bureaucratic age, when, in fact, it has merely found a new means of obscuring how the government is spending our money and managing our public services.

Conclusion

After the dynamic, open, and audacious opening of the White House’s Open Government Initiative yesterday, I had high hopes for what HM’s Government would pull out today. Yet the poverty of their ambition, and fundamental misunderstanding of what the post-bureaucratic age really means for government, has left the UK a long-distant second.

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One response

9 12 2009
William

In 1999 I had Stefan Magdalinski speak at the Government Computing conference attended by three Permanent Secretaries (Omand, Bender and another I’ve forgotten). He explained he had created a website called UpMyStreet, and asked the audience plain as day to share their data with his service.

Had they listened, understood and done so we’d have had this service – for nothing – 10 years ago, and a great deal more besides.

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