Mike Bracken looking forward to GDS’s work in 2013.

There are two inarguable truths about the creation of policy. Firstly, there’s far too much of it, especially in relation to subsequent delivery. A 2009 Institute for Government report (PDF), claims 19,436 civil servants were employed in ‘policy delivery’ in 2009, while each government department produces around 171 policy or strategy documents on average each year.

One of the many lessons in my 18 months in Government has been to watch the endless policy cycles and revisions accrue – revision upon revision of carefully controlled Word documents, replete with disastrous styling. Subs to Ministers, private office communications, correspondence across departments and occasional harvesting of consultation feedback all go into the mix.

Rarely, if ever, do users get a look-in. User need, if referenced at all, is self-reinforcing, in that the internal user needs dominate those of users of public services. I’ve lost count of the times when, in attempting to explain a poorly performing transaction or service, an explanation comes back along the lines of ‘Well, the department needs are different…’ How the needs of a department or an agency can trump the needs of the users of public services is beyond me.


Written by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.