Francis Maude – The Turn Around Minister

Over the weekend Francis Maude announced he would be standing down as an MP at the next election. Full disclosure: Francis was the best boss I have ever had. He is smart, fun, hilariously dry and very fair. But, given the space to “get on with it” by David Cameron, Francis Maude has also proved just how competent he is as a Minister.

Maude leaves a lasting legacy that will benefit Britain for years to come.

Ministers are actually very like corporate senior managers. Except they usually have the media on their case far more frequently, their constituents to serve weekly, party activists who need loving up and an intelligent, media-savvy civil service to persuade (or contend with) that, in some cases, can be very resistant to change.

Like corporate bosses, most Ministers merely administer, while some screw up spectacularly and many are just self-obsessed habitual tweakers. Very few Ministers or senior managers change things systemically, structurally or in a sustainable long term way. Francis Maude will leave Parliament with a serious record of doing just that – introducing significant change in the way the UK government works – combining the common sense aim of governing better for less money.

Monetising and Streamlining

In his resignation letter to his Horsham Conservative Party Association Chairman, Francis wrote:

“… Since 2010 I have served as the Minister for the Cabinet Office, designing and driving a programme which saved taxpayers £14.3 billion last year alone…We have shrunk the Civil Service by a fifth, got out of property over 26 times the size of Buckingham Palace, while halving our spend on advertising and cutting the number of quangos by a third. We set up the Government Digital Service, now being copied in the United States and Australia, which has replaced hundreds of websites with the award-winning GOV.UK, moving services online and cutting the costs of government IT while hugely improving the service…”

Systemic Change

Writing in ConservativeHome last year Peter Hoskin, a former critic of Maude, said that:

“…one of the major themes of Maude’s ministry… (is) … the notion of a self-reforming Civil Service….”

A self-reforming Civil Service? Now that is a novel concept that in any country in the world would be viewed as belonging to the lala-Land category. To actually realise it is almost a miracle.

Hoskin added that “The recent appointment of John Manzoni as Chief Executive of the Civil Service is a case in point. This former private sector executive is … tasked with continually improving and modernising Whitehall. He’s there to keep reform going even if every elected politician suddenly – wonderfully! – disappeared.” Wow.

The Efficiency and Reform Group, the Behavioural Insights Team and the Government Digital Service were all introduced or pushed by Francis Maude.

Hoskin says the common denominator of these groups “is that they all achieve a lot for relatively little. Take the Efficiency and Reform Group. It’s just a handful of people, yet it is on for identifying £20 billion worth of savings in this Parliament. For once, the rhetoric of “Whitehall cuts” actually means something. Maude has a record of delivering them.”

Hoskin adds that many of the benefits of Maude’s reforms will only really kick in and benefit Britain in the next Parliament. I hope Francis will get due credit!

Paul Waugh has a great article outlining some of Francis’ other achievements here

Francis – I know you will have fun with whatever you decide to do after the election. Good luck! In the meantime – keep working! 🙂

In the meantime there is a mad scramble of wannabe MPs all searching for “real” connections to Horsham – a great seat to have with a decent majority and reasonably close to Westminster.

Confession: I took the pic of Francis from his website.

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