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Professor Lord O’Donnell - Inaugural Lecture

1 May 2013


Lecture title

Building a Better Government: the Political and Constitutional Reforms necessary to build Better Government.

About this video

After a lifetime in government ending up at its apex as Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell has come to the sobering conclusion that Britain suffers from deep rooted bad policies and bad ways of governing.  In his inaugural lecture as a Visiting Professor for University College London’s department of political science on Wednesday 24 April, Lord O’Donnell presents his radical critique. Among his reforms:

  • A new Office of Taxpayer Responsibility (OTR) would join the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) in costing and evaluating new policies and each major party’s election manifesto.
  • A smarter bureaucracy would make greater use of the behavioural sciences to assess the needs and responses of the public for better services.
  • A new agency, along the lines of the Canadian Public Tenders, is needed  to ensure the taxpayer doesn't miss out commercially in negotiations with the private sector.
  • An emphasis on improving wellbeing, rather than just meeting targets, could lead to better policies in areas like health and welfare, while living within budget constraints.
  • Politicians should turn their mind to reform of the political decision making process. Should we improve training and development opportunities for backbenchers to prepare them for ministerial office?  Should there be a way for the centre of government to assess the performance of departments at the political as well as the policy level?
  • We need to encourage people into politics who reflect better our society. More diversity would lead to policies more suited to our diverse society. Is there a way of releasing the stranglehold of the main parties in, for example, elections for local mayors?
  • To implement his incisive critique Gus O’Donnell declares: “We need to build a consensus for change that will be embraced across the political spectrum. The goal is a noble one: to increase wellbeing sustainably and reduce inequality. Better politics for a better Britain.”

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