COMMONS

MPs publish report on Departmental Business Plans

24 May 2011

The Public Accounts Committee releases a report today on Departmental Business Plans which map out how cuts recommended from the 2010 Spending Review will be made

The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:

"The Business Plans set out how Departments will implement the Coalition Agreement and deliver the cuts required in the 2010 Spending Review.

The published plans are intended to serve as a basis for the public to hold Government to account for the delivery of its reform programme.

However, planning is at different stages in different departments, and much of the detail is still being developed.

To achieve its aim of empowering local people, Government must put much more of the detail behind departmental plans into the public domain.

This information must be relevant, robust and easily accessible if it is to serve as a basis for proper accountability.

If Parliament and the public are to use this data to monitor performance and assess value for money, they also need to be able to understand the quality and limitations of that data."

Margaret Hodge was speaking as the Committee published its 37th Report of this Session.

Background

The Spending Review 2010 set out the Government’s policy and financial priorities, and a spending framework requiring significant cuts to most departmental budgets. Subsequently, the Government published 17 Departmental Business Plans which focus on the priorities set out in the Coalition Agreement and are designed to provide a basis for accountability for delivery of those actions. The Plans do not cover all departmental responsibilities or spending and must be supported by more detailed planning across all budgets within departments.

The Business Plans provide detailed coverage and accountability for implementation of the Coalition Programme. The plans set out a policy intention to shift power from central government to local communities and locally based public, private and voluntary bodies. The Government wants to empower local people and embed local accountability by making more data more freely available so that people can assess value for money and services providers can be accountable. However, the planning to support the implementation of the reforms and new models of service delivery is at different stages in different departments with much of the detail under development or not yet in the public domain.

The Business Plans also contain key indicators of input and impact which the Government intends should provide high level accountability to Parliament and others for overall departmental performance. The Plans will also be a source of information for Parliament as they underpin the allocation of resources within departments and the subsequent accountability for the use of those resources. The management of the full range of departmental activity, however, will require more detailed operational planning and information.

The committee's findings

The committee took evidence from officials from the Cabinet Office and the Treasury; and from two line departments - the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and the Home Office. We also heard evidence from the Minister of State for the Cabinet and the Chief Secretary, HM Treasury who explained the political rationale for the plans and the structural reforms. We examined the business planning process as a basis for managing reform, for reducing costs, and for departmental strategic management and accountability.

This report identifies a number of important areas that departments should consider that will aid them to: clarify accountability; support cost-effective implementation of Government policies; and secure effective performance management.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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