If the Conservatives win, Dominic Cummings should finish what he started

As the nation waits to find out who will be taking charge of our country, Saqib Qureshi looks at Vote Leave mastermind, Dominic Cummings to see how with a stable government in place he could shake things up.

With the onset of victory in the election for the Conservative Party, focus must now turn to how they will govern and who the key players in the new administration will be.

It is inevitable Dominic Cummings will play a central role. There have been many column inches dedicated to Dominic Cummings, most of which centre around outlandish theories about the level of control he exerts over Boris Johnson.

Instead of journalists, spending countless hours of their time, writing about conspiratorial theories, perhaps they should spend more time looking at what Dominic Cummings actually believes.

Yes, he is widely known for masterminding victory for Vote Leave and for making Brexit happen.

However, fundamental reform of the structures within society is something which is at the very heart of his belief system. It seems to be the determining factor for why he backed Brexit.

For him, Brexit is not the final destination, it is a means to an end. He is right, for too long citizens in this country have been failed by the inefficient and wasteful Whitehall machine. It is now time for some long overdue structural changes.

We know that the public sector is inefficient, bureaucratic, wasteful and less accountable than its private sector counterpart.

I believe this is one of the main reasons for the increased anger and polarisation across the world.

What officials and politicians often do not keep in mind is that they are responsible for spending hard-earned taxpayer money and every penny should be spent with that in mind.

However, we know that does not always happen. Research released by the TPA earlier this year analysed 10 recent and in-progress UK major government projects. It found that overruns grew to a total of 32.7 years and £17.2 billion – equivalent to £624 per UK household.

The £17.2 billion accumulated overrun could have paid for seven of the 10 projects at their initial cost estimates, with £4 billion leftover.

Between 2013 and 2019 the number of major projects deemed at least “probable of a successful delivery” by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, has fallen steeply from 48 per cent in 2013 to just 17 per cent in 2019.

Where is the accountability for this? Which civil servants were responsible for these projects and which Ministers were supposed to be presiding over them? This lack of rigorous scrutiny means that nobody will truly be held to account over these failings, there will be no lessons learnt and this wasteful, inefficient spending spree will continue.

There should be a far greater use of key performance indicators and measurables within the public sector, so ordinary citizens can see who is responsible for which project, how much the project will cost and by when it will be delivered.

There should also be repercussions for those that have presided over these projects and they should not continue to receive promotions just because of the length of time they have served.

This opaque and inefficient structure is not unique to the UK. Taxpayers within the EU are too often left in the dark regarding how their taxes are being spent.

An EU ruling last year, rejected calls for greater transparency about MEPs’ expenses, as it upheld a decision that politicians are not required to reveal how they spend public money intended for their offices.

It is ludicrous that EU citizens cannot see how taxpayer’s money is being spent, especially with the wasteful nature of the EU. We have all heard the stories of butter mountains and wine lakes as a result of interventionist EU policy.

Another Dominic Cummings reform that both the UK and EU could benefit from is an entire culture change within the civil service.

As Dominic Cummings himself has said: “The people who are promoted tend to be the people who protect the system and don’t rock the boat, the ones who play the system and focus on personal goals and not the public interest”.

A change of culture should go hand in hand with ensuring the civil service recruits more people from business, science and tech sectors.

The public sector could learn a lot about efficiency, transparency and accountability from the private sector. An increased number of officials who understand science and tech would allow the public sector to better understand the threats and opportunities the world is facing and would stop counterproductive proposals by Governments and policymakers embarrassing themselves in public.

Senators from the US exposed their weak grasp of tech when they asked Mark Zuckerberg questions like “Is Twitter the same as what you do?” and “If I’m emailing within WhatsApp … does that inform your advertisers?” Despite their lack of understanding of these sectors, these very people have huge power over the way these sectors are regulated.

An example from the EU is the decision the European Parliament issued to phase out and eventually ban biofuels made from palm oil. The ban was made with the environment in mind; however a ban will harm the environment by ending efforts to work with countries that are developing sustainable palm oil production that can also reduce poverty. It will also increase the reliance of the EU on alternatives like soybean oil which is more environmentally damaging than palm oil.

Not only does soybean oil yield less oil per hectare than palm oil it also requires more fertilisers, pesticides and energy input per hectare.

If officials possessed a better understanding of science and technology, this decision would not have occurred.

It is clear beyond doubt that people do not believe Government works for them and needs radical change. The public sector could do with a far greater level of transparency, accountability and efficiency. A win for the Conservatives on Thursday would be the perfect opportunity to ensure Government works for the people it represents.

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