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Trying to get the low down from the horse’s mouth can be as good as impossible when it comes to the government.

Why is it that any journalist who wants to speak to the relevant person in government about proposals or policy must first confront a wall of PR obfuscation? Government offices are manned with armies of PR staff who refuse to deal with queries, claim ignorance of the most mundane issues and would have you believe that all government staff are permanently on holiday.
The title of your publication and the nature of your story are all too important in determining whether your enquiry will receive a response.

Surely this is not the way it should be. Government staff work for us all, and have a public duty to deal with questions about their doings. The preferred method of communication seems to be ‘placed’ copy, to which end government departments appear to employ consultancies with huge budgets. What a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The deluded and the cynical

Not surprisingly, a survey of 967 directors and managers from Roffey Park Institute has revealed that bosses are doing a grand job.

96 per cent of directors say the reputation of the board within their company is positive. Over 80 per cent of them say both ‘distant’ and ‘near by’ leadership in their company is excellent. And 73 per cent go so far as to boast that, among their companies’ bosses, ‘espoused and actual values match’.

Curiously, middle managers don’t agree. Only 57 per cent rate the board, 64 per cent admire ‘distant’ leaders and 57 per cent respect their line manager. Three quarters say their bosses don’t ‘walk the talk’.

Junior managers tell an even more dismal story. Only half view the board and ‘distant’ leaders positively, two thirds don’t look up to their line manager and four fifths don’t see their leaders putting their money where their mouth is.

What’s going on? Are directors deluded – or is positive spin just the fastest way to promotion?

No more consultation

The Labour government has got a bit carried away with plans for its spring cleaning of regulation.

At a briefing on the Legislative & Regulatory Reform Bill (due for its second reading in late Feb), Jim Murphy explained to journalists that it’s not just out with the old. Under the proposed Bill, new and better regulations will swoosh into place with lightning speed thanks to a special fast track option.

No longer will businesses have to hang around while the government wastes their time with tedious consultation, Murphy enthused. A parliamentary select committee will decide on their behalf whether or not they will find proposed legislation controversial. If the committee deems a proposal not contentious it will be whisked into action without bothering anyone for their opinion.

Should businesses be thrilled at this pragmatic approach, or is it just another short cut – and perhaps a worrying one – to reach the promised £10bn in administrative savings that the better regulation programme is supposed to bring?


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