Accountability in modern government: recommendations for change

Ministers should be called to explain when things go wrong under their watch – even if they are no longer in office. This means beefing up scrutiny by ensuring select committees get the information they need more quickly and have the resources to use it. This report looks at how to strengthen government accountability and strengthen public faith in institutions. It argues that Parliament should recall former ministers to give evidence when policies they have presided over have gone wrong. This would mean holding the architects of policies (such as the ‘hostile environment’ or failed probation reforms) to account directly, as well as their political successors, and the officials who advised them, particularly when foreseeable risks that were not flagged up to the minister arise in the course of a project. This is just one of the recommendations in the report, which aims to address problems in the relationship between ministers and civil servants, the complexities of modern government and the culture of blame. Others include clarifying what people get for the money spent on public services, improving specialist skills across Whitehall to prevent repeated failures, and better scrutinising the links between local public services.

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