Government reports

I have a longstanding beef about what I call celebrity government reports. The MO is this: some contentious issue arises in society. The government responds by appointing someone to do a report. The choice of author is often capricious but they’re usually either a Lord or someone skilled at having a high profile in public (ie a tendency to narcissism). This single person gets given a staff to labour in the salt mines. They produce a long report.

This is typically full of intense research on the problem. You could easily mistake the plenitude of footnotes for evidence of deep thought. This is followed by an enormous list of recommendations. The tone is rarely enquiring and the list often feels like something a PR agency would scare up in a one-hour brainstorm. The complexity of the issue is paid lip service and this simplistic list is rarely thought through in any detail. Rarely is it proposed to do limited trials or experiments. The possibility of alternative solutions or ways of interpreting the data is closed off.

There are plenty of examples but one in particular is the Laming report on social services in the wake of the Baby Peter scandal.

It turns out the cost of implementing his proposals is horrendous. Why am I not surprised?

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