The chair of the Committee of Public Accounts said: “Confusion exists at the heart of government about what exactly the role of ‘the centre’ – Number 10, the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury – should be.”
She added: “This current lack of clarity about the precise role and responsibilities of the centre jeopardises government’s ability to deliver value for taxpayers’ money in key public spending areas.”
Hodge made recommendations last year for greater central government direction, but top officials including Treasury permanent secretary Sir Nicholas Macpherson and Cabinet Office permanent secretary Richard Heaton responded with a letter defending the current arrangement. At the time, Hodge reacted by asserting that Cabinet Office and Treasury were not “demonstrating real leadership in their role as government’s corporate centre”.
Speaking as the committee publishes its 19th report of this session, ‘The centre of government’, Hodge said that senior civil servants are resistant to change. “Correspondence we received appears to demonstrate a conflict between ministers at the centre, who want it to play a more effective, smart and challenging role, and senior civil servants who are resistant to change and remain wedded to departmental autonomy,” she argued.
“This lack of agreement means that there is no clear definition of the role of the centre and the responsibilities for implementing cross-government initiatives, such as debt collection and centralised procurement, are not always clear.”