by Mark Chillingworth

Osborne must offer UK reform as well as EU

Jan 16, 20143 mins
GovernmentIT Leadership

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne yesterday called for the European Union to reform its structures or face continued decline.  The Conservative cabinet member is entirely correct, all institutions and organisations have to be in state of continual reform – transformation as we like to call it in the CIO community – to remain relevant.

What sticks in the back of the throat from Osborne’s speech to the Fresh Start conference is that he, his government and the opposition which was previously in power have done and plan to do so little to reform our own national structures.

The Conservative Party promised if it came to power it wouldn’t “bang on about Europe” all the time. Sadly this is another broken promise and “banging on about Europe” is all the nation has been subjected to.

The Conservative Party is right and being media savvy by calling for reform of the EU, making the party appear to be transformative. But to call for reform whilst failing to offer a reformative vision of the structures of the nation that you have been partly given a mandate to lead has the appearance of a diversion tactic.

A close analysis of the performance of this government leads me to feel that diversion tactics are its main ideology, using the EU, “Big Society” and the Scottish referendum to avoid addressing issues in banking and national structures.

The existing structure of the UK with county councils, borough councils and right down to parish councils is a set of structures that, as Osborne says of the EU, is a risk and leading to continual decline.

This disjointed creaking hulk of structures is preventing the forward thinking and reforming leaders  of the country from delivering real beneficial change. We know from our relationships with the strong local authority CIOs such as Jos Creese, Sander Kristel and David Wilde to name only three of many that the reform ideas and passion are there.

Only last week the parlous state of our national structures was brought to light in a community meeting for my street in a small North Downs market town. As with most streets in the UK, car parking is a major issue and a resident’s only scheme was introduced in 2013. To gain the scheme meant working with the county council, Paul Brocklehurst’s Surrey, but the management of the scheme is through our borough council. The duplication of communications and processes for a parking scheme for just one street has no place in 2014.

Osborne says the EU faces continual decline without reform. Yet it has been well documented that High Streets are in decline. Outdated taxation systems like the Council Tax are playing a part in that decline, as is the need for local authorities to rely on car parking revenues to support critical services.

The Conservatives promised greater localism, yet structures and taxation formed way back in the 1970s and 90s respectively lack the agility competitive communities need.

Osborne’s speech highlighted the growth of China and India as rivals to the EU’s place in the world market. Yet the as significant digital economy has reformed retail, business and communities and this and the previous government have failed to deliver a vision that understands this structural change.

Foreign investment is being warned away from the UK as a result of the bellicose rhetoric of Osborne and his chums.

Global car manufacturer Nissan has already warned the government. If Osborne wants to be a reformer, as his party supporters would say, let’s start at home.