Andy McSmith's Diary: Lord Browne tries to refuel ministers bored by boards

 

Attempts to get the civil services to be more business-like have hit a snag: the new-style board meetings that are meant to drive efficiency are so boring that even junior ministers with an eye on promotion have been avoiding them.

One of the major innovations by the Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, was to revitalise the boards of directors to drive efficiency, bringing in outsiders with business experience as non-executive directors.

In what he hailed as “great news for Government”, Mr Maude also recruited the former head of BP, John Browne, as the top non-executive director. Lord Browne has now drawn attention to the problem of junior ministers skiving off because they are bored of their boards. “Their continued patchy attendance at boards in some departments is concerning,” he complains, in a new document with the catchy title The Government’s Lead Non-Executive’s Annual Report, Financial Year 2013-14.

He adds. “At my request, they have been urged to attend by the Prime Minister, and board secretariats have sought to create agendas that are more engaging to junior ministers… so that their engagement and attendance becomes the norm.”

Ordering ministers to turn up strikes me as the easy bit. Getting civil servants to organise interesting meetings will be the real challenge.

Clegg’s conundrum

As Nick Clegg strives to keep the Liberal Democrats united in their time of trouble, he faces a rift within his own household. It concerns a football competition that is receiving a certain measure of publicity. Clegg’s Spanish wife, Miriam, is supporting her native team, whereas he confirmed on LBC radio that he is backing “England all the way!” But I hear he is in a right dither over Friday night’s fixture, Spain vs the Netherlands. His mother, you see, is Dutch, so he doesn’t know which side to come down on. So unlike a Lib Dem.

Streams of consciousness

Discussing the impact of the winter weather in the West Country, David Heath, the Lib Dem MP for Somerton and Frome, informed MPs today that what his county needs is “a Somerset rivers authority with its own revenue stream”.

Fatherly advice for Farage

Nigel Farage’s former colleague Godfrey Bloom was asked on BBC2’s Daily Politics what he made of the photographs last week of the Ukip leader accompanying a blonde tourism chief in the early hours of the morning in Malta. He replied: “Perhaps, if I was his old dad, I would say he should be a little more circumspect than he is.” Delicately put.

Once stung, never shy

Being caught by a Daily Mirror photographer last December nipping into the House of Lords to claim his £300-a-day attendance allowance, and nipping out 21 minutes later, had an immediately chastening effect on Parliament’s best-known expenses fiddler, Lord Hanningfield. Figures for January, just published, show he claimed a modest £2,400 that month, well below the maximum.

Baroness Uddin claimed the full £5,400. Her fellow Labour peers hoped she would be too ashamed to show her face again after her Lords membership was suspended in 2010, and she was ordered to repay more than £125,000 in expenses. Their hopes were dashed.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn, also Labour, who turned 85 this week, also claimed £5,400. He was one of the first peers in parliamentary history to be suspended, after being caught in a sting apparently being prepared to be paid for asking questions. At the time, he denied he had intentionally done wrong, pleading that he was “easily confused” – but not too confused, obviously, to fill in an expenses form.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions