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
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
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: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser