'Mr Targets' on a mission to reform Whitehall
Thursday 09 January 2003
Michael Barber is known throughout Whitehall as "Mr Targets". The head of Tony Blair's delivery unit has a legendary capacity to produce bewildering slides showing what progress the Government is making towards hitting its plethora of public-service performance targets.
Mr Barber can become the bane of a minister's life and some departments resent Downing Street's interference in their affairs. But he is only doing the Prime Minister's bidding. The former history teacher and professor of education was poached by Mr Blair from the Department of Education, where as head of its standards and effectiveness unit he devised the literacy and numeracy targets.
He has kept a low public profile since provoking a dispute in 1998 when he told a conference that Christianity had become a minority interest.
But Mr Barber, 47, has been an influential behind-the-scenes figure at the heart of the Government. His unit is relocating to the Treasury, a move seen as strengthening the already powerful grip on public services of Gordon Brown, the Chancellor.
In recent months, there has been a mini-rebellion by some cabinet ministers against the targets system. The number of targets has been reduced from about 300 to 130 and some ministers have begun to abandon "unrealistic" goals they were never going to achieve.
But Mr Barber is unrepentant. Despite the dissent, he insists the Government has never set a bad target, and is convinced the public will see the benefits of the improvements now showing up on his slides and graphs. Some ministers are not so optimistic.
- 1 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 How to gain confidence and maximise your sexual potential
Boston Marathon runner's search for mystery man she kissed ends with letter from his wife
Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
Andy McSmith's Sketch: Feisty audience is the real star of an enlightening show
£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...
£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...
£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...