Cameron launches new government business plans

All Whitehall departments to publish their plans and timetables online to allow citizens to check progress on policies on a monthly basis
Sir Gus O'Donnell (left) stands with prime minister David Cameron and deputy PM Nick Clegg at the launch of the government's business plans. Phot: PA

The prime minister David Cameron launched a website today where government departments' set out their business plans and timetables for achieving them.

Surrounded by cabinet members and flanked by deputy PM Nick Clegg and cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell
, Cameron said they would "change the way that government works" by allowing people to check on the progress of policies on a month-by-month basis.

"Instead of bureaucratic accountability to the government machine, these business plans bring in a new system of democratic accountability – accountability to the people. So reform will be driven not by the short-term political calculations of the government, but by the consistent, long-term pressure of what people want and choose in their public services – and that is the horizon shift we need," he said.

"But more importantly the business plans will bring about a power shift by changing what government does. For a long time, government's default position has been to solve problems by hoarding more power to the centre – passing laws, creating regulations, setting up taskforces. The result is that Britain is now one of the most centralised countries in the developed world.

"We will be the first government in a generation to leave office with much less power in Whitehall than we started with. We are going to take power from government and hand it to people, families and communities – and how we will do that is set out right here in these business plans."

He was quick to dismiss suggestions that Labour had a similar scheme, with its widespread use of published targets, saying the old "target culture" had encouraged short-term thinking.

But Labour's Douglas Alexander, shadow work and pensions secretary, said most people just wanted ministers to get on with the job. "We were able to build a lot of schools, build a lot of hospitals, cut waiting lists, cut levels of unemployment," he said.

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