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GOVERNMENT TARGETS ENGULF PUBLIC SECTOR

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New Labour has set more than 6,000 targets for life, covering everything from halving world poverty by 2015 to the ...
New Labour has set more than 6,000 targets for life, covering everything from halving world poverty by 2015 to the quality of waitressing, reported The Sunday Times (p5). A report out

at the end of the month will reveal the full extent of the tide of red tape and political correctness engulfing government.

Apart from well-publicised targets such as reductions in hospital waiting lists and the size of infant classes, precise performance targets have now been set down for everything from the state of soldiers' and sailors' teeth to the number of specimens to be gathered by the Botanic gardens at Kew. Some targets, including the pledge to reduce the size of certain school classes, have been blamed for distorting priorities and shifting problems into different areas.

'Targets can be useful, but some of them are just risible, such as Tony Blair's idea to abolish child poverty in 20 years. Who can possibly hold him to that', said Tony Travers, local government academic at the London School of Economics. 'By setting these targets,

the government can say to the electorate that it means business in terms of public sector improvments as well as controlling every corner of government from the centre'.

The report on targets, prepared by the Liberal Democrats, contradicts the government's claim in its last annual report that it had set just 600. 'Although some of the targets started off being relatively clear, the situation has now spun right out of control', said Don Foster,

MP for Bath, who co-ordinated the research.

Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government at Oxford University, said: 'Targets and performance related pay are being brought in throughout government, but research in the private sector shows they are demotivating. I think they go against professionalism'.

One body, however, is officially exempt from targets - the Audit Commission, because it has to monitor them.

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