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George Osborne: Whitehall has to stop working in silos

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The former chancellor has spoken of his “frustrations” over government spending, arguing that a more collaborative and joined up system is needed in Whitehall along with the devolution of further powers to councils.

George Osborne told the education select committee this morning he had “a change of heart” over devolution while in government, arguing that it was a better and more efficient means of governance.

Mr Osborne, who is chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “Whatever the level of resource its better that resource is spent locally by people who know the local area.

“One of the frustrations I saw during my time in the Treasury was in allocating the education budget, the health budget, the skills budget and so on. None of those people were talking to each other and they were working in separate silos.”

Mr Osborne added the NHS is “one of the worst offenders”.

Speaking alongside former commercial secretary to the Treasury Lord O’Neill and Henri Murison, vice-chair and director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership respectively, Mr Osborne argued in favour devolving powers over education and skills to both locally elected leaders and businesses.

In February Liverpool City Region CA mayor Steve Rotheram (Lab) told LGC the Department for Education needs to “change its culture” if it is to achieve its aims on improving educational development in the north.

During today’s committee hearing Mr Murison said it was a “disgrace” that 50% of children in northern areas of deprivation attend secondary schools rated less than ‘good’ by Ofsted, referencing a recent report by children’s commissioner Anne Longfield.

Ms Longfield said in her report she wanted to see “central government showing the same level of willingness to devolve powers and funding for services for children, including education, that they have shown for economic regeneration.”

Mr Osborne called for more direction from the government over the improvement of education and skills in the north of England, arguing that only “overall leadership and ambition” would inspire new ideas and initiatives in this area.

“Various governments have tried and failed to improve the economic output of the north going back decades, but one of our problems is poor skills. I’ve witnessed endless reorganisations in this area and four or five attempts to reform qualifications but none of it has worked,” he said.

 

 

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