The Treasury might not be “up to the job” of spearheading the British Government’s response to the recession, according to the IPPR, one of Labour’s favourite think tanks. Britains worry…
By Christopher Hope
The Telegraph (UK)
Senior officials from the IPPR, the Institute of Public Policy Research, also questioned whether Gordon Brown’s policy of appointing former bankers as ministers was appropriate in dealing with “problems that banks have caused themselves”.
The Treasury was “not in good shape” to cope with the pressures of becoming a more interventionist Government while keeping a right rein on public spending, the IPPR said.
Guy Lodge and Tony Dolphin from the Institute said: “The lights are on in the Treasury but who is minding the tills? After hiving off so much responsibility for fiscal and monetary policy, the department is not in good shape to tackle the biggest economic crash for decades.”
They said part of the problem was that, when Mr Brown was Chancellor between 1997 and 2007, the Treasury spread itself too thinly and became a “Department for the Domestic Front”, wrapping its “tentacles” around large swathes of policy including welfare reform and child poverty.
This has meant that when the economy went downhill, the Treasury lost its core skills of keeping a check on the public finances and lost touch with its “conventional role of saying ‘no'” to more public spending.
In article in this week’s edition of ‘Public Finance’, the pair said: “Genuine doubts have been raised about whether the Treasury has the people it needs to face all these challenges simultaneously.
“The ‘Alistair and Mervyn’ show might be about to hit the road. It remains to be seen whether Treasury staff are well placed to support such a ‘show’.”
The departments suffers from “ridiculously high turnover rate in posts”, they said, adding: “Treasury officials rarely spend more than a year in post before moving on. This weakens the department’s skills base and deprives it of specialist expertise.”
Staff numbers have been cut by 17 per cent over the past four years. More cuts are planned by 2011. To make matters worse, the Treasury has also had problems filling policy posts. A recruitment drive last year was “only partially successful in plugging the skills gap”, leaving the Treasury short of vital skills.
They said: “One consequence of these changes is that today’s Treasury has few staff with experience of fighting a recession or dealing with a major economic calamity.”
And other than Turbo Tax manipulation, what is U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s experience in dealing with recession?