Nick Clegg has delivered a stinging attack on Whitehall inefficiency this morning in a speech on the economy at the LSE.
After 15 months in government, he labelled the civil service a “key blockage” to growth, and called on the civil service to “put its foot on the accelerator”.
The Deputy Prime Minister said there is a cycle of delays in infrastructure development, citing the delays to the West Coast Mainline improvements an example.
He's said: "Whitehall has a huge role to play in breaking this cycle. And it must - the country need jobs, and time is no longer on our side... We will deliver on our commitments.”
Clegg warned that following the recession and continued turmoil in the eurozone “the reality we face is stark; there is now little margin for error.”
He promised Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander “will be shaking the Whitehall tree” and said he has made that commitment “crystal clear” to both ministers and Whitehall mandarins.
A Lib Dem source within government told Huff Post UK there were concerns that Whitehall was taking too long to spend money already earmarked for big infrastructure projects.
"Historically Whitehall takes time to do things, but there isn't the particular impetus that's needed to get them out. The sooner you get the money out the door, the sooner you start to see the jobs created. The difference between three months and nine months is enormous.
"We're doing a lot in terms of infrastructure, but are we good at telling people about these projects? Probably not. Are we good at getting the money out the door quickly enough? Probably not. We could be addressing this all quicker and we could tell people about it better."
But the former Second Permanent Secretary to the Treasury Sir Steve Robson called Clegg's words "meaningless generalities".
"Good project delivery requires sustained hard and detailed work by top quality people who have relevant experience and expertise. Nick Clegg needs to recognise that Whitehall does not have such people and the Coalition's stance on the use of consultants limits their access to such people. He might also reflect that Whitehall does have a risk averse culture that gets in the way of any attempt to change things for the better.
"It's good to read that Ministers will rigorously examine projects to make sure there are no delays or blockages. Is there any Minister with the expertise and experience to do such a job properly?"
Clegg’s speech comes as a facebook group from LSE students angry at the rise in tuition fees has threatened to protest against his appearance at the university. The group say his speech on the economy is meaningless: “We know there is an alternative to Clegg-Cam's savage cuts to frontline public services, come and show Clegg that he still cannot get away with this.
“Furthermore the students have not forgot how the LibDems went back on their promise for free higher education and the NUS pledge... “
During an LSE debate with culture secretary Jeremy Hunt earlier year, students interrupted the event calling him ““Tory scum”.
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