The Blog

Firm Direction: Kids Company and Ministerial Directions

As my colleague Jill Rutter pointed out in her blogpost, the news that Kids Company may be about to close its services 'provides rapid vindication' of the Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary's decision to request a ministerial direction. Richard Heaton (soon to become Permanent Secretary at MoJ) requested one, on value for money grounds, on 26 June.

Ministerial directions are issued by a Secretary of State if a government department's accounting officer - the Permanent Secretary - formally objects to a minister's decision to spend money on the grounds of regularity, propriety, value for money, and feasibility. The direction instructs the Perm Sec to implement the decision, but the minister bears responsibility for it.

There's more detail in my blogpost a few weeks ago, which built on the work of my colleague Josh Harris (in a blogpost this February, a Whitehall Monitor bulletin in May 2014 and a report in September 2013).

The Kids Company direction is the first issued by the Cabinet Office that we're aware of since at least 1990. It's the third since the 2015 General Election, and the sixth since the 2010 General Election (all of which were issued in 2015):

All six have been issued under the 'value for money' criterion. 43 of the directions issued since 1990 have been for this reason alone.

One of the reasons it's so unusual to see a direction vindicated this quickly is that, in the past, they haven't always been published swiftly. Even the Kids Company direction was only published on 16 July, despite having been issued on 29 June. It would strengthen accountability if such directions were published in such a timely and transparent way as a matter of course.

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