Government's productivity plan not really a plan at all say MPs
MPs have questioned whether the Government’s so-called Productivity Plan can be called a plan at all, describing it as an assortment of existing policies. The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee also dubbed ministerial engagement with the plan as “far too weak”.
The plan, covering 15 areas including transport, energy and infrastructure, was said to lack clear objectives. The committee said in a report: “This broad and expansive document represents more of an assortment of largely existing policies collected together in one place than a new plan for ambitious productivity growth.
“Our conversations with the ministers and subsequent analysis has led us to conclude that the ministerial engagement in the implementation of the Productivity Plan is far too weak.
“We are concerned that the cross-departmental implementation work for what is meant to be a key part of government economic policy has been left to officials holding periodic meetings. ”
The MPs said ministerial direction and political leadership needed to be much clearer and stronger. Committee chairman Iain Wright (Labour, Hartlepool) said the Government’s focus on tackling productivity was welcome, but added: “Rather than being a clear and distinctive roadmap as to how Britain will close our productivity gap, the Productivity Plan is a vague collection of existing policies.
“The analysis in the Government’s plan is good, but the milestones for implementing improvements are virtually non-existent.
“If the Productivity Plan is going to avoid collecting dust on Whitehall bookshelves and having a legacy of being seen as worthy but useless, then the Government needs to back it up by setting out how these policies are going to be implemented and how their success will be measured.”
He told the Press Association that the plan was unveiled just a few months after the May general election, and contained nothing new or distinctive.
Adam Marshall, executive director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “A strategy is only good if it results in real-world outcomes, and the Government’s productivity plan is no exception.
“The BIS Committee is right to press for a clearer timetable to address the deep-rooted structural problems that hold our economy back. Skills shortages, infrastructure bottlenecks and limited growth finance have long constrained investment and dampened productivity.
“Successive governments have understood many of the problems, but Whitehall schemes have only made a marginal impact. A laser-like focus on delivery is required if we are to achieve the productivity gains we need.”
A Business Department spokesman said: “Through successive governments our country has struggled with keeping productivity on track. Only by stabilising the economy since 2010 can we really tackle this head-on. We are now seeing a return to productivity growth. Output per hour grew by 0.5% in the third quarter of 2015, and was 1.3% higher than the same period in 2014.
“The reforms set out in our productivity plan are delivering a step change that will secure long term investment in people, capital and ideas. As the select committee notes, boosting productivity is not as quick and simple as pulling a lever.”