Government slammed for ongoing failure to release departments’ strategy plans

The Outcome Delivery Plan system was introduced two years and – theoretically – requires organisations to provide publicly available annual updates on priorities for tech, data and skills and other key areas

Ministers’ decision to again block the publication of department’s annual strategy plans – including commitments to digital transformation – is “surprising and disappointing”, according to the head of a parliamentary committee.

Outcome delivery plans (ODPs) – which were introduced two years ago to replace single departmental plans – require each department to set out their priorities and objectives for the coming year in four key areas, including ‘innovation, technology and data’, as well as ‘workforce, skills and location’, ‘delivery, evaluation and collaboration’, and ‘sustainability’.

Summaries for the first round of annual plans, for 2021-22, were published in July 2021 but none have been made publicly available since.

HM Treasury and Cabinet Office ministers John Glen and Jeremy Quin recently wrote a letter to William Wragg, chair of parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, saying departments “will only be required to produce internal ODPs for 2023-24”.

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HM Treasury and Cabinet Office ministers John Glen and Jeremy Quin wrote a letter to the PACAC chair earlier this month, saying departments “will only be required to produce internal ODPs for 2023-24”.

The ministers told Wragg the latest decision not to publish ODPS would “enable departments to focus on delivering the prime minister’s five priorities whilst satisfying the broader delivery metrics that ODPs track”, in a letter published last week.

Responding, in a letter to the ministers published on Tuesday, Wragg said: “The argument that this will enable departments to focus on delivering the prime minister’s priorities is wholly unconvincing. It is not clearly apparent why publishing each department’s strategy for implementing the government’s priorities would interfere with their ability to do so. It would clearly however reduce the ability of parliament and the public to scrutinise departments’ plans and performance towards these priorities. Such scrutiny would not only enhance government accountability but has the potential, through critical feedback, to strengthen departments’ plans, and ultimately ensure better service delivery for businesses and individuals across the country.”

Wragg asked the ministers to reconsider the decision and recommit to publishing departmental ODPs on an annual basis, beginning again this year.

In their letter to the PACAC chair, ministers said departments would ensure public scrutiny of departmental delivery is “embedded across Whitehall” by reporting on the delivery of ODPs in annual reports and accounts. These reports, however, contain far less detail than the ODP summaries from 2021-22.

Wragg’s concerns were backed up by Institute for Government associate director Rhys Clyne, who tweeted: “The argument that keeping the plans secret will enable departments to ‘focus on delivering the prime minister’s five priorities’ is fooling nobody. Departments should be using outside scrutiny to make those plans more robust. Publishing them should be seen as a bare minimum.”

A government spokesperson said: “The government remains centrally focused on delivering on the prime minister’s five key priorities and building a better future for the UK.”

Tevye Markson

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