This morning it's the Guardian's turn to splutter:
"The man appointed by the government to scrap the Child Support Agency is being paid £900 a day to find a solution - a higher daily rate than the country's most senior civil servant, according to the Department for Work and Pensions. The money is equivalent to £234,000 a year - Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, gets just over £220,000."
They're talking about Sir David Henshaw, the former chief executive of Liverpool council, whose appointment we blogged back in February.
As we all know, the abysmal CSA certainly needs sorting. The facts are that it employs about 10,000, and costs us some £0.3bn pa. And ever since its inception in 1993 it has been a case-study in public sector inefficiency: from its fearsomely complex rules, to its lack of proper implementation and follow-through (currently a case backlog of 330,000 and £3.3 billion arrears), to its failed mega IT development (£0.45bn and still not working properly), to its rock-bottom staff morale and rocketing staff turn-over (over 20% pa). It costs us 54 pence for every £1 it collects.
So if Henshaw could sort it, he'd be well worth his £900 a day- personally, I'd round it up to a grand and stand him a couple of beers and a peerage when he'd finished.
But the question is whether he will sort anything. For a start, he'll only be doing a three day week: three days may be traditional in the Liverpool docks and car plants, but it may not be quite enough to sort out an intractable disaster that's defeated all-comers. Even more seriously, his track record is... er... "patchy". As we noted previously, the Audit Commission was distinctly underwhelmed by his performance in Liverpool: ranked against other local authorities, here's how they assess his council at the the end of his tenure:
- Star rating: bottom 32%
- Direction of Travel (ie getting better or worse): bottom 30%
- Value For Money: bottom 2%!!!
Once again, we taxpayers better not hold our breaths.
PS- Henshaw is an alumni of Sheffield Hallam and - surprise, surprise -was heavily involved in student politics along with Jumping Jack Straw. The Peoples Republic of Sheffield was of course run for many years by Commissar Blinkers, another notorious beardie.