By Ray Fleming

DAVID Cameron sounded like an unreformed Communist Party member as he addressed a conference of civil servants yesterday. He called for a “people power revolution” to replace the way the country is run at the moment. He wants a “sea change” in which government will be “turned on its head” with targets replaced by milestones. He did not explain the difference between targets and milestones beyond saying that the latter will require civil servants to achieve key goals by certain dates -- not much different from targets, it might be thought. He wants to “take power away from Whitehall and put it into the hands of people and communities.”

Essentially, the prime minister was pledging “citizen control over public services” but nowhere in his speech did he explain how this citizen control would work except for a brief reference to “choice in schools” and “private alternatives in health”. The civil servants he was addressing will have wondered how the skills and dedication they have devoted to running public services to meet the constantly changing requirements of politicians will be replaced by so far unnamed, unorganised and faceless individuals, associations and communities. Mr Cameron may just have been softening up the civil service before the departmental cuts take effect, but if the ideas he put forward yesterday are serious policy it is more than likely that chaos and breakdown are facing Britain's public services.

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