The Civil Service Response to Innovative Proposals and Collaborative Problem Solving

The civil service sees the role of correspondence as being to allow them to gauge the degree of public support for, or opposition to, policy proposals. During consultations they are likely to classify responses according to which of various options they support. Outside consultations they believe that their role in answering letters is to explain Government policy whilst noting any strength of feeling that is emerging.
Innovative proposals, or attempts to find collaborative problem-solving solutions which give win-win solutions, simply don’t fit this mindset and they are likely to receive inappropriate replies fitted to whichever of the contending bodies of opinion they are seen as most akin to.
I could give numerous examples, over successive governments, from multiple departments over many years but it would sound as if I was grinding axes, many of them rusty. To give but two recent examples, both from the transport field (but that’s probably only because that is where I am currently most active)
• A proposal to build a rolling motorway (with vehicle carrying trains that would also convey freight and passengers) over the Woodhead Pass between Manchester and Barnsley instead of building a road (so as to achieve advantages for rail and road rather than just one or the other, and to save money and reduce environmental damage) was referred to a group considering rail freight capacity across the Pennines, where it simply died
• A proposal to replace phase 2 of HS2 with a quadruple track (two high speed two conventional) railway with an elevated greenway above it along the old Great Central Railway to enhance benefits and reduce environmental damage received a reply which clearly addressed opposition to HS2 and proposals simply to rebuild the GCR, and then when I pointed out that that wasn’t the proposal I got no further reply.




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