The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is an almost unbelievably large and complex organisation. It is has a budget of £6.8 billion, 21,380 staff and is responsible for 63 quangos. Its head has only been in position since January so, one presumes, he is still attempting the near insane task of trying to get some kind of control over the sprawling organisation.
Blogger Croydonian alerts us to the fact that yesterday the Secretary of State, Andy Burnham, had better things to do. He was 'representing' the Government in Moscow at the Champions League final. He wasn't alone; Gerry Sutcliffe - Minister for Sport and Tourism - also made the trip. Why does the Government need to be represented at the match? How does that task take two Ministers?
We'll see the same thing happen, on a far greater scale, this Summer at the Beijing Olympics where 50 ministers and officials are off to the Games as part of their 'work'. Some kind of representation, to see what the Chinese get right and what they get wrong, makes sense to learn lessons for 2012 and the Prime Minister might need to be dispatched for diplomatic reasons. However, the idea that we need a coterie of senior ministers there on the taxpayer's pound is deeply spurious.
This highlights one reason, among many, that politicians struggle to manage public services. The priority is showy publicity stunts rather than quiet, effective administration. If Ministers don't have the time, experience or inclination to impose themselves on their department then there is no effective accountability to the public. That lack of accountability drives a host of problems throughout the public services which are expensive and blight the lives of those who rely on them.
P.S. The image on the right at the top of this post shows Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, in a playful mood along with Ed Balls.