It would be easy to believe that Oliver Letwin did not so much grasp the mantle of Complainers’ Champion as have it thrust upon him in much the same way that disgraced Stalinist were encouraged to vacation in Siberia. After all it’s not every politician who wants to be recognised as Minister for Complaints.
The truth is that Mr. Letwin has time on his hands since being replaced as Cameron’s policy advisor in April 2013, by Jo Johnson, brother of Boris, the British Kennedys. It was thought that Mr. Letwin was too distant from the concerns of ordinary voters to write the next Conservative manifesto. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, before becoming an academic, Mr. Letwin had little chance to develop an understanding of the lives of ordinary voters. This may be the reason why, in July 2011 he called for public sector workers to be in fear of losing their jobs in an effort to improve productivity. Fear of the Gulag could also have done the trick, but I dare say that even Mr. Letwin realised that this would be a step too far.
It is well known that Oliver Letwin is in favour of savage cuts to public services, which he sees as bureaucratic and inefficient. In 2001, in the run up to the general election, he stated that the Tories would slash taxes by £20bn, putting money back into the pockets of the taxpayer whilst simultaneously devastating public services reliant on taxpayer funds. It did not come to fruition at that time, but with austerity came the opportunity to legitimately slash public spending, without the subsequent tax rebates as I recall.
With cuts to public services there will inevitably be more complaints. Front-line staff, over run by an impossible workload will inevitably make mistakes. So is Oliver Letwin the right person to be overseeing a complete overhaul of the complaint process and the role of public sector Ombudsmen? Having created the chaos which caused the complaints the aim would surely be to provide a watertight system which allows for efficient complaint disposal without leakage and scandal. Job done.
Perhaps the idea is to privatise all public services putting them beyond the reach of freedom of information requests and data release, making the task of white-washing complaints a whole lot easier. In 2004 Mr. Letwin stated that the NHS will cease to exist after five years of Tory rule. The big sell off has certainly begun, but five years was a tad optimistic for such a mammoth organisation to be turned piecemeal into profitable private companies.
But let us not dwell on the negative. Mr. Letwin has the opportunity as Complainants’ Champion to become a national hero. He has already agreed to meet with a coalition of campaign groups on 24th July to discuss the forthcoming inquiry. Representatives from the PHSO Pressure Group, National Health Action Party and LGO Ombudsman Watch will meet with Mr. Letwin at Westminster to share their ‘gold dust’ knowledge of issues and solutions. Complainants are primary stakeholders in the discussion process and intend to contribute throughout, in order to guide Mr. Letwin and the Cabinet Office in making the right choices. The result could be legislation which actually provides protection for the citizen from the abuse of power. Public sector Ombudsmen who actually believe that complainants are honest with valid concerns. An end to bias, corruption and arrogant disregard for the public. So, Mr. Letwin, are you able to deliver?