The housing/local government department has always been well known for its late announcements – last day before Xmas and last day before Parliament breaks up were always favourites. But they have excelled themselves over the homelessness strategy and the green paper.
We are left to wonder – is the purpose of a media operation in a government department to provide fair information for public consumption or is it just a cynical exercise to promote the government’s interests?
First, after many months of high sounding promises, the Social Policy Green Paper did not see the light of day in February or June or July. It missed the Parliamentary term, and therefore avoided Parliamentary scrutiny. Second, yesterday the ‘Homelessness Strategy’ was ‘published’ in the form of a ministerial statement and quite a lkot of partial press briefings over the weekend. The actual strategy was not published until much later when media attention had moved elsewhere. Third, today’s Green Paper has similarly been trailed in a press statement and a short summary document early this morning. The actual GP has only just been published as this is being written (the benefits of two screens!).
The media have thus got their stories about the contents without reading the document. And analysis will there be none as everyone has moved on. The industry is left ‘welcoming’ ‘small steps’ which hardly makes it sound controversial, although some did well yesterday to get media interest in the fact the the homelessness strategy promised £100m but had no or very little ‘new’ money.
In a democracy where the written media is broadly right wing and the broadcast media follows the written press, this is a disgrace. It means real comment is left to small but important operators like Inside Housing and 24 Housing who will take the trouble to read the thing – published online as I write – and bloggers who have held back from comment until the full contents are known and can be appraised.
Government is meant to be for all of us, not just to manipulate information to protect Ministers from scrutiny and almost certainly well-deserved criticism.