Carry On Regardless

Those involved in the Home Office’s Emergency Services Network (ESN) programme to replace the network the emergency services rely on for communication, have consistently demonstrated that they lack the capability, aptitude, skills and competence to fix ESN. The latest Public Accounts Committee report does not offer any alternative solutions to the problem and despite its blistering criticism of the Home Office seems content to let the department carry on regardless! Yet as David Hilliard comments “you can’t fix stupid”.

8 years late, £2bn over budget, no launch date in sight

My recent blog “The Home Office’s Emergency Services Network (ESN) programme is a spectacular failure of governance”, was a scalding examination unveiling a managerial disaster marked by the Home Office’s complacency and rank incompetence.

As a reminder, ESN was set to replace Airwave, the communications network used by the police, fire and ambulance services in 2015. Not only is the programme eight years late, but it’s also £2bn over budget, and there’s still no definite date set for launch.

What’s more, there are serious question marks about ESN’s ability to ever provide the features the emergency services need to deal with life-threatening, dangerous situations.

We explained how the ESN programme broke every axiom in programme execution – the immutable “laws” of programme execution that must be in place to underpin success.

We recommended, “It’s time to stop the madness and pull the plug on this programme now!”

The madness continues.

The Public Accounts Committee has just published their latest (13th on ESN) report. It is a blistering criticism of the Home Offices’ performance throughout. It doesn’t mince its words.

You don’t even need to read between the lines. The PAC has zero confidence in the Home Office’s ability to deliver this programme, as this extract demonstrates:

“The Department (Home Office) continues to be optimistic that it can solve these problems – but this optimism is disconnected from the reality that the Department has never been able to produce a realistic plan for delivering ESN, and there is not yet evidence that the technology will work as well as Airwave.”

Yet this is politics at its worst!

There’s a baffling disconnect between the well-researched and documented programme execution cock-ups the PAC highlight, and their recommendations to get the programme doing what it’s supposed to do.

Astonishingly, the PACs message to the binary stars at the Home Office is “carry on regardless”, with a few reviews and a bit of external observation thrown in here and there.

Given the dire state of the programme, the recommendations are threadbare and meaningless.

ESN has had failure designed-in from the start.

It’s time the ESN programme is called out for what it is – an omnishambles.

What’s more, it is a scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money.

Anyone reading the PAC report should conclude that a radical change in approach is needed, if ESN is ever to get off the ground.

But why hasn’t the PAC said that? There is nothing radical about their report. Instead, the recommendations are laden with stereotypical rhetoric.

If the PAC has no confidence in ESN management, why have they given the Home Office carte blanche to continue? Why hasn’t the PAC recommended the programme is reshaped, reconstituted – or cancelled?


You can’t fix stupid.

I’ll be commenting in more detail on this in the next week.

About the author

David Hilliard is Founder of Mentor Europe, execution specialists in strategic program execution.