Letter to David Willetts MP

This recent Guardian story about a secret list of banned A-level courses by the top Universities has been playing on my mind for a few days. If true, it’s not right. I’ve written to David Willetts about it. In the interests of transparency and fair play, I think he should satisfy himself that it’s not true. A look at the results of successful applicants should provide the information to prove the story right or wrong.

Action Plan for Scottish Video Games Industry

TIGA, the trade association representing the UK games industry, called for the implementation of an action plan to strengthen the Scottish video games sector. TIGA made the call following yesterday’s news that Realtime Worlds in Dundee was going into administration. Dr Richard Wilson, CEO of TIGA, outlined some of the features of the plan on the BBC Radio programme, ‘Good Morning Scotland’.

Dr Richard Wilson, CEO of TIGA, said:

“If the Scottish video games industry in particular and the UK games sector in general are to come through the current crisis and attain their potential, then we must take decisive action. We need action in the following five areas:

  • Games Tax Relief should be introduced at the earliest opportunity so that the games industry can compete on a level playing against games businesses in other countries.
  • Research and Development tax credits should be retained and enhanced.
  • Business incubators should be established to help the formation of a new wave of video games firms. Small, start up games businesses should receive business mentoring and advice on how to create and retain IP and how to develop relatively sustainable business models.
  • Games clusters should be consciously supported. Clusters can encourage knowledge transfer and business efficiencies. With a critical mass of games businesses in place, this in turn should encourage inward investment.
  • Higher education must be adequately funded and the study of STEM subjects encouraged in order to ensure that the games industry has access to a well qualified and skilled workforce.

“We still hope that Realtime Worlds will find a buyer. Whether this transpires or not, we need action to ensure that our video games industry comes through the current turmoil in as strong a shape as possible. TIGA, the trade association representing the UK games industry, will play its part through the provision of best practice business advice and support and we will continue to champion our video games sector.”

I support Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles has moved the transparency agenda on today. He now leads government departments and quangos as the transparency champion in the public sector. They should follow his brave lead. Here are some quotes that I’ve just sent through to the Press Association:

“Transparent budgeting is radical and has the potential to transform public sector accountability. Eric Pickles now leads the government as the minister most committed to transparency.

“We should give credit where it is due to Mr Pickles. He has my full support.

“I call on every other department and quango to follow his brave lead and publish all items of expenditure over £500. And once new systems are in place, the figures should be published quarterly”.

Ministerial Office Costs

I’ve been testing the limits of the coalition government’s commitment to transparency again this week. My trusty team has helped compile a list of costs for each minister’s private office. I published the cost of Cabinet ministers earlier today.

I’ve been busy on family stuff today and have just picked up a load of emails and messages about the report. A number of journalists have asked for figures for all ministers. So I’ve published it below. Congratulations to Mark Harper for only employing two staff in his private office and being the cheapest MP in Her Majesty’s Government.

If you know about this stuff, I’d be grateful if you can help me. These figures show that there are civil servants doing more or less the same job but being paid substantially different sums depending on what department they work for. I’m trying to find the lowest paid Private Secretary and the lowest paid Diary Secretary. All information will be treated in the strictest confidence.

One last thing. I was being serious about Vince Cable. He can’t possibly run a department the size of his with only six staff in his private office. He should sort it out.