Government is able to get some of the best and brightest people around to write reports for them. The hope is to use their insight, expertise and impartiality to answer some big questions, and enable Government to respond to the big challenges they face. Many of these people are household names in their respective fields. The reports they write or reviews they lead provide specific recommendations and can often be genuinely radical. So why do they get ignored?
In the first place, we need to look at the motivation of government. Was the work commissioned simply to help government avoid making a decision? A lot of reports fall into this category, especially those dealing with challenges which successive governments have been unable to deal with.
What were its terms of reference and what finance was given to it? These provide some valuable clues about whether government has any intention of ever reading the report let alone implementing its recommendations. Similarly, look at the reporting deadlines. The further off they are, the less likely government is to have the time or inclination to accept them.
The commitment to the review by the 'name' leading it can be variable to say the least. Some really grab hold of the agenda and lead from the front whilst others are happy for the civil servants seconded to assist them to do all the work.
All too often, the reports are so heavily inputted into by government that they lose all semblance of the hoped for independence. Again, this tends to lessen their impact and provide government with less inclination to do anything substantive with the reports.
Some also blame the inertia and intransigence of the civil service for failing to grab hold of the recommendations. That is certainly a feeling that has taken root in some parts of the Coalition Government and seems to be one of the reasons why Francis Maude announced a potentially fundamental shift in how the civil service works earlier this year - a review that has gone largely unnoticed.
But in public affairs, we also need to play our part in making sure that the reports cannot be glossed over by government.
The latest in a long line of reports is Michael Heseltine's report, 'No Stone Unturned: In Pursuit of Growth'. You couldn't turn on the TV, listen to the radio or look at Twitter without falling over glowing endorsements of his work and the recommendations he put forward.
But what happens to that support over time? Do those that support the ideas continue to champion them or is the support merely an attempt to gain coverage at the time of the report's release?
To have any hope of achieving anything, government needs to hear from supporters of the plans over a long period of time and also hear about practical ways in which the recommendations can be implemented. The need to deliver solutions to problems are the fundamental basis of good public affairs. If government knows that not only will they have support but they can really make things happen then it becomes politically more acceptable.
It always helps if you have provided input from the outset. This means taking the time to input and treating the report as seriously as you would any other area of government even if there is some scepticism regarding the outcomes.
We also need to continue to press for action even if the main players move. Ministers, as we all know, have a habit of being shifted. Part of our job is to make sure that any new entrant maintains commitment to the report and its recommendations.
The authors of the reports too need to continue to agitate. Too often they disappear once the report has landed on Ministers' desks. Although it is highly doubtful that Heseltine falls into this category! Similarly Frank Field MP was so upset that the recommendations in his 'Poverty and Life Chances' report were not implemented by the Coalition Government that he announced that he was going to implement the anti-deprivation plan in his own constituency. Mary Portas, who did a report into how to save high streets, told an industry conference that she feared that her review was nothing more than a Government 'PR stunt' and was writing to David Cameron to ensure that he implemented her vision.
Some great work has been done and it is a criminal waste of all the time and effort that it is then left to gather dust on the shelf of a long since re-shuffled Minister. But part of the blame rests with us for not following the entire course of a report in the same way that we would legislation.