As all UK ministers are now drawn from the Houses of Parliament, any proposals which will change the composition of one of these houses have the potential to fundamentally alter the pool and selection of ministers.
It’s hard to judge a Civil Service Reform Plan. At the Institute for Government we drew on lessons from past reforms to create seven tests that indicate whether the plan is any good. Is it going to lead to a transformed Civil Service? Or will it simply be the latest round of ineffective tinkering with the problems that civil service leaders have been trying to fix since the late 1960’s?
The British civil service is widely admired and rightly so for its core values of honesty, impartiality, and professionalism. However, in terms of accountability, management culture, and increased flexibility there is always much more to do.
Emerging from all the noise about the role of Special Advisers generated by the Leveson inquiry is a picture of Spads operating largely in isolation, and with little preparation or support. The Ministerial Code and the Code of Conduct for Spads have not proved sufficient to resolve issues about SpAds’ roles and their performance.
One of the commitments in the civil service reform plan is for more interchange with the private sector. But that promise has been made in the past and failed to make real change. Will it be different this time?
Terry Moran, former head of Australia’s department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, was in discussion last night at the IfG with former cabinet secretary Lord (Gus) O’Donnell. There was lots of agreement but it offered some interesting points of comparison as well.
Eric Pickles has announced that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is launching a ‘payment by results’ (PbR) scheme, which will reward councils that help 'troubled families' to 'get children off the streets and back into school; reduce youth crime and anti-social behaviour; and put adults on a path back to work.'
Amidst a flurry of stories of rows, resignations and recriminations, the civil service reform plan is due to be published soon. Journalists and select committees have shown great interest in florid accounts of who shouted at whom and why senior officials resigned.