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Is Whitehall’s workforce model broken?

Wednesday 16 January 2019, 08:45 - 09:45

Civil servants in Whitehall change jobs much faster than in other countries or private sector organisations. Several departments lose a quarter of their staff each year, managers change roles every two years and some policy teams turn over almost entirely in just three years.

Such rapid turnover contributes to failures on some of government’s biggest priorities. Universal Credit went through five project directors in three years; policy teams are often starting from scratch, leaving ministers complaining that they are the institutional memory; and constant change of personnel in the Treasury undermines its oversight of government spending.   

But what does this high turnover mean for the citizens who rely on government to make policy and deliver services? What causes this turnover? And what can be done about it?

At this event, Tom Sasse, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government launched a new report, Moving on: the costs of high staff turnover in the civil service, based on newly released data.

To discuss the findings, our panel included:

  • The Rt Hon. Lord Freud, former Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions
  • Anne Perkins, Journalist and former Deputy Political Editor at The Guardian
  • Lord O’Donnell, Chairman, Frontier Economics and former Cabinet Secretary

The event was chaired by Emma Norris, Director of Research, Institute for Government.

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