IfG response to Extended Ministerial Offices announcement and Civil Service - One Year On report

On Extended Ministerial Offices:

Director for the Institute for Government, Peter Riddell said:

“We agree that Ministers should be able to expand their ministerial private offices with a small number of specialist advisers recruited from outside, in addition to civil servants. However today’s announcement is unclear about who will appoint these external people; about the size of the extended ministerial offices, including the number of special advisers; and who will head them. It is essential that this lack of clarity is addressed.

“The Institute for Government has said ministers will also need a senior civil servant chief of staff to run the newly expanded offices, someone with considerable experience of Whitehall and the ability to command credibility in the department. This person should be an experienced Whitehall operator, appointed on merit, but with the minister and permanent secretary making the joint final decision from a list of appointable candidates.  An expanded private office headed by a politically appointed chief of staff risks becoming an alternative power base within the department and could disengage the minister from their department.”

On the Civil Service - One Year On report:

Director of the Institute for Government, Peter Riddell said:

“The Cabinet Office has also published a one year on progress report today. We welcome its candour about the marked variations in rates of progress between various action points in the original plan. There are strong positive points in making the Civil Service better able to respond to new demands.  However, there is a very long way to go.  Today’s announcements and the progress report will not make the Civil Service fit for the future - the actions are important but do not address the most vital points.”

The IfG has identified four urgent areas for action by ministers and officials:

  1. Broaden the coalition of secretaries of state and senior officials involved in corporate reforms. This group must be visible in linking changes in their departments to a shared vision of what the Civil Service looks like after austerity.
  2. Department-centre tensions must be addressed by changing the accountability and responsibilities of central functions such as HR and Finance.
  3. Turn recent hints about the future shape of the Civil Service into a coherent  vision  and strategy with broad ministerial backing. Accelerate thinking about the core purpose, functions, structures and operating models that will underpin a smaller but stronger Civil Service.
  4. Start working together across departments in order to develop the best possible options for spending cuts over the next five or so years. Work closely with the Treasury and ministers to provide cover for this kind of forward-thinking.

Our full response to the one year on progress report from the Cabinet Office will be published later this week.