Whitehall Monitor 2018: Turnover of ministers impedes government

Political turbulence and ministerial turnover – particularly at junior levels – have disrupted the Government’s preparations for Brexit, its ability to pass crucial legislation and its capacity to deal with urgent public service challenges, a new report finds.

Published today by the Institute for Government, the fifth annual Whitehall Monitor collects and analyses data to enable those running government to be more effective, and help Parliament and the public hold them to account. The report finds that:

  • 85 of the 122 ministers across government are new in post since the general election.
  • After years of steady cutbacks, the civil service took on 8,000 additional staff since June 2016.
  • The Government withheld over half of all Freedom of Information requests last year.
  • A third of the Government’s major projects worth over £1bn are at risk of not being delivered on time and on budget.  

The latest reshuffle was the third ministerial reorganisation in under two years. The Ministry of Justice, facing a crisis in the prison system, has now had six different secretaries of state since 2010. And the Department for Work and Pensions has had five secretaries of state since 2015, while managing the complex and challenging roll out of Universal Credit.

At the Department for Exiting the European Union only the Secretary of State, David Davis, and one other minister have remained in place since the department was created, with the Lords minister having been changed three times.

The Government has introduced only five of the nine new bills needed for Brexit. The EU Withdrawal Bill is behind schedule which in turn is squeezing the time available for Government to pass the 1,000 pieces of secondary legislation required for the UK’s exit from the EU, which could take over 100 days of parliamentary time. 

The Whitehall Monitor finds that it is still too difficult to find basic information about what civil servants do, how much departments spend and contracting. Over a fifth of all spending over £25,000 by departments in 2017 has yet to be published. 

Gavin Freeguard, Associate Director at the Institute for Government and author of the report, said:

“This year’s Whitehall Monitor finds that the civil service is growing considerably in size although it still needs to be more diverse. New ministers will need to get up to speed quickly to face the challenges in public services, major projects and Brexit.

“Essential information, like how departments spend their money, remains more difficult to find than it should be. Government needs to be more transparent.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

  • The Whitehall Monitor 2018 annual report can be found attached and is available on our website
  • The Institute for Government is an independent think tank that works to make government more effective.
  • Whitehall Monitor is divided into eight chapters: Political leadership, workforce, finances, managing public spending, passing legislation, delivering major projects, communication and transparency and measuring performance.
  • Whitehall Monitor features 94 charts, which draw on over 500 datasets. The underlying data in this report is also available upon request.
  • For more information, please contact rhys.williams@instituteforgovernment.org.uk / 07825 021 538.
Associated projects: 
Associated documents: 
Associated Events: