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Report

Power with purpose: Final report of the Commission on the Centre of Government

Why the centre of government has failed successive prime ministers – and seven recommendations for radical reform.

No.10 Downing Street
The Commission's final report recommends that No.10 and the Cabinet Office be merged to form a new Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to enable more strategic control at the centre of government.

The final report of the Institute for Government’s Commission into the Centre of Government finds that No.10 Downing Street, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury are not institutions capable of meeting the challenges facing the United Kingdom in the 2020s and beyond.

Watch the key findings

Power with purpose sets out why the centre of government has failed successive prime ministers – and why it will continue to do so – and puts forward seven recommendations for radical reform. Whoever forms the next government will need to urgently implement these reforms in order to deliver their priorities, whether it is Rishi Sunak’s five pledges or Keir Starmer’s missions, and to tackle urgent challenges like climate change, the rise of artificial intelligence, a stagnant economy, increasing global instability and underperforming public services.  

The Commission’s conclusions draw on a year of interviews with figures ranging from former prime ministers to leading scientists, senior civil servants in the UK and overseas and leaders in local government, the private sector and charities. It sets out why the centre of government is not equipped to meet the challenges of the rest of the 21st century.

No.10 and the Cabinet Office should not continue in their current form, and should instead be restructured into a new Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and a separate Department for the Civil Service, housed in a modernised Downing Street and 70 Whitehall complex. It also calls for the appointment of a new first secretary of state to drive the government’s priorities, the creation of an executive cabinet committee made of a small number of key ministers, for splitting up of the cabinet secretary’s role and responsibilities, and reiterates the IfG’s call for a new civil service statute

Our proposals are: 

  1. The government should agree Priorities for Government at the start of a parliament and announce them as part of a modernised King’s Speech. 
  2. The prime minister should appoint an Executive Cabinet Committee made up of a few key ministers. 
  3. The prime minister should appoint a new, senior first secretary of state with responsibility for delivering the government’s priorities and ministerial responsibility for the civil service. 
  4. The Cabinet Office and No.10 should be restructured into a Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and a separate Department for the Civil Service. 
  5. There should be a new statute for the civil service and the Civil Service Board to hold its leadership accountable for reform priorities. 
  6. The roles of cabinet secretary and head of the civil service should be filled by separate individuals.  
  7. The Priorities for Government should be fully reflected in a new shared strategy, budget and performance management process owned collectively at the centre.  

The Commission’s reforms would give whoever forms the next government a much better chance of success by creating strengthened, united political leadership at the heart of government, a new way to ensure Whitehall’s time and money is directed to long-term, cross-cutting priorities, and a more open and confident centre. 

The IfG Commission launched in March 2023. It is chaired by IfG director Hannah White with Anthony Seldon as deputy chair. Sixteen commissioners have supported the work of the commission. 

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