Major reform is needed for government to respond to crises like the pandemic while simultaneously delivering long-term policy goals.
Whitehall Monitor 2022 reveals how the government has been handling the Covid crisis while at the same time trying to make progress on priorities such as levelling up and hitting net zero. New employment support schemes and the vaccination programme were delivered rapidly, but progress on pre-pandemic priorities was limited. The political storm around the Sue Gray inquiry is now threatening to badly distract from Boris Johnson’s core agenda.
The report warns that without fundamental reform – such as clarifying ministerial and civil service accountability, better data, improving transparency and ensuring a targeted workforce plan underpins its goal of up to 55,000 civil service job cuts by 2025 – government will continue being knocked off course when faced with shocks to the system. And whatever happens as a result of the prime minister’s current troubles, with a looming cost of living crisis, ongoing Covid challenges, and crunch Brexit deadlines and decisions ahead, 2022 will bring further strain.