Posts Tagged ‘civil service’

Civil servants might not be civil for long

14/07/2016, 07:45:54 PM

by Greig Baker

In the most extraordinary fortnight for British politics, people should be forgiven if they missed an important – if fairly dry – announcement from the Cabinet Office this week. Despite being largely ignored, the announcement is a helpful reminder that Labour could still have supporters outside of Momentum, if only it got its act together.

On Tuesday, arguably the most powerful department in Whitehall announced the new Civil Service Workforce Plan to 2020. This sets out how the government wants to reform the way the Civil Service works – and so change the way that every single public service is delivered and determine the job prospects of the 440,000 people who work for the government.

The Plan includes some reforms that any shadow secretary of state who is even only half awake would presumably want to get their teeth into. For example, the number of secondments to and from the private sector, and especially large scale commercial suppliers, is likely to increase dramatically. Optimists argue this improves civil servants’ understanding of the world and allows them to bring in valuable lessons and expertise from business. Others may be concerned about the influence gained by private interests who lend their staff to policy makers.


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Gus O’Donnell gives Leveson his prescription for media mismanagement

15/05/2012, 07:00:22 AM

by Atul Hatwal

A little tidbit from Gus O’Donnell’s written evidence at the Leveson Inquiry yesterday:

“When Alastair Campbell was appointed Director of Communications at Number 10, an Order in Council granted him the power to instruct civil servants. I thought that the power was an inappropriate one for a special adviser to have. I felt it was important to have a good civil servant as the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson, without any outré Orders in Council. Civil servants are more able to achieve impartiality in briefing and avoid being drawn into political briefing. They have conducted all press briefings on behalf of the Government since that time – Gordon Brown stuck with that approach and so has his successor.”

O’Donnell clearly felt he was making a telling point. A political appointee directing civil servants was such a self-evidently bad thing that neither of Tony Blair’s successors had chosen to repeat this ill-starred experiment.

That’s one view.

Alternately, part of the reason that press coverage of each of Tony Blair’s successors has careened off the rails so violently is that there hasn’t been a single, partisan media chief in control of the government communications machine since Alastair Campbell.

Gordon Brown and David Cameron have each appointed media advisers, but with a limited reach across Whitehall.

The vast empire of hundreds of departmental press officers has been outside of Number 10’s purview. This army of media managers reports up through the civil service hierarchy, independent of the government’s political operation.

It’s an important distinction. Despite the frequent and genuine pleas from civil servants to their ministers that all they want to do is serve them effectively, ultimately, departmental press officers’ future career advancement is in the hands of the mandarins.

That means they are beholden to different masters.


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What the Queen’s speech tells us about this dysfunctional government

09/05/2012, 06:37:20 PM

by Atul Hatwal

One thing is clear from this derisory Queen’s speech. Underpinning the paucity of content and the laundry list quality to this rag bag of measures is a central truth: the gangrene of government has well and truly set in.

The most obvious tell-tale sign is the absence of a top-line.  If the BBC is calling your programme a “hotch-potch” with “no over-arching theme”, you know something has gone wrong.

The package of 15 bills and 4 draft bills is rare in that there is virtually no truly distinctive or news-worthy initiative. All of the headlines from these proposals will be generated by the politics of their parliamentary passage, notably with Lords reform, rather than the substantive impact of their delivery.

In coming forward with a programme like this the government has ceded the news agenda. It will be pushed and pulled by the rebellion du jour from right-wing Tories or left-wing Lib Dems on a variety of amendments to Dave and Nick’s anodyne bills.

The real question that should be asked about this Queen’s speech is why? Why is there not a single bill that will draw a dividing line between government and opposition? That will draw their side together and focus the debate on a distinction with Labour. How can the coalition party managers in have been so incompetent?

The answer lies not in their political ability or ambition, but the process of government.


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Snapper and film maker u-turn, what about the rest of them? Tom Watson wants answers

16/11/2010, 01:42:10 PM


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