By Tony Collins
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced the publication this afternoon of the civil service reform plan which he said contains “nothing dramatic but when implemented will represent “real change”.
He told MPs there will be a cross-government management information system put in place by October which enable departments to be held account. He did not say how. He said that management information in central government is “poor”. Some other points in Maude’s speech in the House of Commons:
- A smaller civil service than at any time since World War Two – but he did not says whether outsourced civil servants were included in his figures.
- There would be no more than eight management layers in the civil service and fewer where possible.
- Shared services should be the norm.
- A “key goal” will be to give civil servants the IT they need to do their jobs properly.
- Former accounting officers can be called back to give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee.
- The Cabinet Office will consult the Civil Service Commission on how ministers can be more involved in the appointment of permament secretaries. Maude told MPs that secretaries of state should have the final say on appointments, after the involvement of the Commission.
- Ministers can appoint senior officials for time-limted executive roles.
- More civil servants need more financial knowledge. There are “serious deficiencies in managing change” said Maude.
- There are “serious gaps” in project management capability. Officials will seek to identify what skills are missing.
- Civil servants do not believe their managers are not strong enough in leading and managing change. Policy skills have been rated as more important than operational skills. In future some permanent secretaries will need at least two years experience in a commercial and operational role. There will be an equal balance in future between senior officials with skills in policy advice and those with operational experience.
- Poor performance will be “rigorously addressed”. There will be a civil service appraisal system in which the bottom 10% will have to prove they should stay in their jobs.
- Permanent secretaries wll have their objectives published.
- Information on the performance of major projects will be unprecedented.
Maude said the reform plan is a first stage and part of a policy of continuous improvement.
Edward Leigh, former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said it was time that permanent secretaries were chosen for their implementation and operational abilities rather than their ability to write a memo in Latin.