By Tony Collins
The job of Francis Maude as Cabinet Office minister in charge of IT and other reforms of central government is safe, which could be bad news for some senior departmental officials and their permanent secretaries.
Though his power is circumscribed by the way government works, Maude still represents the greatest threat to the equanimity of departmental officialdom in living memory. The threat is in part because Maude has been in office too long to be beguiled.
The Telegraph reported on 31 August Maude’s recognition that some officials are trying to undermine his authority. “He [Maude] said that at a recent meeting between officials from his office and those from another department, the permanent secretary claimed that it would be difficult to achieve an outcome because ‘your minister … doesn’t get on with my secretary of state’.
“This was untrue and ‘designed to give a signal to all the officials in the room that they needn’t bother about what Francis Maude wanted’, he said.
There was press speculation in July that Maude would exit the government in a reshuffle, largely because of the “jerry cans” affair. But he is to stay. The reforms of central government, limited though they are, will therefore continue, in part because Maude, in the changes he wants to make, has the ear of Cameron.
Channel 4’s Gary Gibbon reports on his blog that, in the reshuffle, civil servants have their eyes on one minister in particular: Francis Maude, who’s “been at the head of some pretty challenging and unpopular reforms of the senior civil service”.
Gibbon quotes an unnamed civil servant as saying: “We don’t mind where he goes, we just want him to have a new job.”
We’re pleased Maude is staying. Without him any needed change in government IT, for example reducing the over-reliance on a small number of high-priced systems integrators, will be all but impossible.