The civil service should be more fun to work forby Francis Maude / November 14, 2013 / Leave a comment
Reading the thoughts of the great and good commentators gathered by Prospect magazine to ponder Civil Service Reform in last month’s edition brought to mind some essential truths about this ever-present issue.
Firstly, it is important. Although it may not often top the news agenda, people care about it and rightly so. The Civil Service is one of the great institutions of the British political landscape. Secondly, it is cyclical. The same issues have been discussed and debated; the same reforms have been announced and, in many cases, ignored. Indeed, Civil Service reform is one of our great traditions – but it’s largely one of failure. Thirdly, there is no great disagreement over the current need for reform. Most critically, civil servants themselves are impatient for change.
As we have pursued our programme of reforms we have been frank about where progress has been slow. So we absolutely welcome suggestions for action and challenges to our plan, including those featured in these pages. We all share a goal to ensure the Civil Service delivers the best for Britain. But I’m afraid I don’t believe the answer lies in more strategy, more navel-gazing, more analysis. As the Prime Minister said back in June, “This is happening. We don’t need a ‘stop and analyse’ moment.” One of my team of outstanding Cabinet Office civil servants put it well: “delivery is too often the poor relation to policy.” What Mike Bracken meant was that the strategy is the delivery. You change things by doing them, not by talking about them. That’s how he’s approaching the mammoth task of switching Government, the Civil Service and the services we deliver to being digital. So, in this piece I will not set out a lengthy vision. I can tell you what we are trying to do. And then tell you where we are succeeding and where we are not. We will be judged more on our delivery, than our strategy. There is a vision, of course. It’s simple. A Civil Service which is smaller, flatter, faster, focused on outcome not process, more digital, more unified, more accountable for delivery, more capable, with modern terms and conditions, better managed with better performance management and, finally, more fun to work for. That’s it.
No one has seriously argued that any material part of the plan is either wrong or unnecessary – with the possible…