To implement Labour's modernisation programme the civil service itself requires Euro-modernisationby Tony Blair / December 20, 1998 / Leave a comment
This is a government that values public service. For too long public servants have been undervalued. What makes people become civil servants is what made me go into politics-a chance to serve, to make a difference. It is not just a job, it is a vocation; and this country relies on that service ethic-in the NHS, in schools and in the civil service.
The civil service is a priceless asset. But it is not perfect. And, because this government believes in public service, we will be more demanding, less tolerant of the average.
The civil service is good at preparing legislation and managing policy. It is less good at focusing on outcomes or ensuring effective implementation. Many parts of the civil service culture are still too hierarchical and inward-looking. Like British business, it is too short-term. We need a longer-term approach to decision-making-and that applies to ministers, too. Above all, the civil service is too risk-averse. We need to encourage innovation. Reinventing government to remedy these failures is a key part of our constitutional reform agenda.
Our third way is not the dogma of the old left, concentrating on means rather than ends. Nor is it the laissez-faire of the new right. Unlike the old left, we want a market economy. Unlike the new right, we do not want a market society. We want renewed social democracy.
Big government is dead. The days of tax and spend are gone. Much of the deregulation and privatisation that took place in the 1980s was necessary. But not everything can be left to the market. There is a role for a modern, active government. The main challenges for the civil service as I see them are these.
First, constitutional reform. A great achievement of our first 18 months has been the raft of constitutional legislation. Even so, we are only at the beginning. Less than a year from now, devolution in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will be a reality. We will all-ministers and officials, in central government and in the devolved administrations-be working in a new framework. I attach great importance to preserving a unified civil service working for all three administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Westminster. We do not want anybody who works in the Welsh Office or the Scottish Office to feel that they are being cut adrift from the civil service. I also attach great importance to establishing…