Civil servants don’t do as they’re told, says Maude
By Vivienne Russell | 3 October 2012
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has launched a critique of Whitehall civil servants, claiming they do not always implement ministerial decisions.
In a speech at the Institute for Government think-tank yesterday, Maude said that ministers in successive governments had ‘all too often’ found that their decisions were not followed through by officials.
‘There are cases when permanent secretaries have blocked agreed government policy from going ahead or advised other officials not to implement ministerial decisions – that is unacceptable. And such exceptional cases undermine the sterling work of the majority of civil servants.’
Ministers who failed to listen to the advice of their officials were ‘foolhardy’, Maude said. But he added: ‘Once a minister has made up his or her mind and given a decision, the constitutional role of the civil service is explicitly clear: it is to implement that decision.’
Maude recapped the government’s ambitions for civil service reform, including stronger accountability and improved skills and capability.
He noted that the objectives of every permanent secretary would be published online so their performance could be judged against them.
‘We will also be bringing in ways for ministers to feed into the appraisals of civil servants,’ said Maude.
‘This is something that should happen as a matter of course but doesn’t. But because of the dual leadership structure in each department it’s critical that appraisals of officials reflect the input of ministers and civil servants.’
Maude also announced that the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank would be analysing the accountability structures and operations of governments around the world to help the UK government benchmark its own performance. In particular, the IPPR will consider the New Zealand model, where there is a contractual relationship between ministers and departmental heads.