The plan was floated by civil service chief executive John Manzoni at a Public Administration Select Committee hearing in November last year and is supported by Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock.
A major priority for government is to build up the civil service’s base of specialist commercial skills and pay arrangements are perceived to be a barrier to this. Senior civil service pay typically tops out at around £200,000 a year, although a small number of senior officials are paid more.
Those recruited to work on commercial projects, such High Speed 2, can be much better remunerated but are not regarded as civil servants. HS2 chief executive Simon Kirby is the highest paid public official with a £750,000 package.
Civil service posts with remuneration above £145,000 a year are currently subject to Treasury approval. It remains unconfirmed whether such arrangements would apply to commercial specialists. Reports have suggested commercial specialists could look forward to salaries in excess of £300,000.
A separate set of pay bands would be drawn up, along with bespoke terms and conditions. Many details remain to be decided upon, however, such as whether these commercial specialists will be eligible for civil service pension entitlements.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “Developing commercial, digital and other specialist capability is a key priority for the civil service, to ensure that we attract and retain talented specialists.
“We are developing proposals to build clear career paths, high quality learning and development products, and reward packages that allows the civil service to improve specialist capability and therefore the delivery of public services.”
Yesterday, the National Audit Office warned that one third of major projects could fail unless management is improved significantly.