Turnbull urged to maintain civil service impartiality within modernising agenda

25 Apr 02
Newly appointed Cabinet secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull must endorse a Civil Service Act to ensure Whitehall continues to be open and politically impartial, the senior civil servants' union warned this week.

26 April 2002

First Division Association general secretary Jonathan Baume said Turnbull was 'highly capable and well respected'. But Baume said he should back the stance of his predecessor Sir Richard Wilson in defending the values of the civil service where candidates were appointed on merit after fair and open competition.

Turnbull, 57, currently permanent secretary at the Treasury, however, is known to be relaxed on the subject. 'He doesn't see politicisation as a serious problem,' said a senior official. But he is keen to convince everyone that he is not a stop-gap candidate but ready and capable of instigating wholesale change across the civil service before he retires in three years.

If the changes he has instigated at the Treasury are anything to go by, the next three years are unlikely to be an easy ride for those resistant to change in Whitehall.

Turnbull has followed a modernising agenda at the Treasury that has seen swathes of the department overhauled with younger, less establishment-type staff brought in. He has championed direct recruitment from a wide range of universities and fostered good relations with the private sector.

One senior civil servant told Public Finance: 'He will want to make changes because he does believe the way we work has got to be modernised. He would not have taken the job to be a stop-gap.'

With the prime minister focused on service delivery, Turnbull is keen to push ahead with radical reform to ensure Whitehall is capable of doing the job. He believes civil servants need to improve their management skills and their ability to deliver.

A former colleague said of him: 'I think people will be challenged to change. He is really decent, but it won't be comfortable if you are not prepared to make the changes.'


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