Whitehall focus Mandarins academy relaunched

23 Jun 05
Cabinet Secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull this week outlined Whitehall's latest campaign to improve civil service performance, relaunching a national academy that will train mandarins in the art of modern government.

24 June 2005

Cabinet Secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull this week outlined Whitehall's latest campaign to improve civil service performance, relaunching a national academy that will train mandarins in the art of modern government.

Turnbull opened the National School of Government on June 20, proclaiming that it would 'secure relevant, high quality, tailored training and development for both our current and future leaders'.

The NSG has assumed the staff development responsibilities previously provided by the Centre for Management and Policy Studies and, before that, the Civil Service College.

It will focus on providing much of the training that senior staff must undertake under the Professional Skills for Government programme, which has been designed to improve the level of specialist knowledge across a civil service traditionally inhabited by skilled generalists.

Turnbull said the aim of the NSG was to improve Whitehall's leadership skills base. This would give government access to a larger pool of highly trained and informed senior staff, focusing on the efficient and effective delivery of services, as well as policy development and implementation.

The Cabinet Office said the aims of the NSG were very much in line with Prime Minister Tony Blair's declared third-term focus on reforming and improving public services.

The NSG will be led by former CMPS director David Spencer and based at two sites: Sunningdale Park, Berkshire, and central London.

Turnbull has also published a study of the progress made in reforming the civil service. Delivery and values: one year on reports that the PSG programme is on course for full implementation this autumn. It also reveals that all Whitehall departments now have five-year strategies covering their main aims, and claims that civil servants have provided £2bn of the government's £40bn efficiency savings target 'ahead of time'.

Blair said he was 'pleased with the progress being made'. Cabinet Office minister John Hutton added: 'The civil service needs to show it can deliver. The progress on reform we have made in the past year, coupled with the launch of the NSG… demonstrates we are making real progress.'

On-line Fast Stream puts off women

The number of female graduates applying to join the civil service's fast-track scheme for high flyers has fallen dramatically.

Cabinet Office statistics published on June 20 show that just 3,343 women applied for the Fast Stream programme in 2004, compared with 4,106 in 1998. Over the same period, the number of male applicants increased from 4,931 to 5,255.

The number of ethnic minority candidates applying for the scheme has also fallen slightly, but applications from disabled candidates have risen by 3%, the Cabinet Office revealed.

Eleanor Laing, shadow minister for women, said that female graduates could be put off by the domination of male candidates across senior civil service posts.

'It may well be that young women… do not see role models that they can follow in the civil service,' she said.

The Cabinet Office said that declining application rates among women could also be attributed to the introduction of an on-line self-assessment service in 2004. It has been claimed that women take the results of such surveys more seriously than men and are often discouraged from applying.

However, Cabinet Office officials said that the number of women securing senior Whitehall posts increased from 18% in 1998 to 28% last year.

A spokeswoman added: 'Interest in the Fast Stream has remained high. But we recognise that men and women approach the selection process differently, and we recognise that on-line recruitment methods are less attractive to some women. We are conducting our own research to find out how we can reach women more effectively.

'We have also been reviewing our sift procedures. Early indications for 2005 are that these changes have had a positive effect on the diversity figures.'

CSA staff cuts delayed until summer report

The new minister in charge of the troubled Child Support Agency this week warned that a delayed cull of staff could be put on hold for even longer.

James Plaskitt, the government's new benefits minister, told Public Finance that the Department for Work and Pensions's decision to freeze planned job cuts — part of the government's Whitehall efficiency review — could be extended, pending the result of a crucial report on the CSA later this summer.

Former work and pensions secretary Alan Johnson suspended plans to shed 2,600 staff at the CSA earlier this year, after an MPs' report on the agency highlighted a catalogue of problems with delayed maintenance payments, overpayments and continuing IT woes. MPs recommended shutting the agency unless its performance improved.

Johnson said the job cull would be put on hold until the backlog of work had been cleared and the CSA had begun working effectively. He also asked the agency's new chief executive, Stephen Geraghty, to give the DWP a full assessment of the CSA's functions and systems this summer.

Plaskitt told PF: 'It is quite possible that the job cuts could be delayed further. It depends on Geraghty's findings and how ministers want to proceed with the CSA. My view is that nothing can be decided until we read that report. But I'm certain that we want the agency to be functioning well before we consider job cuts.'


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