Senior mandarins blocking government policy says Maude
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has accused senior civil servants of blocking and failing to implement government policy.
The minister was delivering a speech at the Institute for Government on how the government is learning from policy making and implementation in other countries, especially New Zealand.
Recently, the Coalition Government has commissioned the Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR), to examine the appointment process of civil servants and policy implementation processes in various countries including New Zealand and Australia.
The Coalition has focused on streamlining processes in the civil service to ensure effective implementation of its new policies in key areas of education, health as well as welfare reforms.
Maude acknowledged that the British civil service has great “strengths”, but added that there should be more “accountability” towards ministers.
"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," he said.
Maude made it clear it is unacceptable that senior mandarins have “blocked agreed government policy from going ahead or advised other officials not to implement ministerial decisions”, and pointed out it was not only the experience of Coalition ministers but added that previous Labour ministers have made similar complaints.
He said its time to change the culture of the civil service and argued that it's not only ministers, but also civil servants themselves are calling for change. "Many have told us of their daily frustrations with a culture that can be overly bureaucratic, risk averse, hierarchical and too focused on process not outcomes," he added.
The First Division Association (FDA), representing senior civil servants in Whitehall, was not impressed with Maude’s comments. Dave Penman, said the Minister’s comments is a breach of “trust” between ministers and civil servants.
"If civil servants have serious concerns about policy initiatives, they have a responsibility to raise those concerns with ministers - that is the role of an impartial civil service. Too often ministers seek to scapegoat senior civil servants for the failure of policy,” Penman from the FDA has said. "By publicly berating permanent secretaries in this way, the government risks damaging the key relationships between ministers and their most senior officials."
Maude is expected to announce plans to give cabinet ministers more discretion in the appointment of civil servants in their departments as well as how civil service performance evaluation would be transformed.