Minister admits Whitehall problem: Sympathetic reaction to Sir Peter Kemp's broadside at Civil Service

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THE BROADSIDE unleashed in the Independent yesterday by a former senior civil servant, who said Whitehall was undergoing a management crisis, left a spokesman for the Civil Service minister to say yesterday that 'clearly, there may be a problem with the communication of some policies within the Civil Service'.

The spokesman for William Waldegrave was reacting to the barrage of criticism by Sir Peter Kemp, the minister's former permanent secretary.

Sir Peter accused Mr Waldegrave of being one of a group of 'wayward barons' now running Whitehall. Thanks to their pulling in different directions, he said, the Civil Service was unhappy, unsure of itself and becoming 'littered with policies that do not work'. The controversial market-testing programme - the review process that can lead to contracting out - had, he claimed, gone 'hopelessly awry'.

Mr Waldegrave's spokesman described it as 'a characteristically provocative contribution to the debate about the future of the Civil Service'.

Such a broadside from a senior Civil Service figure, albeit a retired one, is unprecedented. Sir Peter's assault was timed to coincide with the publication of a pamphlet from the Social Market Foundation, the independent think-tank, in which he advocated urgent, wholesale reform of the Civil Service.

Sir Peter left the service last year after disagreements with Mr Waldegrave. The fact that he may be saying in public what he had said behind closed doors then, was, said Peter Hennessy, Professor of Contemporary History at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, extremely significant.

One of the alleged 'barons' was Sir Peter Levene, John Major's efficiency adviser. If, Professor Hennessy said, Sir Peter Levene's job was taken to its natural conclusion, the whole notion of the Civil Service as we know it will have gone. There was an urgent need for a declaration of faith by the Government in the Civil Service ethic.

Liz Symonds, general secretary of the First Division Association, the union for senior civil servants, said that in light of Sir Peter Kemp's comments, 'the case for a Royal Commission to look into the future of the Civil Service is unanswerable'.