Civil Service White Paper: Whitehall to shed 50,000 jobs in drive for efficiency: Departments given right to decide over contracting-out services. Chris Blackhurst reports

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ABOUT 50,000 jobs will disappear from the Civil Service over the next four years, it was disclosed yesterday.

William Waldegrave, the public services minister, signalled the job cuts when he unveiled the Government's long-awaited White Paper on the Civil Service. The Government is inviting comment on the main proposals of the document, described as a 'White Paper with greenish edges'. The term is Westminster-speak for a firm statement of policy upon which there can be consultation.

The Civil Service is 533,350 strong, down from 732,000 in 1979, and is expected to continue falling to well below 500,000.

News of the reduction was accompanied by a reassertion from the Government that it believes controlling staff numbers 'is not a particularly effective means of reducing costs and can perversely result in increased costs when more expensive substitutes for Civil Service staff are used simply because of the need to reduce numbers to pre-determined limits'.

The paper said the cuts were not inspired by the setting of manpower targets but were intended to increase competition and efficiency. To that end, departments and agencies will draw up 'annual efficiency plans' indicating how they propose to stay within their budgets for the coming three years. The move was widely interpreted as marking the end for one of the Government's flagship policies - comparing Civil Service functions with the private sector in 'market testing'.

Starting in 1995, this exercise will take place each spring. Instead of departments and agencies being told if they should contract-out services to the private sector or hold a market-testing study, they will be able to take such decisions themselves.

Similarly, pay and grading of middle and junior levels - traditionally the preserve of the central Whitehall machine - will also be delegated to all departments and agencies by April 1996. Four national pay agreements will be scrapped and the bargaining handed over to 150 specially created remuneration units. Other proposals in the White Paper concentrate on the senior ranks. They include:

A new elite tier, about 3,500 strong, covering posts presently at Grade 5 and above;

Departments will be given the power to review their own management structures and remove layers of bureaucracy. More priority will be given to leaner, flatter structures with greater scope for talented individuals to make their mark. Those who show a track record of achievement will be moved up as quickly as possible. To distinguish between the recruitment of talented graduates and people with top management potential, the well-used term 'fast stream' will be abandoned;

Senior posts will be advertised to all-comers - although with the proviso 'that most of the top Civil Service posts will continue to be filled by those with substantial previous experience within the service';

Individual contracts for members of the new Senior Civil Service with specified notice periods. Fixed term or rolling term contracts, common in the private sector, will be introduced. The contracts will be as explicit and as clear in their demands as possible.

Senior members and 'able staff at more junior levels', will have more direct access to ministers and heads of departments.

A more flexible pay structure for senior civil servants is promised. Wider pay ranges for the senior grades 2 and 3 recommended by the Senior Salaries Review Body will be introduced.

Permanent secretaries will be paid within a new pay range and have their salaries decided individually by a remuneration committee, which will be controlled by non-Civil Service outsiders.

At other senior grades, the present central grading structure will be scrapped and replaced by pay ranges linked to levels of responsibility. Again, in the recurring theme of devolution away from the centre, permanent secretaries will determine pay progression in their own ranks.

Leading article, page 17

(Photograph omitted)

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