Coalition heads for storms as parties diverge before election
Civil Service will need to defuse rows over public spending review, think-tank warns
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Saturday 05 January 2013
Tensions between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats may create a "perfect storm" in Whitehall which blows the Government off course in 2013, according to the Institute for Government.
The Civil Service will have a vital role to play in defusing rows between the two Coalition parties as they lock horns during a public spending review and diverge ahead of the 2015 general election, the think-tank says.
Its warning came as David Cameron and Nick Clegg prepare to put on a show of unity on Monday, when they will launch the Coalition's "mid-term review" which spells out its policy agenda between now and the election.
Peter Riddell, the institute's director, said: "In the second half of a coalition's term the parties will want to show where they differ. This is especially true of the smaller party.
"The Civil Service's role will be tested this year and they will have to be flexible enough to handle the increasing gaps in policy positions between the parties and to act as an impartial adviser to both parties in the Coalition."
The institute, which has close links with senior Civil Servants, describes the mood in Whitehall as "fragile" as it juggles spending cuts and public sector reforms. "It is a high-risk strategy. The Civil Service will need to stay focused on this or risk losing the best staff at all levels, and look across [departmental] boundaries to make savings ahead of the next spending review," said Mr Riddell.
He called on ministers publicly to back those senior civil servants who achieve more effective services.
In a report to be published shortly, the think-tank will argue the challenges in the year ahead also offer "a perfect opportunity" for Whitehall to show its worth.
But it will urge ministers and officials to call a truce to end media "spats" between them which tainted their relationship last year. It will say: "Ministers have legitimate concerns about the quality of work for which they are held accountable, while civil servants often feel bruised by public and media criticism of continuing sharp cutbacks and big reorganisations."
Proposing a "new understanding" and more respect for each other's roles, Mr Riddell said: "Civil servants have to show they are adaptable and listening to ministers… Ministers must have faith in their top Civil Service teams and support them as they go through major changes."
The institute also called for an end to a damaging row over whether ministers should have more say over the appointment of their permanent secretaries, which has led to a breakdown of trust between them and their officials. Mr Riddell said: "There are strong arguments for a greater ministerial say but also dangers of divorcing ministers and their special advisers from the civil servants who are crucial both to decision-making and implementing policies."
Giving ministers a choice of suitable candidates approved by an independent panel would not compromise the impartiality of Whitehall, Mr Riddell argued. "Poor relationships can hamper a department's ability to work well, so it makes sense that the minister can work with their top civil servant," he added.
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 3 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 5 Game of Thrones is most-pirated TV show of 2014
President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
AirAsia flight QZ8501 missing: Search for plane carrying 162 passengers from Indonesia to Singapore suspended overnight
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...
£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...
£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...