Government looks to France to get civil servants to fulfil policy

Blue notes are issued when a minister makes a decision, with a timescale for its execution

It is, for a Conservative government at least, an unlikely place to find inspiration.

But senior Tories have turned across the Channel to France in hope of answering the age old Yes Minister conundrum: how do you get your civil servants to do the things thing you want?

Significant numbers of ministers have become infuriated that decisions which they thought they had made and were being implemented by the Civil Service had in fact been quietly “parked” by their officials.

On four or five occasions it has taken the personal intervention of the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood and Sir Robert Kerslake, the head of the Civil Service, to resurrect the policies from the long grass. But now, following a fact-finding visit to Paris by the Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, the Government thinks it has hit on a solution to the problem.

During the trip Mr Maude met with the head of the French Grand Corps de l’État – its equivalent of the civil service – and was shown an example of a papier bleu or “blue note”.

In France papier bleus are issued – on blue paper – when a minister or group of ministers make a decision.

They detail the policy that has been decided, what implementation it requires, who is responsible for making it happen and within what timescale. The notes are the circulated to relevant civil servants and departments and can be referred back to by ministers and used to chase up policies and hold the government machine to account.

Mr Maude was impressed. On his return to the UK he set about implementing a version of blue notes in Whitehall and the first have now started being circulated among officials.

They are currently being rolled out to record decisions made by some cabinet committees – the engine room of Government policy-making – and if successful they could be extended to decision-making in individual departments. A senior Government source said: “In the past it has frankly been too easy for ministers to think they had made a decision that was being acted upon only to ask a few months later and find nothing had happened.

“What blue notes will do is make clear what decisions have been made what we expect officials to do. There will be a record we can go back to and say, ‘That’s what you were meant to do – why hasn’t it happened?”

A Whitehall source told The Independent that Mr Maude’s plan had the backing of senior civil servants who were “open” to any idea that could improve the process of government. However they expressed some scepticism that blue papers would be better than the traditional system of minuted meetings. “As it stands all cabinet committee meeting should have minutes which include the actions that need to be taken by departments,” they said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Analyst - London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL Server Reporting Analyst (Busine...

Ashdown Group: Microsoft Dynamics Consultant - Watford - £65,000 + Bonus.

£50000 - £65000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: Dynamics Expert...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - London - up to £48,000

£38000 - £48000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Senior ...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower