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.

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Upper KS2 Primary Teacher in Bradford

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Upper KS2 Primary Teacher...

KS1 Float Teacher

£90 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay : Randstad Education Southampton: ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Trainee Recruitmen...

KS1 Primary Teacher in Bradford

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: KS1 Primary Teacher in Br...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor