Labour would fast-track working-class and ethnic minority applicants to top of civil service

Higher diversity targets will be set in the party's manifesto

Hundreds more people from working-class backgrounds and ethnic minorities will be fast-tracked into senior civil service jobs under a Labour government in an attempt to end the white upper-class dominance of Whitehall.

Higher diversity targets will be set in Labour's manifesto, the shadow Cabinet Office minister Michael Dugher will announce this week. Figures show that the proportion of black, ethnic minority and working-class civil servants has fallen under the Coalition, as has the proportion of women.

Mr Dugher will unveil the plans for a One Nation Civil Service in a speech to the IPPR think-tank on Tuesday. He will claim that Whitehall has become a "closed shop" and will announce that the elite Fast Stream programme will aim to comprise 18 per cent black and ethnic minority candidates (double the current level) and 24 per cent working-class candidates.

Over a five-year parliament this policy would produce 305 black and ethnic minority entrants and 405 working-class entrants. Labour would also expand internship programmes for people from diverse backgrounds and add a further track to the fast stream for those who have completed the internship.

The party believes that reforming the top will encourage others to apply at all levels of the Civil Service and change the culture as a whole. Mr Dugher said: "Labour would make sure kids from working-class backgrounds can help run the country, by busting open Whitehall.

"We want ordinary kids to go to frontline government, from the classroom to the corridors of power. The Civil Service is like a closed shop, with fewer women, fewer ethnic minorities and fewer kids with working class parents.

"Politics can often feel distant and remote from working people – Labour's answer is to put them at the heart of our system. We want a One Nation Civil Service which looks more like those it is intended to serve. Labour will create a new generation of civil service leaders which will change the culture of government.

Labour said over the three years before last the election, Gordon Brown's government increased ethnic minority civil service representation by 11 per cent, but that since 2010 the numbers had fallen by almost 10 per cent. Only 9.6 per cent of the entire civil service, and 4.7 per cent of the senior civil service, is from an ethnic minority.

In 2010, 43 per cent of Cabinet Office senior civil servants were women but this proportion had dropped to 39 per cent last year, while in the senior civil service female representation is down 9 per cent. Two-thirds of the lowest paid jobs, but only a quarter of the highest paid, go to women.

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