Ministers get new powers to hire and fire Civil Service advisers

 

Civil Service mandarins are to be put on fixed-term contracts and ministers given the power to hire teams of political advisers paid for by the taxpayer, in the biggest shake-up of how Britain is governed for decades.

Under proposals, expected to be announced next month, Cabinet Ministers will be able to personally appoint teams of external experts, political advisers and seconded civil servants to run new expanded private offices.

At the same time all permanent secretaries will be put on four year fixed term contracts and given specific targets by which their performance will be assessed.

However the Government is expected back down in the face of opposition from senior civil servant from plans to give ministers the final say over the appointment of permanent secretaries. This process will continue to be overseen by the independent Civil Service Commission – with only the Prime Minister able to veto appointments.

The most controversial area of the reforms is likely to be the significant increase in the number of political special advisors employed by Government and paid for by the taxpayer.

When the Coalition came to power David Cameron placed great emphasis on cutting the number of advisers across Government from 82 to 61.

But since then the numbers have crept up again and many Cabinet ministers believe that in order to be effective in their jobs more still are needed.

Under the plans a Cabinet Ministers would have much greater freedom to make personal appointment to their private offices of both political advisers and policy experts.

They system would be similar to that in countries such as Australia and Canada where around 400-600 Government positions are political.

The changes are believed to have broad cross-party support but will raise concerns that it will lead to a more politicised civil service.

However today, the independent think tank the IPPR, which was commissioned by the Government to make recommendations for civil service reform, backs the move. The idea also has support from the Institute for Government.

It says, while it is aware of the arguments of politicisation, there is a “compelling case” for strengthening the level of support given to Secretaries of State.

“The job of governing is harder today,” they write. “Societies are more complex, legitimacy is harder to achieve, and power is more diffuse, weakening the capacity of government to deliver economic and social change.”

“…One of the strengths of giving ministers greater control over the shape of their office is that they will be able to use it to ensure they have at their disposal a full range of skills and expertise to do the job.”

The IPPR report, which has been delivered to the Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, also recommends several other reforms which are under consideration by the Government.

They suggest seconding civil servants to the Opposition parties to advise on policy, help with research and provide a link between officials and potentially the next Government.

They also argue that senior civil servants in key operational roles, for example dealing with major Government programmes should be held accountable by Parliament. Currently only permanent secretaries can be called before select committee to give evidence.

Mr Maude is due to respond to the IPPR report next month at which point he will set out the Government’s plans for more political advisors and fixed term contracts for Permanent Secretaries.

Yesterday he said: “We are rightly proud of so much that our Civil Service does. But it would be arrogant to assume that there is nothing we can learn from how other countries do things. 

“I welcome this report which makes an important contribution to the debate. We will consider it carefully as we formulate the next steps of our reform programme for the Civil Service.”

Margaret Hodge MP, the Labour Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, also backed the IPPR’s findings.

“The IPPR report is significant because it shows how it is possible to strengthen the accountability of senior civil servants to Ministers and to Parliament without politicising Whitehall.

“These are sensible measures that should command cross-party support.”

Peter Riddell, director of the Institute for Government added:

“This report addresses pressing and important issues. It should now permit a more reasoned debate, setting out in detail the experience from overseas and allaying some of the fears over politicization.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen