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?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor