Ministers should be given annual performance appraisals, says former head of civil service

 

Ministers should be given annual performance appraisals to see how well they are doing their jobs, a former head of the civil service said today.

Ex-Cabinet Secretary Lord O'Donnell acknowledged that ministers would be "nervous" about the appraisals - featuring written judgments on their effectiveness from civil servants, whips and fellow ministers - becoming public knowledge through Freedom of Information requests.

But he said that regular feedback would improve the standard of governance and give prime ministers a better idea of which members of their team are falling short, and which are "going off on their own" with a private agenda that does not chime with the government's strategic objectives.

"In the world of freedom of information, people would say 'Oh yes, let's see what so-and-so's views on X are"' he said. "In the political world, people would be very nervous about have appraisals out there in public."

But he said that appraisals were a normal part of the modern workplace and would be "positive" for politics too.

"Obviously, you are in a media environment where people would love to have these things," he told the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee. "But sometimes you just have to go through with it."

Lord O'Donnell, who served as Cabinet Secretary from 2005-11, also suggested that MPs - including members of the opposition - should be given training in how to be a minister, so they know what to do when they are appointed.

Elder statesmen, including retired prime ministers and secretaries of state, could take part in courses to give them tips on skills they will need as a minister, such as leadership, strategy and team-building, he said.

After the kind of shift in power seen in elections like 1997 or 2010, a new administration may include virtually no-one with experience of office, said Lord O'Donnell, adding: "If you were to take a company and take out the whole leadership and put people in who had never actually had that sort of job ever before, you would expect the company to go broke."

And he said: "At the moment, ministers are stuck with reading a couple of books."

Lord O'Donnell revealed that he pleaded with David Cameron before he became Prime Minister to allow ministers to stay in post for longer, after the "hypermobility" of the Blair and Brown years when Cabinets were regularly reshuffled.

Mr Cameron has "delivered" on that as PM, in part because the constraints of coalition Government mean he does not have a free hand in picking his team, he said.

Some ministers who "probably would have been sacked" by previous PMs have kept their jobs in the Cameron administration, said Lord O'Donnell, adding that this has been "very beneficial" for the performance of the Government as a whole.

Secretaries of state should keep their jobs for a full Parliament and junior ministers for at least two years, so they are not moved on before really getting to grips with their brief, he told the committee, which is investigating Cabinet reshuffles.

"As a basic principle, it's a very good idea to have a longer tenure for ministers in post, particularly for secretaries of state," said Lord O'Donnell.

"I mentioned this to David Cameron when we had one of our discussions when he was leader of the opposition. He said 'What can I do for you?' and I said 'Keep ministers in place for longer. That would be my number one ask.' He has delivered on that. That's partly, I think, because he agrees it's a sensible thing to do and partly because coalition has an impact on that."

Lord O'Donnell was critical of Mr Cameron's tendency of allowing ministers - like Kenneth Clarke or Baroness Warsi - to carry on attending Cabinet after being demoted from top-ranking jobs, describing it as "not an ideal situation".

PA

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
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

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on