Letter: New mandarins in old footsteps

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The Independent Online
Sir: Sir Robin Butler illustrates only too vividly that the senior Civil Service remains dominated by an unrepresentative and self- perpetuating 'elite'. Sir Robin draws attention to the fact that the proportion of Oxbridge entrants to the element of the administrative fast-stream entry has declined from 71 per cent to 42 per cent in a decade, without pausing to reflect that 42 per cent remains an astonishingly high proportion - and that because this is the proportion now, the imbalance will still exist when these staff reach senior levels in 15-20 years' time.

Equally, his suggestion that 'only' 38 per cent of current staff in the top grades have an Oxbridge background suggests that his view of where the talent lies in society might differ from that of many people.

Most astonishing is the ease with which he deals with the suggestion that there are far too few women in senior grades. The fact that there are only two women at Permanent Secretary rank is something of which Sir Robin should be thoroughly ashamed; it indicates that the senior Civil Service is failing to draw upon a major source of talent.

In the opinion of many of us, the senior Civil Service must shoulder at least as much blame as successive governments for the state of this country and until action is taken to ensure that it draws upon the widest range of talents it seems unlikely the situation will improve.

The male/Oxbridge/arts enclave has let us down; we need many more women, people from a far wider range of backgrounds and a far higher proportion of people with a scientific, technical or commercial background.

Yours sincerely,