By Adam Branson on 12/01/2021 | Updated on 12/01/2021
Francis Maude led the UK Civil Service Reform Program during his tenure as Cabinet Minister between 2010 and 2015. (Photo courtesy Foreign and Commonwealth Office via flickr).
British civil service leaders have resisted government attempts to provide them with intensive leadership training, former cabinet minister Francis Maude said, arguing that the civil service shows “anxiety or insecurity” about influences exterior. The peer – who oversaw Britain’s civil service reform program between 2010 and 2015 – also suggested that parts of the Treasury and the Cabinet Office could merge to oversee certain aspects of civil service spending.
Speaking to the Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC) this morning, Maude said the civil service “continues to have deep institutional flaws, and what I have interpreted as complacency, I’ve come to think since that it’s a little different from that. … There is a certain complacency there, but there is also a defensive attitude born of insecurity. The public service wants to protect itself from comparison with non-public sector organizations, he added.
“I have absolutely always said that we have some of the best public servants,” he said. But “the whole idea that the British civil service is a Rolls Royce or that it just purrs will be a mystery to most people who have been ministers.”
Cabinet office leverage
Last August, Maude was tasked by the current administration to review the Cabinet Office’s progress on civil service reform. When asked at PACAC about the Cabinet Office’s use of “expenditure controls” – which tie project funding to compliance with central policies in areas such as design and procurement – Maude said there is “a argument to gather [of the] Treasury with what the Cabinet Office is doing on expenditure control to create a kind of finance, management and budget office. This is what some budget ministries do in other countries.
This office, he added, could, for example, tell departments that they “probably don’t need it or in this quantity” and suggest “a better way to do it” to civil servants.
Regarding staff development, he said that during his time at the Cabinet Office, senior officials escaped his attempts to provide leadership training. Before the 2015 election, he tried to send 10 senior officials to three-month courses run by business schools such as Harvard, Insead and Stanford, “but by the time the election was held he was constantly being told said: ‘Yes, it’s happening’, a permanent secretary had taken a weeklong course, ‘he said. “I thought we were doing something extremely positive by investing in the leadership capabilities of the people we were about to hand over huge multibillion pound budgets, and yet it just didn’t work out. product.”
Maude added: “I think it can only be this anxiety or insecurity of not wanting senior officials to be placed in an environment where they are, somehow, in another type. peer group. This is a great missed opportunity.
As Minister of the Cabinet Office, Maude oversaw the abolition of the National School of Government: a public service body offering residential leadership training courses to senior officials. In 2018, Sir Bernard Jenkin, then president of PACAC, said his committee wanted to ‘reopen the question of whether the UK needs its own national school for government’. The UK was “abolished in 2012 for understandable reasons, but it was a mistake to lose, rather than improve, this vital capacity,” he added. The current president of PACAC is Conservative MP William Wragg.
Keep permanent seconds on the account
Maude also asked how permanent secretaries are held accountable for expenses. “There is very, very little real-time accountability for how permanent secretaries spend money,” he said, saying the review basically boils down to being dragged to the Accounts Committee. public.
“I am a big supporter of the work of the PAC… but this responsibility is always inevitably overdue,” he said. “These are stable doors and locks. Why would you assume it’s okay not to find out until long after money has been wasted? It is not a good responsibility.
Maude was asked if he viewed his current role in the Cabinet Office review as dealing with unfinished business. “It will always be an unfinished business,” he said. “The moment an organization thinks it has done it all, that’s when it starts to decline. “