As readers will know, I was appointed Minister for the Cabinet Office after the 2010 General Election, a natural transition seeing as I’d been Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office since July 2007.
Over the last five years I’ve spent a significant amount of time on our plans to reform the Civil Service and last week saw a real milestone in my work when Sir Bob Kerslake – the new head of the Civil Service – and I published the Civil Service Reform Plan. The plan will evolve over time so it can really be considered the first stage of a continuing programme of reform. It sets out a series of specific and practical actions for reform which will mean real change for the Civil Service.
We’ve designed the plan to build on the existing strengths of the Civil Service, whilst aiming to make it a pacier, more innovative, less hierarchical institution, focused on outcomes, not processes. Crucially, the suggestions and frustrations of current civil servants have been fed into the development of the plan – they are the ones who asked for, among other things, better performance management and more active development of their careers.
Key parts of the plan include:
More rigorous performance management – the top 25 per cent and bottom ten per cent will be identified so good performance is recognised and poor performance challenged.
Strengthening capability – we’re developing a cross-Civil Service capabilities plan that identifies what skills are missing and how gaps should be filled – for the first time, people with the right skills will be matched to need.
Accountability will be strengthened, making the Civil Service more transparent - this includes strengthening the role of Ministers in Departmental and Permanent Secretary appointments.
New ways of delivering services – choice will no longer be restricted to in-house provision or full-scale privatisation – a number of new methods, including mutuals, will be introduced.
A unified civil service – shared services will become the norm, meaning a high quality, flexible and resilient service is available to every department.
Many local people are civil servants and the work of the Civil Service affects all our daily lives. I hope readers have found this brief summary of interest.
Sad news, closer to home, as the death of Jean Burnham was announced. Jean was a wonderful friend, kind, generous, with a great sense of humour. She was a true Conservative but was focused on local people and local issues, which she always put before party politics. She was forthright and independent, a real local institution and she will be missed by all who knew her.