MP’s civil service reform under scrutiny

Horsham Advertiser pictures 2013
Horsham Advertiser pictures 2013

Horsham MP Francis Maude has said progress on his Civil Service reform has not been ‘nearly as quick enough’ as MPs suggest a Parliamentary Commission is needed to get the job done.

Last Monday Mr Maude was questioned by the Select Committee on Public Administration (PASC) about the progress of the plans to reform Whitehall nearly a year after they were first announced.

Three days later, committee chairman Bernard Jenkin MP told senior public servants’ union the FDA that a Parliamentary Commission similar to that used for the review banking standards should be set up to push through reforms.

He said: “In my view, there are many new and good ideas in the Reform Plan, and some that may need some refinement. PASC may well express views on its various initiatives.

“But, as ministers have said, it is an action plan, not a strategic document.

“I have suggested that Parliament should establish a carefully chosen commission on the future of the civil service to lay out a comprehensive programme of reform, with cross-party support and the endorsement of Parliament as whole. Its recommendations would be a foundation for future stability.”

Speaking to the County Times this week, Mr Maude said a Parliamentary Commission was not the best way forward.

“I’m not against a long term look on that, but all the evidence in the past shows there’s a tendency for those things to become a kind of displacement activity; something that enable people to not do the things that need to be done now.

“We have identified some really specific things and we just need to get on with it.”

He added that it had been a challenge trying to push through the reforms.

“I think the head of the civil service would agree with me that progress has not been nearly as quick enough and far enough.

“The reality is things that need reform, make it difficult to drive reform.

“The civil service is bureaucratic, it works in a very hierarchical way, there is a lack of capability and lots of things that are in need of reform are those which drive it, which makes it very problematic.

“There are ministers who are frustrated but there are civil servants who are frustrated, who would like to get things done or do things better.

“They find the system wears them downs and finds the system prevents them from progressing.”