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Posted on 14th March 2018
Civil Servants unfairly blamed for failures in government policy – new report

“…The default is that we’re to blame for everything. We’re to blame for Brexit being difficult; if we say Brexit’s difficult, we’re blamed for being remoaners.” – Permanent Secretary

Civil servants are being unfairly blamed for failures in government policy creation and delivery because of poor political leadership, according to an independent study led by Andrew Kakabadse, Professor of Governance and Leadership at Henley Business School.

The year-long project, titled ‘Is Government Fit for Purpose? The Kakabadse Report’ has been submitted as evidence to thePublic Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s Civil Service effectiveness inquiry (13th March 2018).

The study features more than 80 confidential interviews with ministers, secretaries of state, permanent secretaries, civil servants, departmental board members, senior academics, private sector suppliers, and special political advisers.

Professor Kakabadse explains: “The central finding of this inquiry is that the ‘chemistry’ between the Secretary of State and Permanent Secretary crucially determines the effectiveness of policy delivery.

“The pressure of the role predominantly forces ministers, despite their best efforts, to focus on a broad range of misaligned interests, resulting in 20% of the policy process effort being centred on creation, while 80% is devoted to delivery.

“Despite this ministers are still seen by many civil servants, other secretaries of state and private sector suppliers as concentrating too much on policy creation and not fully appreciating the reality and importance of policy delivery.

“This is an issue of neglected governance, partly reflecting the legacy and expected role of special political advisers and departmental boards.

“This report brings concerns over the Civil Service’s structure to the surface. Programme prioritisation, the length of tenure of key experts on projects, the nature of relationships of arm’s length bodies with government, and the future of outsourcing are reviewed and discussed in detail.

“Attention is also given to the future shape and nature of leadership development of civil servants. The report concludes by offering 12 recommendations, comprising 18 action points for improvement, particularly emphasising how to strengthen the Secretary of State role.”

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