Axe falls on government HR chiefs after damning reports

Exclusive: The HR directors in all four government departments that underwent scrutiny in recent ‘capability reviews’ are leaving their jobs.

Exclusively revealed on PersonnelToday.com, the news has led to government officials insisting the directors are not being made scapegoats for civil service failings and that they all chose to leave voluntarily.

Cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell has decreed that all government departments must be scrutinised to find out where weaknesses are.

The first round of capability reviews in July saw the Home Office, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) all savaged for their people management failings. Only the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) escaped a serious mauling, but the review still called for an improvement in senior leadership and better employee engagement.

The HR director at the DCA, Helen Dudley, has already moved to the Cabinet Office and it is understood that the DWP’s long-serving HR director Kevin White plans to retire. The future of the Home Office’s John Marsh and DfES HR chief Susan Thomas remains unclear. None of the four were available for comment.

A Cabinet Office spokesman insisted that despite leaving in close succession, no-one had been forced to go.

“We are not questioning the individual performance of HR directors,” said the spokesman. “Following the capability reviews, they decided it was a good time to move on. There is no scapegoating – this is more about systemic issues.”

An almost unprecedented central recruitment campaign, which aims to build a talent pool for posts yet to become vacant, will now be launched. Both public and private sector candidates will be considered for the roles, the spokesman said.

The departures, coupled with this succession plan, suggest the future is bleak for other senior civil servants. Reports on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department for International Development, will be published early next year.

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