Think-tank recommends complete overhaul of Civil Service structure

A radical shake-up of the structure of the Civil Service would lead to more accountability and improve the performance of Whitehall departments, according to the conclusions of a year-long study.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) report, due to be published in July, will say that recent failings at the Home Office and poor finances in the NHS are the result of an “accountability deficit” in the Civil Service.

The think-tank will suggest that civil servants should be accountable for their performance, and ministers should be accountable for policy and resources.

The report will also recommend that a ‘Civil Service Commission’ – similar to a model used in New Zealand – should be created. The body would be responsible for the performance management of permanent secretaries, and other core capabilities, such as IT and HR, across Whitehall.

Parliamentary select committees should be strengthened and given the power to hold civil servants and ministers to account, the IPPR will suggest.

And there should be a ‘Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’ – as there is in Australia and New Zealand. This should provide a strong centre and be open, transparent and accountable to parliament, the report will add.

But the First Division Association, the union for senior civil servants, warned against adopting a “simplistic approach” to reform.

A spokesman said the report shouldn’t “underestimate the scale of reform currently under way in central government”.

Cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell has launched a series of reform initiatives intended to improve Civil Service performance. These include departmental capability reviews and the Professional Skills for Government programme.

For more on O’Donnell’s plans go to

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