‘Let Ministers choose senior civil servants’

Cabinet Ministers should be given the power formally to appoint their most senior civil servants to help end a culture of amateurism in Whitehall, a think tank says.

Insiders, including Ministers and key officials, have painted a bleak picture of the inner workings of government telling of a system that lacks expertise and deals with “appalling” members of staff by promoting them out.

They told Reform that the two biggest issues hampering success were the “relentless” rotation of officials and an unwillingness to challenge bad performance or reward the good. Many Ministers also fail to make any real impact because they are badly managed by prime Ministers and held 
in contempt by some civil servants.

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The think tank interviewed 45 Ministers, shadow Ministers, special advisers, officials and non-executive directors in government departments since the Government launched its Civil Service Reform Plan last year.

Reform’s report said many secretaries of state, including in the coalition government, have effectively ousted permanent secretaries or chosen who they want in the post behind the scenes, despite a convention that the appointments should not be political.

It wants the selection process opened up so Ministers can chose their department’s top official.