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31.08.12

Civil servants skill gap ‘frustrating’ reform – IoG

Civil servants lack the skills necessary to reform the public sector, the Institute for Government has suggested.

This skills shortage is stopping more public sector contracts from being opened up to competition, and civil servants do not have the right skills to deliver more services digitally; something the Prime Minister has been keen to implement.

Tom Gash, a co-author of the report, said: “At the next election, the Coalition will want to be able to show that public service reforms – in schools, hospitals and other core public services – are delivering results.

“Those involved in delivering these reforms are working hard but many in Whitehall are not yet confident they can ensure reforms improve rather than undermine service standards.

“Unless Government addresses some of these problems quickly, there is a risk that some of the mistakes of the past will be repeated.”

The report reads: “Too few Whitehall departments understand the skills shortages they have or have clear plans to address them” and added that “those writing government contracts often concentrate too much on securing a good price upfront rather than over the life of the contract”.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “We absolutely agree that the Civil Service lacks sufficient commercial and commissioning skills.

“That’s why in the civil service reform plan which we published earlier this summer we announced that we will be conducting a capabilities review to identify areas where skills are insufficient and areas where they are in surplus.

“As Government works to reform our public services we are ensuring that all civil servants have access to training and that more procurement is done centrally rather than by individual departments.”

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