Latest Public Sector News

07.09.17

Lack of Civil Service professionalism leading to major project failures

A number of key government projects, including Universal Credit and the Intercity West Coast franchise competition, failed due to a lack of professionalism from civil servants, experts have today argued.

The Institute for Government (IfG) report, called ‘Professionalising Whitehall’, also argued that the government must urgently accelerate ambitious reforms to modernise the way Whitehall works to ensure initiatives are delivered better in the future.

In particular, this includes successfully navigating the UK through Brexit and propping up struggling public services.

Authors of the report explained that departments lacked the specialist skills they needed to properly deliver major projects, and that they failed to make effective use of the resources and specialities they had.

The IfG did acknowledge there had been important successes with professionalising key government activities since 2013, such as policymaking, financial management, commercial procurement and contract management into new cross-departmental specialisms.

But it admitted that in many ways, further reform has been held back, as leadership teams in certain specialisms are better placed than others to push forward with key improvements.

Experts also set out four priorities for Whitehall to identify in accelerating changes, including better integrating specialists into departmental decision-making; enabling people from all specialisms to reach top leadership positions in the Civil Service; bringing together the separate reform plans of the specialisms so they can be better co-ordinated; and introducing more stable funding.

“The government cannot afford more mistakes on such important reforms,” report author and deputy director of the IfG Julian McCrae said. “There are huge pressures on the public sector, which will only increase as the UK leaves the European Union.

“Our report highlights a number of key obstacles facing all specialisms which Civil Service leaders have to address. Senior decision-makers in government departments need to understand, demand and make better use of the professional support and services offered by specialists.”

Recent research into the effectiveness of the Civil Service has also thrown up a mixed bag of opinions on how well Whitehall is run.

When Article 50 was formally triggered back in March, the PCS and FDA unions slammed the government’s investment in the Civil Service workforce, arguing that it was “woefully underprepared” for Brexit.

Similarly, a separate IfG report in May warned that the Civil Service was “not even close” to being ready for post-Brexit trade.

But in the think tank’s first international index of the sector worldwide, the UK’s Civil Service was actually rated the fourth best in the world for effectiveness, despite its faults.

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office told PSE:"The Civil Service continues to drive greater use of specialised expertise. We also remain committed to training and developing staff, including investing in apprenticeships, specialist fast streams and a Leadership Academy."

Top Image: Lauren Hurley, PA Images

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the open more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News

comment

Driving forward a healthier Scotland

10/11/2017Driving forward a healthier Scotland

Dundee City Council is leading the way in boosting electric vehicle (EV) up... more >
A smarter approach to digital transformation

10/11/2017A smarter approach to digital transformation

Catherine Bright, Smarter Digital Services (SDS) manager, explains how a pa... more >

interviews

‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

30/06/2017‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

Keith Smith, public sector business development manager at Virgin Media Bus... more >

the raven's daily blog

City-centric, deeply disappointing and a nightmare – criticisms pile against the Budget

22/11/2017City-centric, deeply disappointing and a nightmare – criticisms pile against the Budget

It’s been a busy day in the PSE office. Philip Hammond’s Autumn Budget included a number of interesting announcements, ranging from new devolution deals and housin... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >