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‘Significant’ skills shortage in civil service – NAO

The Government still needs to build capacity in the senior civil service, a new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) shows.

There are significant skills shortages in the service, particularly in commerce, project management, digital delivery and change leadership, and reforms must change the long-standing culture of the senior civil service.

The NAO recognised the Government’s five year plan for improving skills as “coherent, innovative and ambitious”, but warned that the proportion of new recruits from the private sector fell in 2009/10 and has yet to recover.

Promotion to the senior civil service is also becoming financially unattractive, the report warned, with the total reward reduced by around 17% in real terms over four years. This risks putting off talented people from joining the service.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The real challenge is to shift the long-standing culture in the civil service to create a leadership group with the full range of skills needed for success, today and in the future, and which is a shared resource across government.

“This is far easier said than done. The case for a corporate approach is now inescapable but achieving full buy-in from departments will take time. Progress will need to be rapid and involve all senior civil servants, not just those on corporate talent programmes.”

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