This is the text of a letter from Francis Maude
Today Sir Bob Kerslake and I published the Civil Service Reform Plan, which is available on the Cabinet Office website. This Plan sets out a series of specific and practical actions for reform which, when implemented, will lead to real change for the Civil Service. It is a working document and the first stage of a continuing programme of reform.
The economic and fiscal challenges, together with our ambitious programme of public service reform, mean that the Civil Service needs to operate very differently to meet rising consumer expectations. The culture must become pacier, more innovative, less hierarchical and focused on outcomes not process. We also need sharper accountability; more digital services; better data and management information - and policy and implementation linked seamlessly together.
Today’s action plan builds on the existing strengths of the Civil Service, as well as addressing long-standing weaknesses. We have responded to many of the suggestions and frustrations of civil servants themselves. The majority of civil servants are dedicated and hardworking and they too want to see change – better performance management, more active development of their careers, as well as stronger leadership of change.
The Civil Service is already seeing considerable transformation in departments but the scale of the challenges requires a more corporate approach, with a reform plan that applies across the Civil Service. The key actions in the plan include:
• More rigorous performance management: Performance management will be strengthened by standardising competency frameworks across Government and implementing a tougher appraisal system which identifies the top 25% and the bottom 10% - so good performance is recognised and poor performance tackled. Civil servants have told us they are frustrated by a culture where exceptional performance is not sufficiently recognised and under-performance is not addressed.
• Strengthening capability: By autumn we will have a cross-Civil Service capabilities plan that identifies what skills are missing and how gaps will be filled. This will mean that for the first time talent will be deployed corporately - so people with the right skills can be matched to need. With more services commissioned from outside, there is a serious lack of commissioning, contracting and digital skills.
• Sharpening accountability: Management information will be improved and we will make the responsibilities of accounting officers on major projects and programmes more transparent. We will strengthen the role of Ministers in Departmental and Permanent Secretary appointments to reflect their accountability to Parliament for their department’s performance.
• Policy linked to implementation: Policy advice will be improved by making open policy making the default and we will create a central fund to pilot contestable policy making. Too often policy making has drawn from a too narrow range of views and is not designed with implementation in mind.
• New ways of delivering services: By autumn the Cabinet Office will have completed a review with departments to see what further examples of change in delivery models can be implemented this Parliament. The old binary choice between the monolithic in-house provision and full-scale privatisation has been replaced by a number of new ways of delivering services, including mutuals. Digital by default needs to become a reality.
• Creating a modern employment offer for staff: The Civil Service will be a good, modern employer and continue to be among the best employers in the country. Departments will undertake a review of terms and conditions to identify those beyond what a good, modern employer would provide. We will also take actions to ensure staff get the IT and security they’ve been asking for so they can do their jobs properly.
• Unified Civil Service: Shared services will become the norm to ensure that there is a high quality, flexible and resilient service available to every Department. The nature of the challenges we face mean we need to do more together, working more corporately.