Francis Maude: Shake-up 'not attack on civil service'


Cabinet Secretary Francis Maude: ''This is not an attack on the civil service''

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Plans to make it easier to sack under-performing staff members were "not an attack on civil servants", Francis Maude has told MPs.

Many of the ideas in the wider package of reforms were backed by civil servants themselves, he added.

The bottom 10% of staff face being fired after a year if they fail to improve and ministers will be given the power to choose who runs departments.

The PCS union said reversing job cuts was the best way to boost performance.

In a statement to MPs Cabinet Office minister Mr Maude said civil servants had told the government they found Whitehall to be "overly bureaucratic, hierarchical and focused on process rather than outcomes".

He said he wanted to see the civil service operate more like a business, with a tougher appraisal system, increased accountability and a more entrepreneurial culture.

'Smaller, pacier'

The planned changes come against a backdrop of deep cuts and job losses across Whitehall - and are likely to be resisted by civil service unions.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, said: "I don't accept there's that under-performance.

Start Quote

It has often been tried. Far too rarely has it worked, but we are going to have another go”

End Quote Francis Maude Cabinet Office Minister

"People work in incredibly stressful conditions. And, there's already procedures in every government department to give support to those people who may need some extra help with development."

He said Mr Maude should increase the number of civil servants if he wanted them to perform better.

But Mr Maude said the cuts had exposed weaknesses in the way the civil service was being run, and the reforms were vital to creating a slimmed down service fit for the 21st Century.

He told MPs: "The civil service of the future will be smaller, pacier, flatter, more digital, more accountable for effective implementation, more capable with better data and management information, more unified, consistent and corporate. It must also be more satisfying to work for."

He said he wanted to slash the "eight layers" of management he said existed in many government departments, to "empower" frontline staff to make more decisions without referring up the hierarchy.

"This is not an attack on civil servants. Neither have civil servants been rigidly resistant to change," the minister told MPs.

However, former head of the civil service Lord Butler accused Mr Maude of setting out "a litany of criticisms" of the service.

He said proposals to improve the performance of civil servants were always "both necessary and welcome" but added "the Civil Service should not be reviled and unattributably dumped on when ministers' policies run into difficulties".

'Arbitrary' target

Mr Maude defended plans to place the worst performing 10% of staff on a year's probation, which Labour MP Nia Griffith said would promote a "dog-eat-dog" culture and transform the civil service into something resembling a "ghastly" reality TV show.

The minister admitted the 10% figure was "by its very nature relatively arbitrary" but evidence showed "you don't get the focus on poor performance" without setting such a target.

"It isn't fair to the rest of the civil servants, who work hard and are dedicated, to see the reputation of the civil service pulled down by those who are constantly under-performing," he told MPs.

Mark Serwotka of the Public and Commercial Services Union said the government proposals were ''a crying shame''

As well as looking at those at the bottom, the new appraisal system will identify the top 25% of civil servants so that good performance can be rewarded.

Mr Maude said he wanted to make the civil service operate more like a business and encourage greater "cross-fertilisation" between Whitehall and industry.

"It has often been tried. Far too rarely has it worked, but we are going to have another go," said the Cabinet Office minister.

Senior civil servants will be expected to be more accountable before parliament for their actions and the projects they manage.

Each department will carry out a full review of the terms and conditions of its staff to identify what additional perks civil servants receive which are not in line with other "good, modern" employers.


In a change which could prove controversial, ministers will no longer be restricted to the civil service as their only source of policy advice.

They will be able to commission policy research from outside Whitehall, for example from businesses, charities and think tanks. A central fund will be created to pilot this new system.

Mr Maude said this was a "modest" proposal which would be thoroughly tested before being fully implemented.

He also attempted to calm fears that giving ministers a "stronger role" in the recruitment of permanent secretaries - the top civil servant in each department - would not undermine their impartiality - seen as a key hallmark of the British system of government, in contrast to America where top bureaucrats are political appointees.

The Government would consult the Civil Service Commission on how that could be done, he told MPs.

But Labour warned that it could lead to "a rise in cronyism and of the dangerous politicisation of the civil service".

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said the Civil Service Reform White Paper "would do little to correct the chaos which exists in many Whitehall departments".

He added: "The point of reform is, after all, to make things better than they were before."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    "Continuous improvements" or simply neverending chaos? I welcome the fact that it will be easier to deal with underperforming staff - as long as it's not used as an excuse to deal with personality clashes etc. I wonder what on earth these "additional perks" are - answers on a postcard. But Minister's getting policy advice from outside the civil service - that should worry everyone everywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Additional perks?? Some kind of joke, surely? As in any organisation, there are under-performers in the Civil Service. But the weakness is managers who can easily circumvent the awkwardness of sacking someone by ensuring targets are achievable & the same people aren't in the 10% bottom category each year. What are the incentives to improve? How will you improve the managers to make this work?

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Civil servants think they are a special case who are doing us all a favour.

    It's about time they realised who pays for the piper calls the tune.

    The Labour years of pandering to their every whim are over. Now its time for the civil service to justify that they are actually worth their inflated pay, pensions, long holidays, flexitime and other perks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Worked for the Civil Service, but was outsourced with TUPE which protected my Pension rights.
    When made redundant age 50 was awarded an enhanced pension and a lump sum equivalent to that I would have got at 60. Plus six months pay in lieu of notice.
    Shedding staff from the Civil service will cost a fortune.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.


    ould this be because it is 16.50 in the afternoon and all the civil servants and employees of quangos are winding down for the day and perusing the BBC website while the private sector is still working?

    Negative markings perhaps because all the comments are from the private sector and have been since this thread was opened. Strange that

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Unfortunately, it is people such as yourself who do not
    do this country or its hard working civil servants any
    favours with your inept totally flawed comments.
    I suggest you swap places with the people you are so quick
    to criticise who do a difficult and by and large poorly
    rewarded job and put up with gratuitous insults and
    ignorant comments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.


    1. The civil service is not a business.
    2. It does not serve the profit motive.
    3. It serves the Crown in Parliament.


    1) its still in need of efficiency - value for money
    2) its paid for by taxes, which no-one likes to pay, and should therefore be seen to be efficient.
    3) who it serves is irrelevant.

    NB: I'm a Local Government worker.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    #40 - some civil servants have been at their desk since 0730 and are finally on their way home, and accessing the internet on their phones. And no, they don't get paid for the extra hours they've just had to do to make sure an over-worked and under-staffed Department doesn't miss its targets! What they get is abuse, their pension slashed, and an ulcer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    34. Rebecca Riot
    After the petrol jerry can fiasco leading to the serious burning of that woman. I do not think that Francis Maude should be trusted with any government business at all.
    His comment was very stupid, but you can't blame him for her setting herself alight. He did not say "pour petrol around your kitchen whilst cooking your dinner", did he ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I’ve seen this at first hand in industry and it simply doesn’t work. If you want to completely alienate your entire workforce then go down this route.

    The 10% (totally arbitrary figure) becomes a quota and the relative performance of each team dips as every team member goes into “cover your own back” mode.

    A classic example of working on the 5% and downright bad management.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    I would put the Civil Service and all the Public Sector down along side the Mongol Hoards & Viking as the biggest plunders ever.
    Oh lord protect us ) not the wrath of the Norsemen ) but from these raptors..
    When I saw Doctors where going to strike as 500 K pension was not enough it all ended for me !
    Privatise and be dammed..

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I have noticed that most of the posts to have received a negative rating are those in support of the scheme, or a version of the scheme, of which there are plenty.

    Could this be because it is 16.50 in the afternoon and all the civil servants and employees of quangos are winding down for the day and perusing the BBC website while the private sector is still working? Just a thought....

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Plans to make it easier to sack under-performing staff members are "not an attack on civil servants".
    Did civil servants just basically admit they are scared because they all know they are all under-performing? That's how I read it. And it's hard to argue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Civil Service = the last refuge of the mediocre

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Please let the public reclassify MPs and their collective overpaid "advisors" as civil servants.Then we can remove the most self centred, greedy, dishonest,dangerous, fraudulent,incompetent and damaging drones from pretending to govern what is left of the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    The vast majority of civil servants have nothing to fear.
    Not unless the vast majority are those at the top of the food chain.
    The business lobbyists want universal suffering which means erosion of pay, pensions and conditions for everyone not just the private sector.

    If they get the ordinary people squabbling with each other, so much the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    cheeryandchip, you ask if Maud is a civil servant.The answer is no, he's an MP and can be sacked by his electorate. I fail to understand how anyone could object to the concept of someone who is paid by you, being held accountable for poor service.We know that there are some truly dreadful teachers, civil servants etc and they should be removed from post if the're not up to it.(after due process)

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    After the petrol jerry can fiasco leading to the serious burning of that woman. I do not think that Francis Maude should be trusted with any government business at all

    He is clearly not a responsible person

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    27. "Unfortunately, for far too long the welfare of the civil servants has been put before the level of service they offer."

    Well, considering I was found to have a disability affecting my performance and my dear employers overruled the recommendation of their own occupational health advisers, whilst I was suffering severe stress and being checked to see if I was a suicide risk, I beg to differ.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Who is kidding whom?


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