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 71.

    senseandsensibility You are right we are all in it together are glorious leader has said so. What he forgot to tell you are that we are effectively bankrupt. The civil servants had nothing to do with it, try looking towards the City and then take a stroll towards the Palace of Westminster the connection between the two you could call incestuous!

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Noy yet - until the civil service and local government reform their mindless, self-seeking and unproductive processes, it's not possible to root out those who underperform. it's the culture - the way we do things - that is wrong. We need a far-ranging re-design of processes, to empower indiviuals, and free-up creativity. Until then, one cannot identify the underperformers, let alone sack them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    63.Philip Allen
    I worked in the Civil Service for years and was amazed at how some staff swanned around doing not very much. Having since worked in the Private Sector and have been Self-Employed, I can tell you now that Civil Servants are paid more for the amount of work they do compared to the Private sector.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Lets not forget that many businesses exist solely, or in a large part, to service the public sector. Just because they have 'Scroggins & Co.' on their pay slips rather than 'HMG' does not make then private sector. Are they to be included too? A4e for example - such integrity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Difficult but probably about time. This vast army of idle paper shufflers do need to be drastically thinned out.
    The only problem is that the next Government will probably end up hiring a whole load of new people who we don't really need.
    If we have 150000 too many civil servants why do I have to wait on the phone for 45 minutes to get through to HMRC, guess they're not working very hard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    I await for the real test when it is tried out on MPs. I won't be holding my breath, though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    "The bottom 10% of staff will be fired after a year if they fail to improve".
    An insane idea, that will have a negative effect and create a climate of fear and distrust. No doubt it will be 10% on each department no matter how well or badly they are run. If it's such a good idea, I'm sure we can adapt a system that can run against MP's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    working Stiff (all comments) - if you have nothing to offer to the debate then don't bother commenting, you clearly have no idea what you're talking about and frankly I feel embarrassed for you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    It's also worth pointing out that most civil servants aren't overpaid slackers stealing the taxpayers money, but hardworking people who try to do the best they can. People who allege anything else - unless they have hard evidence - need to look in the mirror and ask themselves why they believe this in the absence of evidence...& I don't mean rare snippets in the Mail or the Express.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.


    Are you for real? Most civil servants know they're doing a job (NOT doing us a favour as you put it), and most do the best they can in the current pathetic excuse of a "system" we have. Who created and fiddles with that system? Politicians.

    It's the politicians who think they're doing us a favour (ALL parties). There's no need for your usual anti pub sector vitriol.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Hang on - once you have got rid of the bottom 10% in year one, next year there will of course be another bottom 10%, after not many years you'll be getting rid of all your very best staff. Who's to say those in the bottom 10% are not performing well anyway?

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Yes they want to be reformed - not wrecked and the jobs for the boys gangs move on not out. I've seen this befor in industry amd it doesn't work. The dead wood stays and the people who are making an excellent contribution go. No applause for this Mr Maude!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    I joined a company where I got involved in carrying out this type of exercise. The amazing thing was how quickly the poor performers were identified. Everyone seemed to know who they were. The company was really struggling and could not afford to carry anyone who was not pulling their weight. Here they are at least being given a chance to improve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Shedding staff will cost a fortune.

    Not if its done in the correct and smart way.. Performance Manager them out of the door.. Then Slash the hell out of the bloated pension rip-off we are expected to pay.. There will be now money left anyway to pay these Dane-Geld ransoms.. I mean Public Sector Pension .. they have already had every penny they can exhort from Joe Mug !

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    we are a business!! All aspects of the business need to be run efficiently and present a value to the country that is proportionate to the cost
    What about the rogue elements of the private sector that wrought havoc on the economy - the government decided it didn't need reforming despite the independent commission's recommendations - do we just keep subsidising the fetid beast?

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Perhaps the Government could apply the same test to its own members?

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    I had the misfortune to be dismissed a year ago today for bad attendance. The irony was I had undergone an operation to correct the problem which succeeded.
    Despite being covered under the Disability Discrimination Act my line managers continued with their procedure to dismiss me.
    I am now a lot richer and they should be the ones getting sacked.
    You have no idea how many fools run the asylum!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Why 10%?

    I’ve seen this nonsense in action. I’ve seen 2 world-class teams destroyed by this concept!

    The concept that a certain % of a team is under-performing is complete nonsense; however the 10% becomes a quota. I know of a team who rotated the “under-performer” between themselves to meet the quota!

    Classical working on the 5% and downright bad management.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    You've got to laugh at the civil servants on here trying to justify their under worked and overpaid positions.
    These are the same people that were going on strike because they didn't get a pay rise when the rest of the country is in recession. Maybe if they spent more time doing a good job and less time surfing the web during office hours people might be more inclined to take them seriously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Of course civil servants want "reform" It's also common knowledge that turkeys always vote in favour of retaining Christmas. Politicians! Don't they know how to talk honestly without being persistently economical with the actualité?


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