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 111.

    Only reason tabloids and businesses attack the public service is because it's a symbolic barrier to further private sector cuts in working conditions, pensions and pay.

    Sadly, tabloid readers don't seem to realize that what was the norm for them in the private sector (pay rises, bonuses, pensions, holiday) is fast becoming the exception

    Daily Mail reading Turkey's voting for Christmas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    I've witnessed underperforming in the public sector, generally it is down to bad management rather than bad employees, yet the employees are the ones who get blamed with the managers covering each others backs.

    I would imagine it's similar in the civil service, all this will achieve is get rid of staff who could probably do better than their managers, whilst keeping incompetent managers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    "REFORM. Sack 20% of them and make the rest do a proper days work with no more pay. *SORRY that's what they do in the private sector*"

    Now that's just not true - is it, Steve?

    Oh - and just to be clear - I'm a civil servant, and I'm telling you now: you couldn't do my job.

    I've fixed the numerous grammatical errors in your rant, incidentally - no need to thank me, we're here to help..

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    As an ex-civil servant of some 25 years, there are elements that I would support in principle.

    The appraisal system as i remember it was terminally beaurocratic, relying as it did on staff collecting evidence and keeping records. For an extrea £100 a year for lower grades it really wasn't worth doing.

    What does worry me is what is this 10% unsatisfactory figure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    This is just phase 2 in a very clever way of reducing civil service staff levels without paying compensation. Phase 1 involved offering early release to several thousand willing volunteers, then forcing their workload on remaining staff and setting them objectives that they must do the work of two, or fail in their objectives and be deemed under achievers. See the pattern?

  • Comment number 106.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    98. alan
    Wow, you've restored my faith in humanity.

    It's not just education and health-care that cannot be privatised, look at the state of the Rail networks and water. How can they impose a hose-pipe ban when it's rained all summer?

    Privatisation mainly leads to unethical lack of equality where people die unnecessarily, bankruptcy, corruption, and a worse service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    This Government have shown themselves to be entirely in hock to their dogma. They are clearly incapable thinking through policy before they announce it (and so have to reverse it when they find out it won't work) so they want to put Political appointees in senior positions in the Civil Service - they presumably hope this will mean they wont have to answer the difficult questions. Heaven help us!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    working Stiff I am amazed that you actually are sufficiently arrogant to believe the unsubstantiated rubbish that you spout. I can only assume that it is due to a total disconnection with reality.
    I say this to all those who make cheap comments about the Civil Service.
    Try walking a mile in their shoes! I doubt you have that level of moral courage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Here we go now, the tired old mantra about how stressful it is in the Civil Service. Everyone has stress in whichever jobs they do, but it seems only the civil servants are the ones who have the time on their hands to complain about it.
    Don't like the stress of your Job - get another Job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Finally, some common sense!

    The public sector has been the work equivalent of being on benefits for far too long! It stopped being of any use to our society a long time ago, but not surprisingly New Labour (controlled by the unions) grew it even further, primarily to take people off the dole.

    I bet less than 10% of the civil service even know what public service means! Let alone believe in it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Working in this sort of corporate strategy thing myself, I can say that this is not only standard, but pretty textbook for cost cutting.

    If you put the bottom 10% on probation, you usually also freeze their pay and stop all bonuses. This effectively means that you can permanently freeze the pay of 10% of your staff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    These changes specifically are for Civil Service employee's within Whitehall who work for each of the government's ministries. Are they on difference pay scales / salaries and conditions than the public sector workers (council officers etc)?

    Ordinary people find it difficult to separate the two as we hardly hear of the Whitehall staffers unless it is via an inquiry or parliamentary committee.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    How do people compare private and public work.Private industry is about profits.All these people who compare-explain to me please how you make a profit when you send an ambulance to a heart attack victim ? When you go on holiday, shall I charge you,say,£10 per person to check your passport? Maybe the fire brigade should check your credit card before they attend your house fire?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Underperformers are covered by their colleagues. People are working over their hours, unable to take their leave and are getting seriously ill with stress. Meanwhile the bosses keep threatening us with more work and the govt just keeps on taking. The more they push the more we will overload the NHS - meanwhile bankers, oil barrons, etc are making more money than we ever thought possible!

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    75.senseandsensibility - Likewise. See, our conditions are not any better than the private sector's. But unlike your friends I am no skiver. If they even exist, that is. Everyone has apocryphal skiving civil servant friends, but I have met very few of that ilk. But now it's time for me to get off my bus. Au revoir!

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    #72 Top drawer monika.

    Not sure - looks live Gove's starting to smell a bit rotten and let's not forget the missing risk register......just waiting to hear DC trot out the old "I have full confidence in x y or z......" line.

    So much confidence - so many tricksters; I Fink it's a perfect match.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    What happens if only 3% have underperformed? Do you then sack the next 7% who have achieved their targets but only just. Also what happens if the people they hire to replace them are then found to be in the bottom 10% do you just keep sacking till there's no one left. As regards civil servants being unwilling to take risks, the banks did and look at the state we're in now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    "REFORM sack 20% of them and make the rest do a proper days work with no more pay SORRY thats what they do in the private sector"

    And how are things in that Chinese sweatshop of yours?

    Back in the real world, no company for which I've worked have sacked 20%. The few workers that didn't do a proper days work received closer management, warnings and only then were then let go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    The only 2 companies I know who took this nonsense to its logical consequence were Enron and WorldCom and we all know what happened to them.

    This nonsense was being touted by graduates from business schools years ago and they all quote Enron and WorldCom as the companies to emulate.

    Can I suggest to Mr Maude that he goes and looks at the like of Honda or Toyota are run?


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