Wales politics

Civil servants' awareness of devolution 'frustrating'

Sir Derek Jones
Image caption Sir Derek Jones says civil servants should find out what their opposite numbers are thinking and doing

Civil servants in the four UK nations should get to know each other to ensure devolution works smoothly, the Welsh Government's former top official says.

Sir Derek Jones told the Civil Service World website he was "frustrated by lack of awareness" at policy level.

He said it was still too often a case of Whitehall thinking "oh crikey, we should have spoken to the Welsh".

The ex-permanent secretary also said Welsh civil servants had to be "agile" to react to the uncertainty of Brexit.

On how the different governments could get better at working together, Sir Derek told the website: "There is no great clever answer to this, it's just awareness.

"At operational levels, that awareness usually comes more naturally; it's at the policy level that I tend to get more frustrated by lack of awareness.

"So my prescription is always pretty much the same: simply get to know your opposite numbers in the other governments. Find out how they are thinking and what they're doing.

"It'll be beneficial for everybody but it also means that you're much more likely to be able to identify when there's a devolution issue and address it in good time, rather than think afterwards, 'oh crikey we should have spoken to the Welsh', which still happens too frequently."

Sir Derek said advice was being offered to civil servants through the Devolution and You programme, and work was ongoing to share experiences to "use the devolution differences to encourage innovation and best practice".

Image copyright Welsh Government
Image caption First Minister Carwyn Jones welcomes Shan Morgan as the new permanent secretary

As Welsh civil servants faced the prospect of further devolution including tax powers, Sir Derek said: "What lies ahead shouldn't strike anyone as something that can't be managed. It will be hard work, but we should approach it in a very confident way."

They were also now "grappling with the consequences and the uncertainties of Brexit", he added, and needed to be more "agile" in reacting to the challenges.

"There are still too many things that are uncertain to place any big bets in terms of resource allocation," he said, adding that before he retired he had been working to fix some "pretty clunky" procedures to "improve our agility and pace".

After his retirement as permanent secretary, Sir Derek was succeeded by former diplomat Shan Morgan earlier in February.

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