Press release

Government’s first use of Contestable Policy Fund

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has won the first contract from the government's Contestable Policy Fund.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Contestable policy making became a reality today when the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, announced that the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has won the first contract from the government’s Contestable Policy Fund to carry out a review into how other civil services work, with a particular focus on accountability systems.

The review is the first award from the Contestable Policy Fund, which was announced by Sir Bob Kerslake, Head of the Civil Service, and Francis Maude in June’s Civil Service Reform Plan as a step towards their goal of open policy making becoming the default. The fund enables ministers to commission policy advice from beyond Whitehall.

IPPR’s review into civil service models in other countries will provide the minister with policy advice to inform thinking on future reform. The IPPR, one of the UK’s leading think tanks, will bring extensive experience and expertise to this review.

They will analyse the operation and accountability structures of civil services including those of Australia, Singapore, the United States, France and Sweden. IPPR will also consider the balance between permanent officials and administrations in which appointments are made by ministers. The review will specifically examine the New Zealand model of civil service accountability, where there is a contractual relationship between ministers, who set clear outcomes, and heads of departments, who are accountable for delivering them.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said:

I’m delighted to announce that IPPR has been awarded the first contract from the Contestable Policy Fund launched in June’s Civil Service Reform Plan. Appropriately, the fund is being used to commission a review that will inform future thinking on Civil Service reform.

IPPR’s review is a step towards our goal of policy making being open by default and drawing on knowledge and insights from beyond Whitehall. They will apply their independent expertise to examine how other civil services work and have been asked to come up with specific recommendations that could be applied to the British civil service.

I’ve always said that although our civil service has many strengths it would be arrogant to assume that there’s nothing we could learn from other countries. Civil servants, Permanent Secretaries and ministers all want the civil service to improve, and that’s why I look forward to examining IPPR’s report and considering their recommendations.

Head of the Civil Service Sir Bob Kerslake, said:

This is a demonstration of the Civil Service Reform Plan in action.  Open policy making must become the default in the civil service, and I hope this announcement signals a continued change in the way we think about policy development in the future.

Seeking the views of others in the policy making process can only serve to strengthen the civil service’s ability  to carry on doing what it does best, which is delivering essential public services that make a real difference to people’s lives.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood said:

This is very important for the civil service.  I know how good civil servants are at policy making, and I also know how powerful opening the process up to new ideas and challenges can be.

I welcome the review by the IPPR, and really look forward to seeing the work they produce.

Guy Lodge, IPPR Associate Director and Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford University, said:

IPPR is delighted to have been chosen to conduct this important study. It is an opportunity for us to build on our previous work on civil service reform and to take a fresh look at best practice from around the world. We will build on our strong track record of research in this area by studying a number of different civil service systems in a range of different countries including New Zealand, Australia, France, Sweden, and the USA. We will use this comparative work to generate a menu of reform options that could be applied to Whitehall.

Notes to editors

  1. The Civil Service Reform Plan was published on 19 June 2012.
  2. The review will cost £50k, half of which will come from the newly created, centrally resourced match fund, the other half from the Cabinet Office. The fund was announced in the Civil Service Reform Plan and is worth up to £1million per year to enable departments to bid for money to put new approaches to policy making into practice. 
  3. The project is expected to be submitted in the autumn.
  4. The IPPR were selected through the Cabinet Office standard procurement process.
  5. The Contestable Policy Fund was announced in the Civil Service Reform Plan. The Cabinet Office will act as a secretariat to the process and support departments to evaluate the effectiveness of the approach and its value for money. The fund will be overseen by Ministers and the process will be underpinned by clear contracts - setting out criteria to ensure that the policy being developed is done so in the best public interest and that it does not favour any bias of the provider. More information can be found at
Published 18 September 2012