Press release

Looking abroad for next steps in Civil Service Reform Programme

Francis Maude announced the first award from the government's new Contestable Policy Fund.

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

1 August 2012

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A move towards improving and opening up policy making was made today as the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, announced the first award from the government’s new Contestable Policy Fund. The fund, which was announced in the Civil Service Reform Plan, allows ministers to draw directly on thinking, evidence and insight from experts beyond Whitehall. 

The Minister for the Cabinet Office will commission an external organisation, such as a think tank or academic institution, to review how other governments and multilateral organisations are structured and how they operate. The winning bidder will be asked to make policy recommendations for how these approaches might be applied by the UK and will present these suggestions to the Minister.

The review will analyse the structure and operation of governments including those of Australia, Singapore, the United States, France and Sweden - and the balance between impartial bureaucracies and administrations appointed by democratically accountable Ministers. The review will specifically consider 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.

These recommendations from the review will be considered by Ministers and used to inform the next phase of the Civil Service Reform programme.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said:

While we are rightly proud of our civil service we shouldn’t hubristically assume that there’s nothing we can learn from other successful governments, whether like Australia and New Zealand where they have political arrangements which are broadly similar to ours, or like Singapore or the United States where they are more distinct. To meet the future challenges of our fast-changing world Britain’s civil service will need to continue to change and adapt, and that’s why we are determined to draw on new ideas.

We are already implementing the reform plan we published two months ago but we are also developing new ideas to form our next steps. For the first time ever Ministers are directly commissioning policy advice from outside Whitehall, moving towards our goal of opening up policy making.

Because we want to improve public services, deliver better value for taxpayers and sharpen accountability, we will ask the winning bidder to provide a range of specific options and recommendations for further reform of the British Civil Service, based on the best practice of other countries.

Head of the Civil Service, Sir Bob Kerslake, said:

The Contestable Policy Fund, which was announced in the Civil Service Reform Plan, gives departments an exciting opportunity to seek external input to its policy making function.

Open policy making must become the default in government - Whitehall does not have a monopoly on policy making expertise. Of course, excellent policy managers within departments will continue to support Ministers in securing collective agreement and, most importantly, translating policy ideas into reality.

This is about better equipping the government to carry on doing what it does best, which is delivering essential public services that make a real difference to people’s lives.

The Contestable Policy Fund allows Ministers to bid for money to commission external organisations to provide policy advice. 

Notes to editors

1. The Civil Service Reform Plan was published on 19 June 2012.
2. The Civil Service Reform Plan can be found at
3. The Contract Notice for this project can be found at
4. The deadline for bids to the project is the 31 August 2012 and the project is expected to be submitted before the end of October 2012.
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 1 August 2012