Press release

Transforming Whitehall

A new study, 'Transforming Whitehall', has identified recommendations to help government departments prepare for further reductions.

7 November 2012

A new study from the Institute for Government, ‘Transforming Whitehall’, has identified recommendations to help Government departments prepare for the prospect of further reductions.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said:

In May 2010 this government inherited the biggest budget deficit in the developed world. To ensure Britain can be in the future what it has been in the past, we are acting and taking difficult decisions.

That’s why we set up the Efficiency and Reform Group which is driving massive savings from departments and fundamentally changing the way Whitehall operates to improve efficiency through reforms and spending controls. Last year alone we saved the taxpayer over £5bn, and further efficiencies put us on track to save £8bn this year and £20bn by 2015. Savings of this magnitude cannot come by trimming budgets. That’s why we are working to transform Whitehall into a leaner, more efficient machine that manages its finances like the best-run businesses.

In June we published a Civil Service Reform plan, developed by Ministers and Permanent Secretaries, that sets out actions to tackle long-standing weaknesses, build on existing strengths and address frustrations expressed by civil servants themselves. The Civil Service has begun to implement the actions from the plan but there is still a long way to go to achieve lasting change. If the reforms are implemented the civil service of the future will be smaller, flatter, faster, more unified, more digital, more accountable for delivery, more capable, better managed and - ultimately - more fun to work for.

It’s welcome news that the IfG agree that successful Civil Service Reform will help ensure high-quality public services are provided at a lower cost. There are many sensible recommendations in this report which we are already seeking to address. However we are under no illusion that change will be an easy process.

We agree that more responsibility should to be given for officials to get on with their jobs - this relies on consistent management information being available. The strategic role of corporate functions needs improvement, that’s why we will ensure that such services will normally be shared between departments. To reward those who are changing their behaviour anyone applying for promotion to senior levels will need to demonstrate how they have contributed to reform and efficiency. Departmental siloes must be broken and we must reward those with specialist change skills. All staff, and in particular the majority in operational roles, need to be engaged in reform and understand how it will improve the work they joined public service to do.

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