Increasing private office size has risks, say former mandarins

Written by Joshua Chambers on 21 February 2013 in News

The former cabinet secretaries Lords Butler and Turnbull have warned about the risks involved in mooted reforms under which ministers would appoint their own private office teams, CSW can reveal.

The IPPR think tank has been commissioned by the Cabinet Office to investigate international models of civil service accountability – and while CSW understands it hasn’t yet finished its work, the Sunday Telegraph said last week it will call for senior ministers to be able to fill private offices with 20 policy experts, economists and PR advisers.

Asked about the likely results, former cabinet secretary Lord Turnbull said: “It would create a division. There should be a unity between ministers, civil servants and special advisers. This would break that unity”.

Lord Butler, cabinet secretary from 1988 to ‘98, warned that the reforms would be “likely to insulate the minister.” A “good minister listens to both their special advisers and to their civil servants,” he added, but such a large group of advisers might create the risk that they become “a clique around ministers restricting that teamwork with the minister”.

An IPPR spokesperson said: “We do not recognise IPPR’s work in The Sunday Telegraph’s characterisation of ‘an early extract of the study’.” CSW anticipates publication in the spring.

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