The Cabinet Office has confirmed it is pushing ahead with plans to create a permanent Government Consulting Hub to reduce departments’ spending on external advice.
Around 60 officials will make up the backbone of the hub, which aims boost internal expertise across government and rein in reliance on external consultants. The Cabinet Office said more than £700m was spent on buying-in advice in 2019-20, even before the pandemic spurred a new wave of spending.
A pilot version of the hub has been running for the past three months. But the Cabinet Office said it would this week launch a recruitment campaign for the hub’s expansion and move onto a permanent footing, which will see staff based in Birmingham and Glasgow as well as London.
The Cabinet Office said the hub had successfully delivered a number of projects in its pilot phase. They include work on the new government curriculum, providing consulting to a number of departments and creating a new triage process for sorting consultancy requests to make sure internal government expertise is fully used first.
Cabinet Office minister Lord Theodore Agnew said the permanent Government Consulting Hub team would help to build internal expertise in departments, in addition to securing the most appropriate outside help.
“I want government to rely on and invest in the talent which I know the civil service already has,” he said.
“The Government Consulting Hub will improve the skills of our civil servants, make sure that where consultants are still needed, we get the best value for money and guarantee that government departments work together to get the best results.
“This is not just about saving money; it’s a real opportunity to guarantee that taxpayers get value for money.”
The Cabinet Office said the pilot hub team had also worked with the Government Commercial Function to create the new Consultancy Playbook, designed to ensure government only uses external consultants when necessary and that value for money is achieved.
The playbook, which launched last week, also sets out how officials should make sure all knowledge and experience gathered from projects where external consultants are used is fed back into the government, building skills and making the civil service less reliant on consultants in the process.