Civil Service HR sets up secondments unit

Secondments "play an important role in bringing expertise into government", chief people officer says
Photo: David Howard/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Civil Service HR has set up a secondments unit to “promote further use of secondments and interchange”, the civil service’s chief people officer has revealed.

The unit is one of the ways officials are working to “create a civil service with the widest possible range of talent, skills and experience to ensure we have the capabilities we need to deliver outstanding public service outcomes”, HR chief Rupert McNeil said.

In a letter to Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee chair William Wragg, McNeil said while  there are “examples of how the civil service responded rapidly and efficiently to reorganise” to respond to the challenge of Brexit and Covid-19, there is more to be done to improve.

The unit, which is sponsored by government lead non-executive director Lord Nash, will complement work to build particular skills and capacity through the Government Skills and Curriculum Unit as part of this drive, McNeil said.

“Secondments and interchange schemes play an important role in bringing expertise into government. They improve the effectiveness of government by making use of people with skills and experience from outside, and also give those within government the opportunity to develop their skills outside. This has been recognised for many years by successive administrations,” he told the MPs.

“However, this must be done in a way which maintains the integrity and impartiality of the civil service, including through the careful consideration of outside interests.

“This is something we continue to consider carefully and which also forms part of Nigel Boardman’s review into the development and use of supply chain finance in government,” he added, referring to review the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy non-exec director is leading in the wake of the Greensill Capital lobbying scandal.

McNeil’s letter, dated 28 June, was sent as a follow-up to evidence given to PACAC in April by cabinet secretary Simon Case earlier this year. In a letter in April, after giving evidence to the committee in person, Case said he had asked Civil Service HR to share figures on senior secondments.

McNeil noted that secondments are managed and recorded at a departmental level, and so CSHR had commissioned them to provide the figures. “This data, as well as wider information gathering, will help us to build a strong evidence base to further the secondments agenda,” he said.

At the time of writing, McNeil said 23 directors had been seconded into the civil service, including five in the Scottish Government and one in the Welsh Government. A further 50 deputy directors had been seconded in, with nine in the Scottish Government and five in the Welsh Government.

Most of those secondees came from the wider public sector, he said. Most outward secondments were either to other public-sector bodies or international organisations.

Meanwhile, 16 civil service directors – one from the Scottish Government and two from the Welsh Government – were currently on secondment outside the organisation. Thirty-five deputy directors were also being seconded out – three from the Scottish Government and one from the Welsh Government.

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