Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has set out new measures designed to improve ties between civil servants working across the UK’s different administrations, including expanding the Fast Stream and a new secondment programme.
Gove’s proposals came as the Cabinet Office published Lord Andrew Dunlop’s Review of UK Union Capability, which was delivered to ministers in November 2019 but only made public this week.
In a response letter on Wednesday, Gove said ministers had been keen to implement policies in line with Dunlop's recommendations from the “moment we received your report”.
Gove suggested that the government’s proposals to move 22,000 civil servants out of London by the end of the decade – first announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak 12 months ago – would contribute to Dunlop’s call for the UK civil service to have “a visible presence in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”.
However the Cabinet Office minister said the government was also keen to drive greater networking and cooperation between civil servants in devolved administrations and to encourage more movement of officials between them to “create exemplary public services and infrastructure across the four nations”.
Gove said more Fast Stream places would be offered in the devolved administrations and territorial offices. “We will double the participants on our successful UK Government Interchange Programme, and agree reciprocal schemes with the devolved administrations, including the Northern Ireland Civil Service,” he said.
Gove added that a new “intergovernmental long-term loans scheme” would enable 60 people – including members of the Senior Civil Service – to spend up to two years in a different administration working on “priority areas”.
“Half will be civil servants from the Scottish and Welsh governments and Northern Ireland Executive, working for the UK government,” he said. “The remaining placements will be for UK government civil servants split between devolved administrations.”
Dunlop’s report included a range of recommendations, including the creation of a new secretary of state for intergovernmental and constitutional affairs. It also proposed communications improvements that would see UK government spending in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales “clearly marked with UK government branding” to boost public recognition.