Maude: policy outsourced to avoid accusation of ‘self-serving’ advice

The coalition has outsourced policy research on sharpening civil servants’ accountability to ministers because it would be “very odd to ask the civil service itself to do that” and might prompt accusations that the advice is “self-serving”, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has told Civil Service World.

By Joshua.Chambers

08 Aug 2012

Speaking on Monday, Maude said that the move will provide a “fresh, objective look where no-one can say that the work has been done in a way that might be self-serving.”

Think tanks and academic bodies have until 31 August to submit bids to conduct research into “the balance between impartial bureaucracies and administrations appointed by democratically accountable ministers,” the Cabinet Office has said, with the winner submitting their work by the end of October. The review will specifically examine the New Zealand model, under which there’s a contractual relationship between ministers and the heads of departments.

“We are looking for proper analysis of options, and it kind of feels like it would be very odd to ask the civil service itself to do that,” Maude said. “Obviously, there’ll be lots of advice to be taken on which direction we should eventually go, but to do the work wholly in-house would look a bit odd, I think.”

The review will also look at the structure and operation of governments including those of Australia, Singapore, the US, France and Sweden. This is the first piece of policymaking work to be outsourced, following the launch of the initiative under the open policymaking agenda in June’s Civil Service Reform Plan.

Peter Riddell, director of the Institute for Government, told CSW that “the overseas experience suggests that it is not easy to separate politics and management by putting permanent secretaries under fixed term contracts with specific objectives. These options should, however, be considered”.

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