Francis Maude locking horns with permanent secretaries over controversial Fast Stream reforms

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude wants the Fast Stream programme to be halved to two years, but plans have been delayed because departments are pushing for a compromise, CSW has learned.

By Joshua.Chambers

08 Feb 2012

In a letter dated 27 January, obtained by CSW, the chair of the Fast Stream Forum – which represents fast streamers – outlines the state of discussions between Maude and the Fast Stream Task and Finish Group: a panel of permanent secretaries, directors general and specialist managers, led by HMRC chief executive Lin Homer.

Homer’s panel is trying to find a “middle way between the fairly radical Fast Stream that Francis Maude would like to see, and what would work for government departments both in the medium and long term,” the letter says. Once it has a plan “more in line with the expectations of the minister”, this is likely to be implemented in 2013.

Maude is “still intent on having a system in which fast streamers were not assigned to one department but instead had posts in a variety of departments”, says the letter; he also wants it to be “intensive but shorter”.

Homer’s group prefers a three to four year Fast Stream period, with fast streamers remaining attached to one department while undertaking placements. It is also pushing for a greater emphasis on technical and operational delivery skills.

Speaking at Civil Service Live last year, Maude said he wanted recruits to move around because “it would not only equip fast streamers better for the variety of challenges, but... build new cohorts who have a common ethos and experience”.

Fast stream reform will affect those who started in the 2011 intake, and may also affect those in the 2010 intake, the letter says.

Yesterday, FDA trade union representatives emailed Fast Stream members to say that “a number of questions and concerns have arisen as a result of this letter”. The FDA has contacted the Cabinet Office “to suggest in the strongest possible terms that further clarification is required, as a matter of urgency.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Work is currently underway on the redesign of the Fast Stream and we are continuing to seek views on this. No final decisions have been taken.”

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