Fresh batch of Civil Service Commissioners to vet top jobs

First Civil Service Commissioner Ian Watmore seeks team "to help get the best people into the top civil service jobs"

By Matt Foster

05 Jan 2017

Whitehall's jobs regulator is on the hunt for four new commissioners to chair recruitment competitions for the civil service's top roles.

The Civil Service Commission is the independent body set up to both uphold the civil service values of honesty, integrity, objectivity and impartiality, and to protect its commitment to recruit on the basis of merit. 

Independent commissioners make up the board of the organisation, and chair open competitions for civil service roles at director, director general, and permanent secretary level.

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Some of the current crop of commissioners, who report to the recently-appointed first civil service commissioner Ian Watmore, are due to complete their fixed five-year terms this year, and the CSC is now seeking four new recruits, with more potentially following later in 2017.

Writing in the candidate information pack, Watmore says he is "keen to preserve and enhance" the range of backgrounds and experience represented by the current commissioners, who include figures from business, trade unions, charities, and the wider public sector.

"There are three key elements that we believe are necessary to be a successful commissioner," writes Watmore.

"First, you will be motivated by the importance of preserving the highest standards of conduct in public life and by playing a role in promoting and upholding the enduring civil service values of honesty, integrity, objectivity and impartiality.

"Secondly, you will be strongly committed to the principle of appointment on merit and have experience and expertise in executive recruitment (not necessarily from an HR perspective) which will enable you, as chair of appointment panels, to help get the best people into the top civil service jobs.

"Thirdly, you will have interest and experience of what makes good regulation and how a regulator can act as an enabler to improving practice and influencing change in government departments and agencies."

Applicants have until January 23 to put their names forward for the Commissioner posts and will, according to the CSC, be expected to commit to a minimum of 40 days a year because of the "steady flow of recruitment competitions" in the civil service. 

The job specification states that commissioners will receive a daily rate of £400 for chairing competitions "and a further hourly rate for attending board meetings and other work". 

Interviews for the posts will be chaired by Watmore, current civil service commissioner Isabel Doverty, and Sue Gray, the Cabinet Office's director general for propriety and ethics, and successful candidates will begin work in April.

Current civil servants cannot become commissioners while continuing in their government jobs, but are invited to apply. 

Under the watchdog's rules, any commissioner who has previously worked in the civil service is barred from chairing competitions or auditing any department or agency they have previously worked in for at least a year after their departure date, in a bid to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Watmore recently told CSW what his commissioners will be expected to look for when they vet candidates for civil service leadership roles.

 "It's about the values," he said. "It's about caring for the public. It's about knowing your subject matter in a 21st century context, and it's about being able to deploy others and work in teams with a full set of skills that you need to solve that whole problem – and not just draft your way out of a problem in a Sir Humphrey way."

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