Gus O’Donnell defends civil servants on R4

Former cabinet secretary Lord O’Donnell used the second part of his Radio 4 documentary on Tuesday, In Defence of Bureaucracy, to call for the retention of an impartial civil service, and to argue that the “occasionally intemperate tone” taken by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has “not helped” the “unusually strained” relationship between ministers and civil servants.

By Joshua.Chambers

14 Mar 2013

O’Donnell said that the civil service “needs to move with the times,” but argued that “some recognition of the amount of change they’ve already been through, and a lot less of the public sniping, would help.”

Meanwhile, Maude told O’Donnell that there has been “very minimal” progress on a decision to centralise procurement, made by a cabinet committee more than a year ago. “If there’s a problem with [the decision], that can be flagged up,” he said, “but just to go away and not do it is unacceptable.”

Former prime minister Sir John Major told O’Donnell that the civil service is becoming “politicised” due to the appointment of special advisers with control over civil servants, and the politicisation of departmental press offices. “That has done absolutely fundamental damage to the public’s perception of government and the civil service,” he said.

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