Quizzed at a Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) hearing on Monday, Maude said that four-year appointments could “easily lengthen tenure” among perm secs.
Maude was expressing his support for the idea that permanent secretaries should serve four-year terms, renewable if they hit performance objectives – a recommendation in last week’s Cabinet Office-commissioned IPPR report on SCS accountability.
The Cabinet Office minister has previously called for perm secs to be put on “four-year placements”. However, at PASC he stopped short of backing the IPPR in its call for perm secs to sign four-year fixed-term contracts, telling the committee that it is “hard to know for certain” whether fixed-term contracts would improve performance and suggesting that they may not be “possible in our employment law situation”. The appropriate length of permanent secretary terms is also “very much open for debate”, he said.
Under the IPPR’s preferred system of fixed-term contracts, officials would not be guaranteed a civil service job when their contract expires. Maude suggested instead a system of “fixed tenure”, meaning that permanent secretaries whose appointment was not renewed would retain their rights to a job in the civil service.
When chair Bernard Jenkin put to him the case of prison governor Derek Lewis, who was on a fixed-term contract and therefore “very expensive to remove” after a series of escapes, Maude said: “That’s one of the reasons why moving to fixed-term contracts is not necessarily the right thing to do.”
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