Maude: Civil servants must give ‘most challenging advice’

Civil servants must give ministers “the most challenging advice”, because ministers “absolutely want to be told” what will and won’t work, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has said today.


By Winnie.Agbonlahor

16 Jul 2014

Speaking at Civil Service Live in London, he said that “we have an amazing system here of a permanent civil service, which needs to be required to give ministers the most challenging advice”

In a speech about the ‘long term vision’ for the civil service, Maude (pictured) told an audience of around 200 delegates that “candid” and challenging advice from civil servants is “not regarded as blocking” ministers’ wishes. He added, though, that once a decision has been made ministers “want to know that it’s going to happen”.

He also thanked civil servants for “everything you do every day and will continue to do”, adding that “what ministers ask civil servants to do on behalf of the public is hard, and not getting easier”.

Maude’s argument that civil service reform will “always be a work in progress” prompted an audience member to ask whether, with no end to the changes in sight, there’s a “risk of apathy” among civil servants. “Life is fatiguing and change is constant,” Maude replied. “I think people find it tiring but actually energising at the same time; I have a lot of sympathy for people feeling it’s top-down and imposed and [wondering] what’s coming next.”

He also recalled how someone who joined the civil service from the military told him that the civil service is “more hierarchical and top down than the armed forces”, adding that this was “quite an eye-opener”.

Asked to name one thing he would like to see happen in the civil service, he said: “Be free to challenge; feel free to challenge.”

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