Ministers should play a greater role in appointing civil servants, with the prime minister given final say on appointments of director generals, according to Francis Maude's long-awaited review of civil service governance.
The just-published review from the former Cabinet Office minister, which calls the current governance and accountability arrangements in the civil service “unclear, opaque and incomplete”, also suggests ministers should be able to sack senior officials that they consider to be critical to the delivery of a policy priority.
The review, which was ordered under Boris Johnson's government in July 2022, also includes calls to split the jobs of cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, and to reorganised central government departments – both of which Maude had already spoken about.
Under the DG proposals, the PM would be able to make the final selection from a list of appointable candidates, after consulting the departmental minister, first civil service commissioner, and head of the civil service.
The proposal for ministers to be able to sack senior civil servants would apply to officials at SCS1 or 2 and to “other posts that are deemed critical by the minister”, although this would need the agreement of the Civil Service Commission. The review also proposes that ministers should be able to manage appointment processes directly for these senior roles.
Ministers should also be able directly appoint a civil servant as chief of staff to manage their office and newly reinstated extended ministerial offices, the review says. EMOs – which allow ministers to recruit expert policy advisers as temporary non-political civil servants to help design and drive key policy initiatives – were briefly introduced in 2013 then scrapped three years later.
Maude has also called for four-year fixed-terms for all SCS appointments except permanent secretaries. Under this proposal, senior officials would not be apply for other jobs elsewhere in the civil service, or in central government organisations that are technically outside the civil service, without the consent of their line manager or other identified senior manager.
The four key overarching recommendations of the review are:
- Creating a dedicated head of the civil service role – separate from the cabinet secretary – with responsibility for driving through an agreed programme of civil service reforms and improvements
- Expanding the role of the Civil Service Commission to include holding the HOCS to account for their reform programme
- Reorganising central government to create an Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet; Office of Budget and Management; and the Treasury losing some responsibilities
- A greater role for ministers in civil service appointments
The review says the dedicated HOCS should be “an individual with a proven capacity for system leadership and experience in driving demanding change management programmes across a large and complex organisation”.
Under the restructuring of central government plans, there would be: an Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which would be the "strategic centre"; an Office of Budget and Management, "which by bringing together the leadership of the cross-cutting implementation functions with the management of public expenditure would create strong real time accountability for the spending of public money"; and a Treasury which retains responsibility for economic and fiscal policy, including the overall expenditure envelope, taxation and financial services regulation.