New standards for government policymaking

The government has unveiled a 12-point action plan to beef up the civil service policy profession.

By CivilServiceWorld

09 Oct 2013

Under the plan, all senior civil servants (SCS) in charge of policy work will be required to enforce new sets of standards, and departments will conduct yearly reviews.

There will be an emphasis on sharing expertise across departments, and from next year SCS policymakers in the Civil Service High Potential Stream will be considered a civil service-wide asset, rather than solely as departmental staff.

Chris Wormald , head of the policy profession and permanent secretary at the Department for Education (pictured above), told CSW that the plan aims to raise standards by sharing best practice: “The big challenge we face around policy making is that it is not consistent enough. There is lots of excellent policy making done within government, and what we are aiming for here is how to get all the policy making up to the standard of the best.”

He added that although the “most important accountability [for policy making] has to be within departments themselves”, through standard systems and reporting lines to permanent secretaries and secretaries of state, Parliament would want to hold the civil service to account on the plan’s delivery: “It is up to individual select committees, but it would be surprising if they didn’t want to look at how we are performing against this plan.”

A levy from departments will fund the overarching Policy Profession Board and a new Policy Lab, which will be given a small staff to develop innovative policy techniques. Wormald said the exact contributions from each department have not been fixed, but would “not be more than a few tens of thousands” each.

The review body that produced the plan found that only 47% of junior civil servants working in policy roles considered themselves part of the policy profession, compared to 80% of senior civil servants in similar roles.

Wormald said that “one of the main purposes” of the plan is to get all civil servants talking about policymaking, asking:  “What are the policy making challenges, and how are we going to move forward?” Having this debate will itself help to raise standards, he said.


See also: Editorial

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