O’Donnell to defend officials on Radio 4 show

Former cabinet secretary Lord O’Donnell is to present two programmes on Radio 4 in a bid to defend the work of the civil service.

By Matt.Ross

21 Feb 2013

Civil servants have recently been criticised on several fronts, from Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude’s allegation that they’re deliberately blocking policies to his colleague Oliver Letwin’s calls for a “post-bureaucratic age”. But the two programmes, entitled ‘In Defence of Bureaucracy’, will argue that “bureaucracy is there for a good reason,” O’Donnell told CSW. “I’m presenting them; [Radio 4 has] given me editorial control. They feel that the case has been put the other way so often that they need to balance it out.”

What O’Donnell means by bureaucracy, he said, is a “system that works by rules and regulations” rather than corruption and bribery. “There’s a case for making bureaucracy as efficient as possible,” he said. “But the idea of a post-bureaucratic age is complete nonsense. The opposite of bureaucracy is anarchy and chaos.”

Civil servants also have a duty to challenge “what I call ‘faith-led’ policies, which people believe are good without worrying about the evidence,” he said: officials should “not only implement, but also challenge government policy.”
‘In Defence of Bureaucracy’ will be on Radio 4 at 9am on March 5 & 12

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