PAC launches new inquiry into civil service capability

MPs highlight that workforce planning in Whitehall only gives “high-level view” of staffing requirements

By Richard Johnstone

27 Mar 2017

The Public Accounts Committee has issued a call for evidence at the start of its inquiry examining the skills and capability of the civil service.

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This examination will be the third review either underway or recently completed into Whitehall skills following the National Audit Office’s report released last week and the ongoing Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry.

The NAO warned a combination of spending restraint and capability gaps threatened the civil service’s ability to deliver, while PACAC chair Bernard Jenkin told CSW he hoped his committee could help secure much-needed change.

Announcing its own investigation on Friday, PAC highlighted the civil service was around a quarter smaller than a decade ago following the government’s deficit reduction plan, but there had not been any reduction in overall workload.

In addition, the committee said that government plans to address skills gaps in Whitehall were not keeping pace with the challenges it has faced, particularly around managing transformation and improving oversight of infrastructure projects.

Departments know they do not have the specialist capability they need and are seeking more senior leaders with specialist expertise to achieve their objectives, MPs said.

However. many upcoming projects, including Hinkley Point C, High Speed 2, and the Trident renewal, require similar skills, which could increase capacity pressures. The NAO also concluded the draft departmental workforce plans it has seen, which departments have been told to prepare by the end of this month, only contain a high-level view of staffing requirements.

The PAC inquiry will be taking evidence on capability in the civil service until midday on Tuesday 11 April.

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