Central government departments have updated their single departmental plans for the current financial year and included equalities objectives for the first time since the documents were launched in 2016.
Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said the updated plans, setting out objectives for the rest of the parliament, showed how Whitehall was “working to deliver the government’s programme” and “making the civil service the UK’s most inclusive employer”.
The Cabinet Office’s own plan includes “ensuring” that by 2022 half of public appointees are female and 14% are from ethnic minority backgrounds, the latter proportion being a reflection of the black and minority ethnic breakdown of the UK in the 2011 Census.
A recent Institute for Government crunch of ethnic diversity figures from 2017 shows the Department for Transport, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have the most work ahead of them if they are to hit that target. All had single-digit proportions of BAME staff.
The equalities section of DfT’s single departmental plan included objectives to “better reflect local working populations in all grades, roles and professions – with a particular focus on senior roles” and to “attract, recognise and nurture diverse talent”.
One of the MoD’s two stated diversity and inclusion goals was “to be an inclusive employer where all staff can fulfil their potential and feel confident that their unique perspectives and talents will be valued”
Defra referred to its group equality, diversity and inclusion strategy from January 2017, and listed four themes, one of which is engaging in the communities it serves.
BEIS listed having a “representative workforce at every level which feels valued and enabled to reach their full potential” among its five equalities goals.
Gavin Freeguard, head of data and transparency at the IfG said that the updated departmental plans painted a generally unrealistic picture of deliverable policy on the part of Whitehall departments but applauded the equalities commitments.
“Today’s single departmental plans show departments are still trying to do too much, in many cases with Brexit added on top,” he said.
“The published plans also make no link between the spending, staff and skills needed to deliver these priorities.”
Freeguard said many of the listed priorities were vague and some lacked performance indicators, which begged questions of how their effectiveness could be measured.
“However, some progress has been made,” he said. “[The] plans do include diversity objectives and link to cross-cutting issues where departments share responsibility. In that sense, they give a better sense of what departments are doing.”
Single departmental plans were announced by civil service chief executive John Manzoni in 2015 as a way of matching up spending settlements with departmental priorities over the next four years.
But when the first documents were published in February 2016, they were criticised for failing to live up to expectations, with the IfG and public-sector leaders union the FDA among the disappointed voices.