October 5, 2011
Civil servants not up to the job
As David Cameron tries to convince his party’s conference in Manchester that Big Society remains his big idea for the rest of this parliament, yet another hurdle has been identified that may just trip it up – his own civil servants. Partly in a Yes Minister sense in that they remain unconvinced about the reforms, but even if they were, an important committee of MPs have concluded they lack the necessary skills and knowledge to implement the policy
The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) has warned that the Big Society agenda will fail as civil servants do not have the skills to implement it, and there is a reluctance to do the reforms.
PASC MPs make the warning in the report Change in government: the agenda for leadership which says the Big Society policy needs ‘a more transparent and flexible civil service with a new role of commissioning public services from charities, social enterprises, mutuals and private companies’.
However, the PASC, which has been taking evidence on the Big Society over the past year, finds Whitehall lacks these skills and little effort had been made to equip civil servants with them.
The report also says government has ‘failed to recognise the scale of reform required’ and says as a result the Big Society agenda will fail.
The PASC says it is essential that the Cabinet Office take leadership of the reforms and coordinate the efforts in individual departments and across Whitehall as a whole.
“The scale of the challenges faced by the civil service calls for the establishment of a world class centre of Government, headed by someone with the authority to insist on delivery across Whitehall,” says the report.