Reacting to reports, today, that the Department for Education could face wide-scale cuts in running costs, Alan Downey, partner and head of public sector at KPMG Management Consulting, says:
“Michael Gove’s radical restructuring of his Department is a bold move. His willingness to contemplate such a fundamental reorganisation shows the depth of ministerial frustration with the civil service and the slow pace of change. Another sign that ministers are dissatisfied is the recent decision by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, to commission independent research from think-tank IPPR into how other governments – most notably New Zealand – appoint, manage and incentivise senior civil servants.
“Most Whitehall Departments have already experienced cuts of up to 30% in the number of senior civil servants, but that seems to have achieved relatively little. Cost savings have been offset by big redundancy payments, and there are signs that the mandarins are feeling overstretched and undervalued. The Civil Service Reform Plan does not appear to go far enough to satisfy radicals such as Michael Gove.
“Gove therefore appears to be contemplating something much more dramatic – a move away from the old hierarchical civil service structure towards more flexible, project based teams. The big challenge will come with implementation. Will the civil service be able to adapt quickly to the new project-based way of working? Will officials used to “slow and laborious” decision making be comfortable working in fast-paced teams? Who will carry out the more routine and less high-profile activities which are still an important part of the work of any government department? How will Gove respond to the opposition of the civil service unions?
“One thing is clear: the rest of Whitehall will be watching the Department for Education with tremendous interest and concern. If Gove’s reforms are seen to be a success, they could well herald the most significant change in the way the civil service operates since the Northcote-Trevelyan reforms of the mid-nineteenth century.
Mike Petrook, KPMG Press Office
020 7311 5271 (t), 07917 384 576 (m) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
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