Taxpayers Alliance DUNCAN SIMPSON has plan for civil service reform

How we can stop The Blob: The vaccine tsar is rightour stultifying civil service has been holding Britain back for years. Taxpayers Alliance research director DUNCAN SIMPSON has a bold plan for real change

Had Britain’s Covid19 ‘­vaccine task force’ been led by politicians and the time-serving bureaucrats of Whitehall instead of the brilliant Dame Kate Bingham, this country might now be locking down for 크리스마스 — like our unfortunate neighbours in Austria, Holland and large parts of continental Europe.

Nothing guarantees failure like handing a huge job to the civil service.

As it turned out, Britain enjoyed a world-beating scheme, led by the private sector, that saw vaccines bought and paid for even before their results were available.

If civil servants — either at Whitehall or in government quangos — had been in charge, they would surely have spent the past 19 months dithering over bureaucratic processes, and we would have experienced a far worse pandemic.

But don’t take my word for it. 어제, Dame Kate herself launched an astonishing attack on ‘groupthink and risk aversion’ that bedevils the British civil service.

Dame Kate Bingham has warned that without the vital reform the civil service needs, the next global health pandemic could be even worse for Britain

Dame Kate Bingham has warned that without the vital reform the civil service needs, the next global health pandemic could be even worse for Britain

She bemoaned the ‘devastating lack of skills and experience in science, industry and manufacturing’ — and vividly declared that ‘the machinery of government is dominated by process, rather than outcome, causing delay and inertia’.

슬프게도, her diagnosis is spot on. Whitehall is no longer the ‘Rolls-Royce’ of government still treasured in the popular imagination.

Far too often, it is self-interested, insular, snobbish and under-skilled — and its mandarins seem addicted to working from home.

Dame Kate is hardly the first person to point this out. 대신, hers is only the most recent criticism of sluggish officialdom — and my hope is that it will be one of the last.

The 1980s sitcom Yes, Minister introduced us to the figure of ‘Sir Humphrey’ — the silken mandarin whose job was to prevent our elected representatives from rocking the boat too much.

에 1999, just two years into his premiership, Tony Blair complained that he bore ‘scars on his back’ after trying — and manifestly failing — to reform the public sector to make it fit for this century.

More recently, veteran minister Michael Gove, as well as the maverick adviser turned No.10 consigliere Dominic Cummings, have compained of ‘The Blob’ — an amorphous, obstructive force that prevents serious change and pioneering policies being enacted.

Decades of the same criticism, then — but nothing has been done. 왜? 잘, from our research at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, we have identified a number of causes — and some clear solutions.

In almost every public institution, from the mightiest government department to the smallest quango, you will see the stultifying effects of groupthink.

Part of the reason for this is the extraordinary preponderance of ‘generalist’ humanities graduates — who begin their working lives in the public sector after studying English, History or Classics at Oxbridge — rather than those schooled in the so-called ‘Stem’ subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The 1980s sitcom Yes, Minister introduced us to the figure of ¿Sir Humphrey¿ (센터, played by Sir Nigel Hawthorne), a silken mandarin whose job was to prevent our elected representatives from rocking the boat too much

The 1980s sitcom Yes, Minister introduced us to the figure of ‘Sir Humphrey’ (센터, played by Sir Nigel Hawthorne), a silken mandarin whose job was to prevent our elected representatives from rocking the boat too much

Ours, 물론이야, is a world of technology. Think of an old-style mandarin, perhaps in their mid-50s, working in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

He or she may have grown up before the internet — yet now has to find a way to interact with huge and all-powerful global technology behemoths, with their legions of lawyers and lobbyists.

A First in Classics or History from a great university is a fine thing — but it leaves one desperately ill-equipped to take on the brightest minds of Silicon Valley and grill them on the algorithms that determine what our children are watching on their phones.

과연, the civil service is often inept when it comes to technology: witness the ­‘Making Tax Digital’ debacle, in which a new IT system for HMRC was rolled out — despite the fact the mandarins themselves found the scheme was not fit for purpose and had serious security flaws.

But because the programme was already under way — it had to carry on.

그 동안에, a particular civil servant may be clever and dutiful, but the moment he or she has mastered the brief, they might be moved to, 말하다, the Northern Ireland Office.

And that’s not all. Another deep problem, which the civil service has in common with swathes of the public sector, is the impossibility of sacking the lazy and incompetent.

Talk to any minister and they will regale you with stories about how civil servants simply refuse to follow up on instructions — and there is nothing the minister can do about it.

It is infuriating to watch Home Secretary Priti Patel trying everything she can to stop the waves of migrant boats landing on the English South coast every day, while Whitehall responds at a snail’s pace or, 그것은 주장되었습니다, strangles her ideas at birth without offering alternatives.

In any business, an underling who refused again and again to follow orders would be sacked. Not so in Whitehall. 거기, the system is designed to outlast its political masters.

This is sometimes presented as a strength: governments and ministers may come and go, the theory has it, but the machinery of government runs smoothly on — always politically neutral.

Contrast that, say the civil service’s defenders, with the U.S, where incoming presidents sack and appoint their own civil servants, more or less on a whim.

At times, 하나, there is something to be said for such fearsome power to wipe the slate clean.

In the United Kingdom, 대조적으로, Whitehall fosters a kind of spineless officialdom that locks civil servants — however clever, 솔직한, high-minded and dutiful they might be — into a system that positively resists change.

그 동안에, unambitious lifers and institutionalised officials feed the same ideas and assumptions back to their departmental bosses.

This prevents a bold reformer from stepping forward and shaking up the status quo.

We at the Taxpayers’ Alliance have a bold but simple proposal: a points-based system for all public appointments.

This would see potential Whitehall recruits, at all levels, prioritised when they could bring new thinking, experience from the private sector or when they have science and technology backgrounds.

This would do much to shake up the groupthink that characterises so many of our public employees. The system needs to bring in, cultivate and, crucially, reward such pioneering outsiders — not stop them from even getting their foot through the front door.

도미닉 커밍스, in his iconoclastic way, once sought ‘weirdos and misfits’ to serve him in No 10. He identified the same problem we do in the face of The Blob — though his solution was characteristically different.

Kate Bingham sees it, 너무. She warned yesterday that, without the vital reform the civil service needs, the next global health pandemic could be even worse for Britain — let alone the other risks our country faces.

‘Another war is coming,’ she warned. ‘Let’s make sure we have the right people with the right skills to fight it.’

Now it is time for ministers at last to heed these dire concerns — and end once and for all the tyranny of the mandarins.

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