Reform is needed.
The way we are being governed has changed over recent years. We have moved away from Cabinet government to the ‘Inner Circle on the Sofa’. This has clearly affected the way senior civil servants operate and they are not happy.
A report, ‘Shaping Up: A Whitehall for the Future’ published last week, warned that there must be a wholesale reform of Whitehall if it is to function properly after the general election.
Sir Michael Bichard oversaw the report. He is a former permanent secretary, and it is based on the testimonies of 60 senior civil servants.
“There is a gap at the centre of Whitehall — a conspicuous lack of a single coherent strategy for government as a whole.”
“The centre [No 10] is certainly dysfunctional and the Cabinet Office is fragmented.”
“…at one stage the Treasury felt it could rein in Downing Street only by sending memos totting up the amount of spending commitments that No 10 had made each week.”
The report concluded: “The office of the British prime minister holds a concentration of formal power greater than that of almost any other country in the developed world.”
We may well be unimpressed by moaning mandarins, but the report highlights the issue of reform, which is to be welcomed. Political parties are trying to maintain a ‘business as usual’ agenda running up to the election. It is up to us to shake their complacency and rub their noses in the need for lasting reform.