"Launched in October 2004, PSG is a major, long-term change programme designed to ensure that civil servants, wherever they work, have the right mix of skills and expertise to enable their departments or agencies to deliver effective services.
- Item- less than half of senior civil servants believe "their department’s “top team” provide effective leadership" (para 29)
- Item- only 19% of senior civil servants believe poor performance is dealt with effectively- and they're the ones supposed to be doing the dealing! (para 35)
- Item- only 2.5% of civil service leavers are dismissals due to poor performance: the average across all UK employers is 9% (para 36)
The government simply does not have the excellent management its micro-managing policies demand.
3. The Delivery Fantasy
This government is very keen on Delivery. Well, it's very keen on talking about it anyway- even though the Cabinet Office Capability Reviews show that actual delivery is Very Poor Indeed (the overall Civil Service score is just 24%).
Why? As we've blogged many times (eg here), bright people join the civil service because they want to get their hands on the levers of power. And that means policy work- advising ministers in time honoured Sir Humphrey style.
What bright people do not join for is delivery work- ie running some dreary concrete hanger full of drongo temp staff somewhere on an industrial estate up North. It's not how they want to spend their lives, see.
Fulton was supposed to change all that, but as the Committee discovered, policy work is still the fast track to the top: "the majority of Fast Stream posts remain in policy delivery, despite the relatively small number of civil servants who work on policy; and that the institutional bias towards policy is reflected in the grading of posts all the way up to the Senior Civil Service." (para 94)
It's the nature of the beast- those who want to run dreary concrete hangers etc go to work for Tescos and get a load more money, a load more prospects, and a load more esteem.
4. The Commitment Fantasy
This is a once in a generation wildebeest, and my pledge to you, the British people, is that we are firmly and fully committed to seeing it through.
In reality, staff turnover at the top- where it really matters- is horrific. The Committee reports that "the average tenure of a ministerial post under the current Government has been 1.7 years, and that for Cabinet posts 2.2 years... the Senior Civil Service median is 2.7 years" (para 136). In government, whether as a politico or Civil Servant, the only way to get on is to move on.
Which is devastating in terms of getting stuff done.
As we've pointed out many times, in the last two decades Tesco has had just two Chief Execs, both of whom spent their entire careers with the company, working their way up from the baked bean stacks. In the process, they became world experts on retailing and were ideally qualified to lead Tescos to its current dominance.
Clearly government will never come close to Tesco, but even in terms of other governments, we get a shocking deal. Prezza's old friend Lord Raynsford put his finger on it for the Committee:
"I was very struck in international meetings how many ministers from other countries are appointed on the basis of their technical expertise in the area in which they have responsibility rather than simply because of political background. We have a culture which rightly emphasises the importance of political accountability to Parliament, and that means the overwhelming majority of ministers come into the job without any technical expertise in the area that they are responsible for." (para 148)
Let's understand that. We can't have experts in charge of things because of political accountability to Parliament. That's so valuable, it's worth suffering in a way that other countries don't. Even though in reality we have an elected dictatorship with no parliamentary accountability whatsoever.