Civil Service reform
Produced in partnership with Peter Thomas of Institute for Government
Civil Service reform

The following Public Law guidance note Produced in partnership with Peter Thomas of Institute for Government provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Civil Service reform
  • The nature of reform and recurrent trends
  • The progress of current reform programmes in the Civil Service
  • The future direction of reform
  • Barriers to Civil Service reform
  • Success factors for specific reforms

The nature of reform and recurrent trends

Reform is only a means to an end—changes to the structures and process of the Civil Service in order to get it to run better.

The rationale for reform is as consistent as the reform initiatives are frequent. All major reforms over the last 40 years address one or more of six themes:

  1. efficiency and performance

  2. size, structures, functions

  3. delivery and customers

  4. markets and new business models

  5. policy-making

  6. staffing, skills and capability

There are some clear trends over the 40 years:

  1. less faith in big structural reforms such as expanding departments, adding or taking away functions

  2. much greater focus on customers and citizens

  3. increased use of markets and privatisation. The UK is an international outlier in its use of the private sector and alternative business models

  4. new thinking about whole systems and business models

The patterns of action within these reform themes are not smooth. Difficult to manage transitions, such as changes in officials, ministers and governments, are a regular occurrence.

Nonetheless the UK Civil Service has been transformed over 40 years. A number of key reforms introduced beneficial changes that survived the rise and fall of the leaders, teams, structures and programmes that made up the reform itself:

  1. a stronger sense of personal responsibility and accountability for delivery—whether of policies, projects, programmes or services

  2. the

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