Conservative Diary

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Tories plan big shake up of Whitehall

Last week George Osborne pledged to cut Whitehall by a third. Relations between the civil service machine and the Conservative Party may be further strained by news in this morning's Times that ministers rather than permanent secretaries will chair the boards that oversee the operations within government departments.

MAUDE FRANCIS Francis Maude MP, head of the Tories' Implementation Team, is overseeing the likely changes:

"Mr Maude is planning to fill these boards with non-executive members from the private sector and, for the first time, give them powers to recommend firing permanent secretaries. The most senior civil servants would be put on fixed-term contracts and the salaries."

One "senior official" told The Times' Jill Sherman: "People are ****ed off generally about the plans.”

Bringing in more private sector expertise is only one of the means by which the Conservatives hope to improve the effectiveness of Whitehall:

  • A stronger Downing Street operation - with George Osborne and David Cameron merging the offices of Numbers 10 and 11 - is at the heart of the Tory plan to shake up Whitehall.
  • There are rumours that all Cabinet ministers will be located together - outside of their departments and civil servants will come to their central location for meetings. This 'beehive' model already operates in New Zealand.
  • Individual ministers may be given very specific jobs. Rather than, for example, Mr X is appointed as Minister for Transport, they will be appointed as Minister for High-Speed Rail. They'll be given security of appointment for a definite period (barring significant misdemeanours) and will be judged on their progress in negotiating contracts, financing etc.

One thing that won't change radically will be government department configuration, however.  More traditional Departments for Education and Trade and Industry are likely to emerge from the Mandelson and Balls empires.  There will be some form of social justice body created but it may be a powerful Cabinet committee (under Iain Duncan Smith's chairmanship) rather than a new department.

Tim Montgomerie


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