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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: Govt plans to post mandarin’s performance goals online “damaging”


Government plans to publish the performance targets of all permanent secretaries online risk damaging the current relationship of trust between ministers and their top civil servants, a union has warned.

At a speech for the Institute of Government think-tank yesterday, cabinet office minister, Francis Maude, warned that it was “unacceptable” for senior mandarins to veto government policies or fail to fully implement them.
Although such cases of obstruction were “exceptional”, they undermined the “sterling work of the majority of civil servants”, he said. As a result, accountability to ministers needed to be “sharpened”.
Therefore, in order to clarify what was expected of each and every permanent secretary, the aim was to publish their performance objectives online for the first time, Maude pointed out.
The targets would be agreed in advance with ministers and the prime minister and be updated periodically. “Permanent secretaries can then be judged for their performance against these objectives,” Maude added.
Danger to morale
Moreover, because it was “critical” that the views of ministers were reflected adequately, they would also be able to contribute to the appraisals of top officials, he said.
Maude is likewise expected detail plans that could allow ministers more discretion over the appointment of senior mandarins in the near future.
But union officials pointed out that, if ministers had concerns about the behaviour of their civil servants, there were already “established” procedures in place to deal with them.
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA, which represents senior public servants, warned: “No chief executive of a major private company would publicly criticise his most senior managers in this way and not expect morale to plummet.”
Officials were working to implement the government’s reform agenda and deficit reduction programme, while attempting to maintain existing standards of public services, he said. But “this is no way to motivate senior leaders to deliver this challenging agenda”, Penman pointed out.
Civil servants were impartial and had a responsibility to raise any serious concerns with ministers over policy initiatives, but “too often ministers seek to scapegoat senior civil servants for the failure of policy”, he said.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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