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Cath Everett

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Whitehall HR to be unified


Former head of the Football Association Ian Watmore has been appointed to lead a cross-departmental group charged with creating a single HR strategy across Whitehall.

As chief operating officer of the Cabinet Office’s new Efficiency and Reform Group (EFG), Watmore will be expected to work with Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, and chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, to find savings of £6.2 million across all central government departments this year.
The aim is to ensure that there is a coordinated approach to cost-cutting activities as well as improved accountability. Watmore said: “I am delighted to be coming back to the civil service at this critical time to take up this opportunity. I believe that the Efficiency and Reform Group has a key role to play in securing value for money.”
Watmore was director general and government chief information officer in the Cabinet Office from 2004 to 2006. He then headed the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit at Number 10 for a year, before becoming Permanent Secretary for the newly-created Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills. He resigned from his post as group chief executive of the Football Association in March this year, after less than 10 months in the job.
Watmore, who will be paid £142,500 per annum, intends to take up his new post on 1 September, but will in the interim spend some time with Ministers and other key leaders of the EFG to ensure that “momentum” is maintained.
One of the aims of the EFT is to implement a single coherent HR policy for the civil service across all Whitehall HR departments by March 2012. The initiative is expected to cover HR processes, expert functions as well as policy development and delivery and job losses have not been ruled as to remove duplication between departments.
Other priorities include conducting an immediate review to simplify civil service pay structures and terms and conditions. Cuts in expenses, including a clamp down on first-class travel and the use of government cars, are also predicted as are freezes in expenditure on new consultancy and civil service recruitment. The group will include civil servants from across Whitehall.

One Response

  1. Whitehall HR to be unified
    While “simplifying” terms and conditions of employment for civil servants sounds sensible, there were valid reasons for creating the existing infrastructure (under the Conservative government before 1997) which haven’t gone away.

    Not all central government deparments are the same – and agencies with a strong operational bias working outside London may have little in common with the “policy units” in Whitehall – why should they have the same employment terms? Does it follow that B&Q and Screwfix should share terms and conditions becauswe they are part of the Kingfisher group.

    “Harmonising” terms and conditions inevitably leads to extra costs through bringing terms into line (roundig up) and the benefits of such work would need to claw this back.

    It might well be practical and beneficial to build a single HR service for all central government organisations but this won’t be simple and will take time to mature. Unless the range of government departments and executive agencies are also significantly reduced (perhaps another part of “the plan”) there are lots of issues to address.

    Above all, it will be vital to ensure any “single HR function” provides responsive services to the front line teams and doesn’t return to the cumbersome, unweildy national HR framework which the current devolved powers replaced.

    Vince Lammas


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