Discussion about the Civil Service has heated up recently – with debates in Lords and the Commons, and with the formation of new cross-party group GovernUp. All that is good and the Institute for Government welcomes the broadening of the public debate on themes we have long addressed such as improving capability, commercial skills and accountability. We have suggested practical improvements in these areas, as well as on the workings of the coalition, transitions, managing markets, policy making and arm’s-length bodies, and hope that political parties, civil servants, think tanks and others will draw on them in their post-2015 thinking. These questions, about the role of ministers as well as of civil servants, can no longer be dismissed as something only a few people care about. They are central to the prospects of the next government. It is vital, however, to be clear where we are now. Too many on the Tory right – and some on the left – talk about the Civil Service as the last great unreformed public service or British institution as if nothing has happened in the last few years. The fictional Sir Humphrey is invariably invoked as an obstructive bogey man, rather forgetting that […]

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