There is a view that the Coalition is going further than its predecessors in wising to break the Northcote-Trevelyan settlement. It is noteworthy that a senior mandarin has put the case for civil service neutrality. Donnelly says much that makes sense but perhaps pulls his punches. He could reasonably ask whether in our parliamentary system the government of the day, say a minority government that will not command parliament for a full term, has the legitimacy to appoint senior policy officials in its own image. We do not operate a presidential system where the country’s new chief executive makes over a thousand appointments for the next four years. He argues that the present system is sound and should adapt rather than be replaced. He questions whether permanent secretaries and the Cabinet might collectively spend more time together and that more proactive public communication is needed about the professionalism of officials. He argues for continual improvement, learning internationally, and dealing with contentious issues such as officials’ use of social media to engage directly with citizens to gather evidence and ideas. I think the system needs to adapt more than this and set out some ideas below. I would though first add […]

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