Civil Service Could Be Politicised Under Radical Reform Plans

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The government is considering giving ministers the power to hire and fire top civil servants in a radical shake up that could bring in a system of American style political appointees to Whitehall.

According to The Independent Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude will look at forcing senior mandarins to resign their positions every time a new government is elected, leaving it up to the incoming politicians to decide whether to keep them on or not.

The paper also reports that Maude will consider putting permanent secretaries, the top civil servants in each department, on fixed term contracts, enabling ministers to sack them if they do not meet targets.

The number of political appointees in Whitehall could also be expanded to include all policy advisers and press officers.

At present civil servants are a permanent fixture and stay in post irregardless of which political party is in power, whereas in the United States the top tier of officials are appointed directly by the administration and tend to leave when the White House switches party.

There have been several run ins between coalition ministers and the civil service since it came to power in May 2010, including a row after David Cameron called them "enemies of enterprise".

While in a parting shot as he left Downing Street, the prime minister's adviser Steve Hilton floated plans to fire 70% of the civil service as part of an efficiency drive.

Maude is due to announce a review of the civil service today, which will see researchers study how governments operate in Australia, Singapore, the US, France, Sweden and New Zealand.

He said: "While we are rightly proud of our civil service, we shouldn't hubristically assume that there's nothing we can learn from other successful governments, whether like Australia and New Zealand, where they have political arrangements which are broadly similar to ours, or like Singapore or the United States, where they are more distinct.

"To meet the future challenges of our fast-changing world, Britain's civil service will need to continue to change and adapt, and that's why we are determined to draw on new ideas."

Civil service head Sir Bob Kerslake said: "This is about better equipping the Government to carry on doing what it does best, which is delivering essential public services that make a real difference to people's lives."

The proposals have already drawn criticism from Labour. "This is truly worrying. Political appointees throughout the civil service would make us more like Spain," said shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant.

Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said Cameron should stop blaming the civil service "for the failings of his government".

"We have a double dip recession made in Downing Street because of the decisions he and George Osborne have made - the idea that we need even more politicised Tory appointees is completely out of touch.

"David Cameron has already broken his promise to limit the number of special advisers: now it seems he wants even more of them."