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Margaret Hodge Demands Sweeping Changes To Civil Service After West Coast Main Line Rail Fiasco

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A senior MP has demanded sweeping changes to the civil service amid the West Coast main line rail fiasco.

On Thursday, Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs Westminster's powerful Public Accounts Committee, said the embarrassing and costly debacle exposed flaws in Whitehall processes.

margaret hodge

Hodge: "DfT made unacceptable mistakes"

She called for "proper accountability" to "raise civil servants' game" and improve quality and standards after three Department for Transport (DfT) civil servants were suspended following the Government's U-turn which will cost taxpayers at least £40m.

FirstGroup was expected to take over the franchise from Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Rail which runs services between London and Scotland.

But Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin scrapped the deal, admitting the DfT made "unacceptable mistakes" in managing bids - and laid the blame "wholly and squarely" on civil servants.

Hodge said on Thursday: "It exposes in a very stark way that the present conventions on accountability between civil servants and ministers to Parliament and the public aren't working.

"It's yet another example ... of where the civil servants themselves have not really captured and taken on the role that is expected of them in today's society.

"People came into the civil service in the past because they were interested in policy, they wanted to devise policy.

"Today, the job of a civil servant is much more about delivering programmes, and that requires a different set of skills."

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme more training was needed to ensure "incredibly bright, talented, committed" staff could manage projects.

Hodge wanted civil servants to stay longer in their jobs so they could develop expertise.

"The way you climb the greasy pole in the civil service is that you change your job every couple of years," she said.

"That's a disaster and we need to leave people in post so they take proper responsibility for the very difficult and complex job they have to do.

"Then we have to open up this issue of accountability so they can't hide behind lack of accountability for not telling us what the outcomes are."

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