Headlines: September 29th, 1997

Civil servants are to be exposed to the impact of their department’s policies and the rules they devise when they attend MP’s surgeries. This is one of the ways in which the Office for Public Service is seeking to change civil service culture by broadening the experience of staff. Dr David Clark, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “By visiting MPs’ surgeries I am convinced that civil servants would gain at first hand from hearing about the issues which concern people, as well as getting a better idea of the role that MPs provide. This type of experience would benefit all those involved, enhancing understanding, and over time, delivering higher quality and better focused outcomes.”In a speech to civil service human resources leaders, Dr Clark hit out at the ‘forms and queues’ attitudes pervading much of the Civil Service. He said: “I think for too long people have associated government with two things: queues and forms. And there is a feeling among the public that government has been remote, unaccountable and too inflexible to meet their needs.”

The willingness of civil servants to embrace new ways of working was seen as key to the development of better government. “We won’t be hidebound by the old ways of doing things, simply because that’s the way things have always been done,” Dr Clark said. “The same applies to the Civil Service. I want to change the focus from standards imposed by senior managers to those developed by ordinary users and front line staff. I have started the process off in OPS itself, where we have invited all staff to comment on Better Government proposals.”

Dr Clark set out his view of ‘Better Government’ which he described as much more than managerial and operational reform. It is also embraces re-focusing on policy formulation and outcomes and re-establishing trust between government and the people.