The Civil Service is reviewing the capability of each department to make sure that it is able to meet today’s delivery challenges and to be ready for tomorrow’s. The reviews will consider capability in the key areas of leadership, strategy and delivery. Each review will aim to identify where departments need to improve, and will include the development of an action plan to address the findings. The programme will be rolled out across 17 departments by the middle of next year.The reviews are a further step following criticism of the Civil Service in the Gershon efficiency report published in 2004. Following the Report’s call for central government departments to adopt a more professional approach, a Professional Skills for Government programme was launched to equip the more senior ranks of civil servants with key business skills and an in-depth knowledge of their own professional area. The Gershon report emphasised the need for a new focus on professional and technical skills.
The review programme will be run by the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, building on their track record of offering rigorous challenge and effective support to departments. Each review team will include experienced people from outside Government who will bring external challenge and insight, as well as peer reviewers from other Departments to ensure that best practice within the service is shared. It is stressed that this will not be Whitehall reviewing itself.
The review teams will work closely with individual Departments’ Permanent Secretaries and their management boards and the results and the action plan will be published.
In a parallel development the National School for Government, formerly the Civil Service College, is to be given independence from the Cabinet Office. The newly appointed Board includes leaders from across Whitehall, as well as the wider public and not-for-profit sectors. It will set the agenda for the National School to meet its broader aim of assisting departments to achieve their policy and organisational aims and to help embed corporate developments across the Civil Service.