26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Minister says PS polluted with London air

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The Minister in charge of the United Kingdom Public Service has called for major changes to be made in order to tackle “group think” in Government.

In a speech on the future of Government, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove (pictured) said the “metropolitan” outlook of decision-makers had contributed to Government becoming estranged from the people.

“More diversity in recruitment and emphasis on mathematical and scientific skills is key to making officials more responsive to the public’s needs,” Mr Gove said.

Mr Gove said the Coronavirus pandemic had highlighted the scale of the structural inequalities in UK society.

The Minister said the Government’s mission to level-up economic opportunity in Britain required ambition, innovation and experimentation on a scale comparable to United States President, Franklin Roosevelt’s 1930s New Deal.

However, he suggested the Government was not well placed to respond to the economic challenges and opportunities posed by automation, artificial intelligence and robotics, because of its distance from the people.

Mr Gove, who was a key figure in the campaign to remove the United Kingdom from the European Union (Brexit), said the 2016 referendum result had laid bare the extent to which “every arm of Government seemed estranged from the majority”.

“As well as moving more Civil Servants out of London, the lack of commercial expertise must be sorted, with more decision-makers with a proper understanding of mathematical, statistical and probability questions,” Mr Gove said.

“Government Departments recruit in their own image, are influenced by the think tanks and lobbyists who breathe the same London air and are socially rooted in assumptions which are inescapably metropolitan,” he said.

He said group think could affect any organisation — “the tendency to coalesce around a cosy consensus, resist challenge, look for information which confirms existing biases and reject rigorous testing of delivery”.

London, 30 June 2020

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