United Kingdom Members of Parliament have been told Government priorities for Public Service reform include an improvement in digital skills, greater spread of workers across the country, and more efficient management of large-scale projects.
Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case (pictured) and Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary, Alex Chisholm were speaking to Parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee (PACAC).
It was the first time Mr Case had appeared before the Committee since stepping into his new role in September.
Mr Case said the five main priorities for his tenure were the COVID-19 response; managing the economic consequences and recovery from the pandemic; the transition out of the European Union; working with Ministers to maintain the integrity of the union; and ensuring the Government delivered on its manifesto promises.
He distanced himself from the Public Service reform agenda, describing it only as an “over-arching” responsibility in his role as head of the Service.
Mr Case said Mr Chisholm would “lead for Civil Service reform”.
Mr Chisholm said improving digital skills was a major focus of his reform.
”This includes better access to data and more advanced systems, as well as enhancing employee skills,” Mr Chisholm said.
Extending the Public Service successfully across the whole of the UK was another priority, reducing what he called “Whitehall centricity”.
Another goal was to improve the record in managing large and complex programs, too many of which currently “run over their budgets and over their assigned timetables”.
“We’re also very conscious that with the repatriation of a lot of powers as a consequence of our departure from the EU, this is a good opportunity to think again freshly about the quality of the regimes that we have in place across many different sectors and areas of regulation,” Mr Chisholm said.
Mr Case denied that an “underlying problem” between Ministers and officials had contributed to the departure of a string of Permanent Secretaries in recent months, but added that “we’ve got to remain ever watchful”.
Asked whether the rate of attrition of Permanent Secretaries caused him concern, Mr Case said his immediate focus was on his current team and that he and Prime Minister, Boris Johnson were “very confident in the team of Permanent Secretaries that we’ve got”.
London, 26 October, 2020