Listen to those who know how


Why government should listen to those who know how

High quality services and a positive programme of reform can only be built on enhanced professionalism and better co-ordination, and the government would do well to remember this, Prospect head of research Sue Ferns says today in a guest blog on the Institute for Government website.

Ferns says that Prospect agrees with many of the points in an IfG document, 'Seven crucial tests for the new reform plan'.

The seven tests were published ahead of the government's proposed changes to the civil service, due to be announced early next week.

Ferns says the IfG has posed the over-arching question of what the civil service is for and talks about the importance of positive reasons to change beyond the immediate pressures of cost savings.

While this is quite right in principle, she points out: "The experience of our 34,000 members in the civil service and its agencies over the past two years is all about cutting costs and headcount and not at all about a 'new reform plan'."

Ferns welcomes the IFG's call for operational improvements, including the need for better management information and the importance of moving effective policy design beyond the confines of the so-called 'policy profession'.

But she says the civil service lacks key data to plan and assess service provision – "and in this respect lags way behind best private sector practice."

"For example, when asked by Prospect late last year, neither Civil Service Learning nor the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills could provide information on the numbers or functions of apprentices working for government. In our view, central government should maintain a database to provide easy access to expertise in specific disciplines and facilitate workforce planning and development."

Read Ferns' full blog on the IoG website.