Google+ Followers

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Civil Service is broken, we need a new model

The Civil Service Code of Conduct sets out the standards of behaviour which are expected of Civil Servants, as you can see the four basic principles are honesty, integrity, objectivity and impartiality.

Civil servants are in breach of their duty, and damage their integrity as servants of the Crown, if they deliberately withhold relevant information from their Minister, or if they give their Minister other advice than the best they believe they can give, or if they seek to obstruct or delay a decision simply because they do not agree with it. When, having been given all the relevant information and advice, the Minister has taken a decision, it is the duty of civil servants loyally to carry out that decision with precisely the same energy and good will, whether they agree with it or not.

It should be noted that the Westminster Model is predicated on the view that 'Government knows best'. It assumes that the public does not have the information necessary to make the right decisions. Some commentators go further and argue that the political elite regard secrecy as the best means of ensuring that the right decisions are made in the interests of the people. 

A responsible government is accordingly able to take strong decisive action, even when opposed by a majority of the population. This is a leadership rather than participatory view of democracy, but it is legitimised by regular democratic elections, when representatives can be held to account for their decisions.

The Haldane Model (after the 1918 Haldane Report), furthermore, encourages concentration of power at heart of the British political system and "Government by the elite". This concentration of power, together with the interdependence of Ministers and officials, means that senior civil servants can be quite powerful whilst simultaneously maintaining the polite fiction thay are "only advisers". And politicians can, at the same time, continue to maintain that they are really taking all the decisions. In practice, of course, the relative power and influence of senior officials varies very much from Government to Government, and with the characters and experience of the officials and their Ministers.

But critics argue that the Westminster/Haldane model is in effect a facade which works to the benefit of both politicians and civil servants, but which disguises the truth from the population at large.
But it is important to define what a Civil Servant is and what it is not; a Civil Servant is anyone who is grade 6 or above, but does not include uniformed services (Police, Fire etc.) nor does it include teachers or medical staff, nor does it include anyone employed by a 'public corporation' or quasi-autonomous non-government organisation (JACS or Jersey Finance are examples of Quangos). The 'Senior Civil Service' comprises those of grade 8 and above.

A perfect example of the abuse of power is the statement that senior civil servants are underpaid and manual workers are overpaid, it seems blatantly apparent that there can be little chance of a senior civil servant objectively considering the level of their own pay.