Government Efficiency

Whitehall Overhaul: Think Tank Proposes Outsourced CEOs to Boost Efficiency

A non-partisan think tank, the Effective Governance Forum, has called for a major overhaul of Whitehall, suggesting the appointment of chief executives from outside the civil service to work alongside ministers and permanent secretaries. The proposal aims to improve policy implementation and potentially save £80 billion annually.


The report also advises reducing staff movement between government departments, which would involve increasing their separation. This measure is intended to help retain knowledge and experience within each ministry.


Patrick Barbour and Tim Knox, the authors of the report, argue that the UK government's current structure hinders the prompt and effective implementation of policies. They believe that by modifying the roles of ministers and permanent secretaries, public service quality, choice, and cost could be transformed.


Barbour, formerly the executive chairman of Barbour Index and Aptitude Software, and Knox, a former director of the Centre for Policy Studies, suggest that the introduction of CEO roles would enable ministers and permanent secretaries to focus on strategic policy and providing objective advice. In contrast, CEOs would offer professional management expertise and a stable vision for their departments. Ideal candidates should have substantial experience in change management and a history of efficiently running large businesses or third-sector organisations.


The authors recommend an initial trial of the new management structure in two or three departments, with CEOs hired from outside the civil service and offered competitive salaries to attract the right talent. If successful, the structure could be implemented across the government.


In order to hold CEOs accountable for departmental objectives, Barbour and Knox argue they should have control over staff management, including hiring, dismissing, pay, and working conditions. They also advocate for a more stable work environment, enabling staff to build knowledge and experience by staying with projects until completion.


The report's £80 billion annual savings estimate is based on the assumption that the central government could achieve at least a 20% increase in productivity.

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