Reform of the centre of government


This latest report from UK think tank Institute for Government looks at the problems facing the government ‘machine’ and a review of recent changes.

The early departure of Sir Mark Sedwill as cabinet secretary – the most dramatic of a slew of changes across Whitehall – has come as the government declares that it wants to shake up the civil service. Ministers say they want to make it possible to get things done more easily, and generally to make government work better. Their frustration has been fanned during the coronavirus crisis, but radical reform represents an old ambition for some of those closest to Boris Johnson. On 27 June, Michael Gove, minister for the Cabinet Office, set out some of the ideas in an hour-long annual lecture for the Ditchley Foundation, an international conference organisation. Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s chief adviser, had put forward similar notions after the December 2019 election and has been writing about them for years. This short paper offers a diagnosis of the problem facing the government ‘machine’, a review of the changes recently made to it, and the Institute for Government’s recommendations on further reforms that most benefit the government, the civil service and the UK public.

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