IfG response to the Maude review on civil service reform

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Various authors

November 28, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Institute for Government sets out their view on the Maude proposals for civil service reform.

The history of government reform is cluttered with plans, reports, strategies and even a declaration. Lord Maude, a former Cabinet Office minister and the most dedicated reformer of the civil service in recent decades, has produced a paper that usefully draws together many of the now familiar themes and threads on this subject.1 His Independent Review of Governance and Accountability in the Civil Service is a serious and comprehensive piece of work. His problem diagnosis is strong. His ideas for change are worthy – many are good, though some are misguided. Whether anything actually happens as a result is the question that matters most.

In July 2022 Maude was commissioned by the then minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, to produce a report on the governance and accountability of the civil service. Maude was given two months. Like too many decisions taken during Rees-Mogg’s tenure in the Cabinet Office, both the timing and terms of reference were half-cocked, and Maude ignored both. In the event, the report was published 16 months later, in November 2023.

Publication coincided with a major ministerial reshuffle, which pointed to a desire to bury Maude’s ideas and a cool reception within government. A written statement by the then Cabinet Office minister Jeremy Quin described it as a “welcome contribution”, though also noted that some of its recommendations would “serve to detract from the focus on the Prime Minister’s five critical priorities”.2

Our welcome is much warmer. Civil service effectiveness, governance and accountability has been a core theme of IfG work even before Maude was a minister in the Cabinet Office. His review endorses much of our diagnosis and many of our recommendations. This short report sets out the Institute for Government’s view on the Maude proposals.