Power with purpose

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Alex Thomas; Rhys Clyne; Jordan Urban

March 11, 2024

This report from UK think tank the Institute for Government gives seven recommendations for radical reform of the centre of government.

Power with purpose sets out why the centre of government has failed successive prime ministers – and why it will continue to do so – and puts forward seven recommendations for radical reform. Whoever forms the next government will need to urgently implement these reforms in order to deliver their priorities, whether it is Rishi Sunak’s five pledges or Keir Starmer’s missions, and to tackle urgent challenges like climate change, the rise of artificial intelligence, a stagnant economy, increasing global instability and underperforming public services.

The Commission’s conclusions draw on a year of interviews with figures ranging from former prime ministers to leading scientists, senior civil servants in the UK and overseas and leaders in local government, the private sector and charities. It sets out why the centre of government is not equipped to meet the challenges of the rest of the 21st century. No.10 and the Cabinet Office should not continue in their current form, and should instead be restructured into a new Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and a separate Department for the Civil Service, housed in a modernised Downing Street and 70 Whitehall complex.

It also calls for the appointment of a new first secretary of state to drive the government’s priorities, the creation of an executive cabinet committee made of a small number of key ministers, for splitting up of the cabinet secretary’s role and responsibilities, and reiterates the IfG’s call for a new civil service statute.