Public appointments in 2023

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Grant Dalton: Dr Matthew Gill

November 7, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Institute for Government looks at what has changed in the public appointments process and what still needs to change.

In August 2022 the Institute for Government published Reforming Public Appointments, which dissected the public appointments process and offered recommendations for how it could be improved.

We looked at various problems that have beset the system in recent years, including the length of time it takes for government to choose and appoint candidates, especially to key positions, and the flaws in the process by which political input is reconciled with merit-based assessment and independent regulation. We found much scope for improvement: the report made 50 recommendations for reform. In particular, we suggested government should: regulate all appointments made by ministers, with only limited exceptions; appoint a chief talent officer to improve candidate care and outreach; remove ministers’ ability to appoint a candidate judged ‘unappointable’ by interview panels; and collect and publish aggregated data on the causes of appointment delays.

Fifteen months on from that report, much has changed. There have been two changes of prime minister. The political staff in No.10, who play a large role in the appointments system, are different too. The government has also finally issued its response to three key official reports on standards and ethics,1 from the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL),2 the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC),3 and the Boardman review of propriety after the Greensill scandal. 4 The government’s response announced several changes to the public appointments system – specifically, to the governance code on public appointments5 – but also pushed back on some of the recommendations, many of which were also made by the IfG and others.

This short paper looks at what has changed, and what in our view still needs to change.