Analyse the Major Changes That Have Taken Place in the Uk Civil Service over the Last Twenty Years

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‘Analyse the major changes that have taken place in the
UK civil service over the last twenty years'

The civil service is very much the backbone of UK government, underpinning Britain's governmental system. This essay will aim to explain and analyse the changes in the civil service over the past twenty years, starting with an overview of just what the civil service is.

The civil service differ from the government and the ministers within it in that they are politically neutral and are permanent – they do not change when governments do. There are two types of civil servant, they being generalists and specialists. Generalists have the ability to adapt to the needs of different departments and often move from one department to another. Specialists on the other hand are just as the name suggests. They specialise in one area (department). They are unlikely to change departments through out their career, meaning there is little possibility for their careers to progress to the highest level of civil service.

Most civil servants fit the stereo type of having been educated at public school, and of having been to Oxbridge, with this ringing true for the past twenty years. However, the last two decades has seen a shift in both the backgrounds of civil servants and the skills civil servants require. They now require in depth managerial skills, as well as the traditional mandarin skills that are associated with the job of being a civil servant, including managing political interference, political nous and a thorough knowledge of governmental and parliamentary processes(Dunleavy et al, 2000, Pg. 64).

This shift towards the need for managerial skills is a consequence of the changes that were made by the Conservative government in the 1980's. In 1968, a report commissioned by the government of the time, known as the Fulton Report, concluded that changes were needed in the way in which the civil service was run. However it wasn't until the 1980's when Margaret Thatcher came to power that changes were actually made. The creation of executive government agencies was a major component in the changes made to the civil service under the Thatcher governments. The so called Next Steps movement altered the way in which the civil service was run. As Thatcher saw it, the civil service she inherited when she came to power was too process orientated and not output orientated. In other words, the civil servants were too worried about how they did their jobs, not what they achieved. Thatcher believed that they operated in a more public way, as oppose to her preference of working in a more privatised framework. She believed that if the civil service was in competition with each other (and even to those whom work may be contracted out to), more would be achieved and there would be increased efficiency in the service; hence the creation of government agencies (Coxall et al, 2003, Pg. 214). Indeed, in 1991, compulsive competitive tendering (CCT) was implemented in the civil service, meaning servants had to compete with outsiders for jobs. It was the intention to transfer the costs of civil servants duties to the private sector, and this worked, as by January 1995, the government had saved over £1bn (

Before the Next Steps makeover of the civil service, it was the individual departments within government that made the decisions each department had to e.g. department of transport. However, with the Next Steps initiative in place, departments were broken down into different agencies. The following organisational structure shows a typical layout under the Next Steps scheme.

As you can see from the diagram, each agency is ultimately headed by a minister, invariably a member of the cabinet – a secretary of state. Junior ministers and under secretaries follow, working in the different agencies headed by the department, until the chain ends with each agency's under secretaries. Unseen in the diagram, each agency...
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