When Sir Gus O'Donnell retires at the end of the year, the three jobs he combined will be split between three successors – Jeremy Heywood, Ian Watmore and Bob Kerslake. That is a Whitehall shake-up.
We're all fucked. I'm fucked. You're fucked. The whole department is fucked. It's the biggest cock-up ever. We're all completely fucked.
Sir Richard published an article in Public Servant magazine on 16 November 2011, Whitehall shake-up – not all good news, in which he lists the perennial Whitehall problems:
- how to improve the efficiency of the civil service and the wider public service
- how the Cabinet Office can take charge of that improvement in efficiency
- how the centre (i.e. the Cabinet Office? Number 10? Not clear) can keep control of its satrapies, the various departments of state
- how the head of the home civil service can have any influence on the Prime Minister if he is not also Cabinet Secretary and permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office
- how to ensure cabinet government as opposed to Blair-style sofa government
- how to provide effective career planning/talent management for senior civil servants
- how to provide leadership for the civil service
He does not confront the fact that the present arrangement, with Sir Gus in charge of everything, has not worked well. It hasn't. Whitehall are not spending £710 billion of public money – this year alone – wisely. Some change is in order. Not necessarily this particular change.
He makes no reference to Bob Kerslake. His article may have been written before the announcement of Sir Bob's appointment.
He does take time out to have what could be interpreted as a bit of a swipe at Jeremy Heywood:
And, arguably, a swipe at Ian Watmore, who is not a career civil servant, rather a businessman-turned-civil servant:
So is this unalloyed good news? For me there are two big reservations. Jeremy Heywood has outstanding personal qualities and skills and unrivalled experience at the centre. Indeed that is precisely where he has always worked, principally in private office roles at every level. So what became of the emphasis on seeking more effective policy implementation by ensuring policy people and delivery people had wider experience?
What Sir Richard is trying to tell us is that we're still all in a bit of a pickle.
It is also said that, had the reorganisation included a full-time head of the civil service, ministers would have wanted the post to be filled by a businessman – so, for the civil service, be careful what you wish for.