Reshaping top of the civil service ‘will drive solutions’

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A RESTRUCTURING at the top of the civil service will provide a greater focus on ‘real issues’ and allow for better cross-departmental solutions to be found, the government’s chief executive has said.

Suzanne Wylie said that while current proposals for the formation of a Cabinet Office did not constitute the ‘massive restructuring’ which went before as part of the OneGov scheme under former chief executive Charlie Parker – the plans would offer tangible benefits to the public.

As part of her action plan for her first 100 days of office, Chief Minister Kristina Moore outlined proposals which will see the Office of the Chief Executive, the Chief Operating Office, and Strategic Policy, Planning and Performance brought into a combined department. Former Environment Minister John Young successfully brought a proposition which proposed rolling back many of the OneGov reforms championed by Mr Parker.

Speaking at a quarterly hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, Mrs Wylie said: ‘It is to try to take on the decisions of government, which are very often decisions about problems we are facing.

‘If you think about accommodation for key workers as a particular issue … You cannot just go into one department to solve it. This unit will help with that and drive the solutions.’

She added that the Cabinet Office would act as the ‘centre of government that helps the rest of the organisation perform’.

A major restructuring programme under Mr Parker – dubbed the OneGov reforms – were a five-year plan designed to streamline government departments but which were blighted by unrest among staff and concerns over the number of highly paid consultants being brought in from the UK.

When asked by PAC chair Deputy Lyndsay Feltham whether lessons had been learnt from previous restructuring attempts, Mrs Wylie said: ‘Getting it right is about communication all the way through. Communication is a two-way street.

‘It is about listening to people and taking those concerns on board and making sure we allay those concerns.’

Mrs Wylie, whose one-year anniversary as government chief executive was on Tuesday, also stressed the importance of the People Strategy within the workforce, adding that it was important to get the ‘right balance between performance and motivation and wellbeing and how staff feel about working for us’.

‘We want to take them [government staff] to a place where they have aspirations, where they understand their roles and how their roles affect the future,’ she said.

She added that she did not know at this stage the potential headcount for the Cabinet Office, as the work to bring the departments together was still being carried out, and that key performance indicators – metrics against which her performance would be measured – were due to be agreed later this month.

Figures released this week showed that the size of the public sector had increased by more than 1,000 employees over the past five years and that the number of top earners – taking home more than £100,000 per year – had also increased significantly.

Speaking to the JEP after the hearing, Mrs Wylie said: ‘The PAC have asked me about future changes in the organisation and setting up the Cabinet Office, which will be clearly looking at all of those issues, including efficiencies and value for money.’

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