X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Coffee House

War in Whitehall or plumbing problems?

18 January 2013

2:11 PM

18 January 2013

2:11 PM

Is there really war in Whitehall? Tensions between ministers and civil servants have certainly spilled over at some departments, but there has, as you might expect, been a backlash over the past few days to the Times investigation into the civil service.

Former civil service head Lord O’Donnell and Telegraph columnist Sue Cameron have both, unsurprisingly, defended the service. Yesterday Cameron attacked the idea of a ‘war’. She reported that Number 10 had rejected this, with a source saying ‘we don’t have a massive crisis. We don’t have government paralysis’. Reforms in key policy areas such as welfare, health and education were, she said, a sign that the civil service was working well, with its major failing apparently being too much obedience.

[Alt-Text]


The Whitehall sources I’ve spoken to reject both claims; that Whitehall is at war, but also that it isn’t suffering as a result of a failure to reform. Guido also quotes a source rubbishing the claims that officials are not blocking reforms as ‘patent nonsense’.One of the problems with Cameron’s reference to welfare reform is that it could be the civil service wot done it if the universal credit project turns out to be a flop. The Spectator has already reported that senior civil servants are starting to turn their backs on it. And as I blogged earlier in the week, Michael Gove has managed to push his reforms through partly by dint of having a superstructure of advisers to help him, rather than relying on his civil servants.

Meanwhile O’Donnell’s attack in the Independent included an accusation that the government was grinding down civil service morale, and that these sorts of criticisms always popped up when an incumbent’s popularity is sagging in the polls. But the Civil Service People Survey shows that the Employee Engagement Index, which measures civil servant morale, has actually risen 2 per cent in the year after O’Donnell left his position. It now stands at 58 per cent.

One Whitehall source pointed out that O’Donnell left the civil service ‘with longstanding weaknesses which he failed to address’, adding that the problems with the civil service weren’t so much the stereotypical image of civil servants scratching the backs of ministers with their anti-reform claws, but the ‘plumbing of the system itself’.

While O’Donnell’s accusation that knocking the civil service is easy to do when you’re on a sticky wicket in the polls might sound pretty reasonable, it is undermined by the support for civil service reform exhibited by former Labour ministers. Sources also hope that the current Labour frontbench will support change to the Whitehall plumbing after the revelations this week.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close