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Boris makes moves to centralize greater control over civil service

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found here:  https://www.politico.eu/article/uk-prime-minister-boris-johnson-goes-presidential-cabinet-office-dominic-cummings/?utm_source=pocket-newtab-global-en-GB


“That's why there's a lot of focus around reform of the Cabinet Office when they talk about civil service reform. It's actually a reform of the control mechanisms in government”
— Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA civil servants' union

Boris Johnson is building his own White House.

The prime minister and his top adviser Dominic Cummings have made what some consider unprecedented moves to centralize control over the civil service — sparking fears Whitehall is being politicized.


Johnson and Cummings have pulled the Treasury closer to No. 10, imposed iron discipline on departmental advisers, made controversial political appointments to the civil service, forced out top figures seen as roadblocks to change, announced plans to streamline government communications and could even claim extra space in the Cabinet Office.

“It feels like the aim of this administration is to have a bit more of a presidential style, where the center controls things a little bit more,” said one civil servant who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Indeed, the U.S. president has more direct personal control over the government agenda with economic and other domestic policy teams based directly in the White House. By contrast, Downing Street is a coordinating hub with limited resources, which alongside the Cabinet Office attempts to reach into separate departments, often with their own cultures and management tics, to see plans executed.

In past decades, successive prime ministers have complained about this lack of control and an inability to keep a close eye on departments, increasing the chances of being blindsided by crises. Tony Blair, David Cameron and Theresa May were all accused, in various ways and at various points in their premierships, of similarly trying to become more presidential, though real reform of Whitehall failed to materialize.

“Boris Johnson’s frustration with the comparatively small support structure in No. 10 means it’s likely he’ll build a stronger center — either an actual Department of the PM or something like that in all but name; a model more like the White House," said Alex Thomas, a former senior civil servant and expert on Whitehall for the Institute for Government.


Is Johnson is arranging his government in a manner that evokes Americans presidents.

Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union for top civil servants, agreed that Johnson was bidding for a firmer grip. “The centralization of power is clear for everyone to see,” he said. “That's why there's a lot of focus around reform of the Cabinet Office when they talk about civil service reform. It's actually a reform of the control mechanisms in government.”

A Downing Street official said there was no active attempt to emulate the U.S. approach, except in the plan for White House-style press briefings, but noted that, as part of reforms aimed at better and quicker policy delivery, “there is definitely a desire in Downing Street to have more reach into departments.”


The aim of the reform agenda was laid out by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove in a speech last month, in which he pledged to “transform government to make it the efficient force for good the times command.”

Gove promised to better evaluate the effectiveness of government through published data; improve civil service training in applicable skills; increase the chances of promotion within departments to avoid wasting expertise; and physically move chunks of the civil service out of London to reconnect with harder-up parts of Britain.

To make it all happen, Downing Street has taken a stronger grip over Whitehall. “We’ve now got a No. 10 that is not just part of Whitehall; it will be more integrated than ever,” said a former special adviser. “Make no mistake — Boris and Dom are in control here.


It seems a strange approach for Cummings, who once wrote that Whitehall should adopt "decentralized decision-making as a default mode," though some make the case that a more powerful center could empower departments by giving them clearer instructions and tougher scrutiny, as Cummings himself who reportedly told special advisors in June.



Edited by sickofallthebollocks
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