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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 October 2005, 20:46 GMT 21:46 UK
Mandarins squeezed
There's been a quiet reshuffle going on in the corridors of Whitehall.

In the last few months the top jobs in no fewer than ten Government departments - that's getting on for half of them - have changed hands.

Whitehall
Whitehall
This wasn't a secret Ministerial reshuffle; it's arguably much more significant than that. It's the most senior roles in the civil service that have been changing hands.

Many departments are getting new Permanent Secretaries and the civil service has a new head in Gus O'Donnell who recently crossed over from the Treasury to to become Cabinet Secretary.

His predecessor in that post, Sir Andrew Turbull was a surprisingly marginal figure in the decisions that led to the Iraq war - one piece of evidence for those who argue that senior civil servants are no longer as central to decision making as they once were.

It's suggested that Ministers, taking their cue from Tony Blair, increasingly prefer to listen to the counsel of their political advisers or outside experts like consultants and think tanks.

This, say the defenders of the traditional role of the civil service, has led to lousy government and bad law.

Keith MacDougall has been investigating.

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