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Political correspondent Laura Trevelyan
Reports on the modernisation of the civil service
 real 28k

Former permanent secretary Lord Levene
"It is the people who count"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 14:22 GMT
Yeah, minister: Civil service modernises

Yes, Minister parodied the civil servants' power

The head of the home civil service has unveiled plans to attract more women and people from ethnic minorities into the organisation.

Sir Richard Wilson stepped out of the shadows to launch his report to the prime minister on civil service reform on Tuesday.

The reform programme proposes setting "diversity targets" by March for all levels of the civil service both nationally and regionally.

Reforms proposed
Stronger leadership through management board
Better business planning
Improved management to reward achievers
Dramatic improvement on diversity of staff
A more open service
A better deal for staff
The aim is to move away from the traditional stereotypes of the civil service, personified by cabinet secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby in the comedy series Yes, Prime Minister.

Sir Richard said: "The world is changing fast and the civil service must change with it.

"This is a reform programme devised by the civil service for the civil service and led by the civil service as part of the modernising government agenda.

"I and my colleagues on the civil service management board are committed to creating a more modern and open service."

The proposals also aim to reduce bureaucracy, establish a civil service management board to provide stronger leadership and better business plans, which would be reviewed by outside organisations.

Blair ordered review

The three-year reform programme will be supported by a 100m modernisation fund over the next two years.

The review came at the request of Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is understood to be frustrated by the old fashioned way he perceives the service to operate.

The traditional view of Whitehall
Mr Blair has given the initiative to reform the service his personal backing, said Sir Richard.

Trade unions have been closely involved in the bringing forward the proposals and have broadly supported the reforms.

Sir Richard concluded: "This three-year reform programme will build on our existing strengths and our core values of political impartiality, selection on merit, honesty and integrity, and giving the best advice we can.

"I am asking all civil servants to play their part in making these reforms a success.

"They are very important for the health and strength of the service."

The civil service has long been seen as a bureaucracy and the administration is often dubbed the permanent government, carrying out its will irrespective of its political masters.

Political service

But civil servants consulted in the process complained about the increasing politicisation of their job and increasing demands for them to display "vision" rather than implement planned measures.

Anthony Seldom, co-author of The Power of the Prime Minister, has argued the reforms could damage the independence of the civil service.

He said: "This is much more about the attainment of New Labour's goals and being able to present the electorate in 2001 or 2002 with a set of policies which have all been fulfilled than with the longer-term interests of British government and good, effective and impartial government."

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