U.K. Overhaul of Civil Service ‘Bound to Fail,’ Lawmakers Say

The U.K. government’s overhaul of the civil service is “bound to fail” because it’s strategically incoherent and lacks clear leadership, a panel of lawmakers said.

Members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords should draw up a program and timetable for comprehensive change for Whitehall, as the government service is known, the cross-party Public Administration Select Committee said in a report today. Whitehall is the London street on which many ministries have their headquarters.

“Whitehall is a Rolls-Royce machine, but it is sorely in need of modernization and repair,” the committee chairman, Bernard Jenkin from Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, said in an e-mailed statement. “Much more radical analysis and change than are currently contemplated” are “essential if governments are to govern successfully.”

There has been increased tension between elected ministers and civil servants, the panel said, noting how individual officials had been blamed for the failed franchising process for the main West Coast rail line and the dissolution of the Border Agency.

“Tensions between ministers and officials have become all too evident in recent years,” the committee said. “There is a fundamental question about why ministers feel some civil servants are resistant to what they want and this question has not been considered in any systematic way.”