Report calls for civil service to focus on growing its own talent

02 February 2010

The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) today publishes a report examining the practice of recruiting externally to the senior civil service (SCS). Outside recruitment has been used to fill skills shortages and to bring new perspectives to government, but has also been criticised for potentially diluting core civil service values and for being poor value for money

PASC concludes that the senior civil service has depended too heavily on external recruitment in recent years, and should now take steps to reduce its reliance on outside appointments. PASC also found that external recruits do not appear to perform better than career civil servants—despite being paid more, on average—and many leave civil service employment relatively quickly.

Nonetheless, given the existence of skills gaps and the other benefits that external recruits can bring, PASC believes that there will continue to be a place for outside appointments in civil service recruitment.

PASC further concludes that the extent of recent external recruitment is symptomatic of a wider concern: the ability of the civil service to identify its current and future skills needs, and to plan effectively to meet those needs. PASC recommends that the emphasis of civil service employment policy should be on developing its own people and skills, rather than seeking to draw these in from outside.

Tony Wright MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"We have a permanent civil service, but increasingly it is not made up entirely of permanent civil servants. External appointments at senior levels of the civil service have been contentious for some time now, not least because external candidates have generally been paid substantially more than internal ones.

"We did not find evidence that outside recruits have drastically changed the nature and ethos of the senior civil service, but equally there is a lack of performance data to support the claim that they are good value for money.

"We conclude that government needs to redress the balance by focusing on developing talent among its own people, rather than relying on importing it from outside. Government should draw up and publish a civil service workforce plan that shows it is identifying its skills needs and how it plans to grow its own talent to meet those needs in the future."

Image: PA

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