The author of the Conservative general election manifesto has claimed that civil servants are ‘woefully unprepared’ for the changes Boris Johnson’s government is about to make in Whitehall after Brexit.
Civil servants could be made to take regular exams to prove they are up to their jobs under “seismic” changes about to be wrought, claimed policy adviser Rachel Wolf.
But she dismissed suggestions Whitehall will be “politicised”, despite the barrage of accusations of anti-Brexit bias that the civil service has endured from prominent Tories, including Jacob Rees Mogg and present chief adviser Dominic Cummings, in the last three years.
Cummings is now likely to have a major influence over the reforms.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Wolf said Boris Johnson wants to run “the most dynamic state in the world”, and said that plans for merging, creating or abolishing departments are just a “tiny fraction” of the changes set to be implemented.
The changes, set to begin in the spring will end the “merry-go-round” of officials changing jobs every 18 months, she said.
She said one of the biggest changes is likely to be in the area of Whitehall recruitment and training.
Wolf stated that anyone staying in the same job for longer than 18 months is currently seen to have “stalled” in a culture that ensures “everyone rises to their position of incompetence”.
She also predicts that civil servants will be “reoriented to the public”, rather than “stakeholders”.
Many officials “cannot believe the Prime Minister and Dominic Cummings mean business”, she wrote, and “as a result, they seem woefully unprepared for what is coming”.
Despite an underlying theme amongst Brexiteers of pro-EU “bias” within the civil service, the author of an independent enquiry into the question in 2018 declared: “There is no evidence of bias against Brexit by the civil service or civil servants.”
Policy researcher Andrew Kakabadse, who wrote the Civil Service Effectiveness Inquiry, said: “In fact, not only did no evidence emerge that civil servants undermine or thwart their minister or derail the Brexit negotiations but, in fact, civil servants often emerged as dedicated to the civil service and their role in serving the public, leading naturally to a positive and productive relationship with their Secretary of State.”
However, senior Conservatives have frequently fuelled the opposite perspective.
In 2018, Jacob Rees-Mogg accused the service’s post-Brexit financial projections as being “clearly politically motivated” and accused the service of “fiddling the figures”.