All top Whitehall jobs to be open to external recruitment

Written by Jim Dunton on 17 May 2022 in News

Cabinet Office minister reveals that reform policy has now been put into effect

Credit: Alachua County/CC BY 2.0

A Declaration on Government Reform pledge to make recruitment of all senior civil service roles open to external candidates by default has gone live, Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay has confirmed.

Barclay said the change – effective from Friday, when it emerged that the government is planning a 20% reduction in civil service headcount over the next three years – would boost diversity in  departments, broaden expertise and open opportunities to people outside London. The Cabinet Office said Barclay had written to cabinet colleagues outlining the changes and advising ministers they will have to personally approve any request to recruit into a SCS post without advertising externally.

Although nomenclature differs somewhat between agencies, included in the ranks of the senior civil service are six core roles in the Digital, Data and Technology profession: chief digital and information officer; chief architect; DDaT delivery director or deputy director; chief data officer; chief technology officer; and chief cyber security officer.

Confirming the enactment of the pledge to externally advertise these and all other SCS positions, Barclay praised the “great job delivering public services for people up and down the country” that is done by civil servants and stressed the power of “diversity in leadership” to help organisations thrive.

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“The pathway to achieving this aim is to ensure the civil service is able to select from amongst the widest possible pool of talent so we can hire the highest calibre staff,” Barclay said. “This will also contribute to our commitment to levelling up opportunity across the UK by moving roles out of London.”

Barclay acknowledged the government’s ramped-up plans to cut departmental headcount – which he has previously described as “empowering” for the career progression of lower-ranking officials. He said more open recruitment would be part of ensuring departments hired the best people available.

“We want to reduce the size of the civil service so it comes back down to the levels we had in 2016 but it remains important that, when we do recruit, particularly for leadership roles, we are able to bring in the best possible candidates for every position,” he said.

Newly appointed first civil service commissioner Baroness Gisela Stuart told the FDA union’s annual conference last week that she expected opening up SCS roles to external applicants by default would “substantially increase” the number of recruitment competitions the commission oversees. She said the commission would need to “evolve” as a result.

The Cabinet Office said all 7,000 senior civil service positions are now covered by the new policy, including any new roles being recruited as part of the government’s Places for Growth commitment to move half of SCS roles out of London by 2030.

It said an additional change would mean there will be a requirement for all SCS roles to be advertised both on a lateral move and promotion bases, expanding opportunities for progression and diversity of candidate pools.

Offering senior roles on a promotion basis has been shown to boost the diversity of applicants, particularly bringing more women into the most senior grades, according to the Cabinet Office.

It said that at present 47.3% of SCS roles are held by women, up from 35.9% in 2011. The department noted this is nevertheless below the civil service average – the majority of the workforce is female.

The Cabinet Office accepted that ethnic-minority representation in the SCS lags further behind, at 8.2%, compared to 14.3% of the whole civil service. It said the new change to the Civil Service Recruitment Framework would boost diversity and “broaden the experience and backgrounds of civil service leadership”.


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