Better call Maude – former minister drafted in to review Cabinet Office

Written by Matt Honeycombe-Foster on 24 August 2020 in News
News

Minister who oversaw procurement revamp and creation of GDS gets a second shot at driving Whitehall reform

Credit: PA

Former government minister Francis Maude is to conduct a review of the Cabinet Office in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Financial Times reports that the former Cabinet Office minister – who pushed for major reforms to the civil service during his time in David Cameron’s government – has been asked to review the central department’s performance and relationship with the rest of Whitehall.

The Cabinet Office's performance during the coronavirus pandemic has angered some government insiders, with one Whitehall official telling the FT it “simply collapsed when faced with the enormity of coronavirus”.

Lord Maude (pictured above), now a Conservative peer, drew the ire of some civil servants during his time as Cabinet Office minister for a sweeping reform programme aimed at improving Whitehall efficiency.


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Some of his key innovations, including a controversial system for ranking the performance of officials and plans to beef up the external support available to ministers, were pared back after he left office.

But he oversaw major changes to the way Whitehall runs digital services and buys in goods and services from the private sector. This included the creation of the Government Digital Service and the establishment of the Crown Commercial Service in its current guise.

According to the FT, current Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has asked the Tory veteran to review the efficiency of the department, as well as its work on project management, reining in departmental spending, property management and human resources.

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said: “Lord Maude is conducting a short review on how to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government functions and spending.”

The peer is not expected to be paid for his role, and he is expected to work alongside the department’s permanent secretary Alex Chisholm. 

The move is the latest sign that wide-ranging changes to the structure of Whitehall are planned in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser and a long-standing critic of the civil service, has reportedly vowed a “hard rain is coming”, while the prime minister last month argued that parts of government had “seemed to respond so sluggishly” to the crisis. It was revealed last week that Cummings and other senior Downing Street figures are shortly to take up residence in the Cabinet Office headquarters at 70 Whitehall, where they will occupy a new "collaboration hub" equipped with screens displaying "real-time performance data".

 

About the author

Matt Honeycombe-Foster is acting editor at PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared. He tweets as @matt_hfoster.

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