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UK civil service tops global league table

5 hours 52 minutes ago
News

Latest Oxford University ranking sees Whitehall rise to global top spot from fourth-best

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Cause for cheer: Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill Credit: CSW

The UK civil service is often described as the best in the world, but now it’s official: the latest global ranking of public administration effectiveness has seen Whitehall rise from fourth place two years ago to top spot today.

Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government and the Institute for Government’s International Civil Service Effectiveness Index (InCiSE) draws together a series of data and performance indicators for a host of government administrative functions to create a league-table. 

When the inaugural ranking was published in 2017, the UK trailed Canada, New Zealand and Australia on metrics that included performance in tax administration, inclusiveness, capability, openness, integrity, risk management, fiscal and financial management, digital service and policymaking.

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But the survey’s second instalment has seen the UK race ahead, with New Zealand now taking second place, Canada third, Finland fourth and Australia fifth. Although they are ranked differently, the top five nations remain the same as in 2017, however.

While the UK’s rankings rise will be flagged as evidence of Whitehall’s ability to drive improvement at the same time as dealing with the unprecedented demands of Brexit, the 2019 InCisSE is not all comfortable reading for top officals. Although the InCiSE report authors confirm that the UK performs “relatively highly for most indicators, regulation is the only core function where Whitehall is top of all surveyed nations.

The UK is in the top five country rankings for policymaking, fiscal and financial management, HR management, and procurement. However digital services is an area where it performs “below average” – and is in the bottom third of surveyed nations. Estonia tops the 2019 digital category, as it did in 2017.

The report authors also remarked that the UK’s index scores related to integrity were subject to variation. “The UK’s inclusiveness score is less strong relative to other countries, most notably on the metric assessing the proportion of women in senior roles in central government,” they said. The UK does not appear in the InCiSE top five for inclusiveness.

Cabinet Secretary and civil service head Sir Mark Sedwill said there was much to applaud in the findings, but accepted there was no cause for complacency about areas for improvement.

“Every UK civil servant should be proud of our being ranked the overall top-performing civil service in the new InCiSE Index,” he said.

“It’s a tribute to the professionalism and effective teamwork that produces real impact in public services.

“But we can be even better by spreading our own best practice and by learning from other countries in areas they are ahead. We will make that our common endeavour.”

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said the InCiSE findings were a vote of confidence in staff “at a time when Brexit has thrown up new challenges”.

The 2019 InCiSE Index top 10
1  United Kingdom
2  New Zealand
3  Canada
4  Finland
5  Australia 
6  Denmark
7  Norway
8  Netherlands
9  South Korea
10 Sweden

Although the survey is international, it does not include all nations. The 2017 study crunched performance data on 31 nations, the latest ranking has increased the pool to 38. The new additions are: Bulgaria, Croatia, Iceland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. 

Hungary is the lowest-ranked nation in 2019. The report said that the main core function indicators where Hungary’s performance was weak were digital services and fiscal and financial management. The report said inclusiveness and openness were other problem areas. Hungary was second from last in 2017, ahead of Slovakia. The latest rankings put Slovakia in 33rd place.

The report authors said the methodology  and approach for InCiSE 2019 had been “refined” in comparison to 2017’s index, while the volume of metrics had increased. 

A new core function of “procurement” has been added: the UK ranks third out of 38 in the category, but the report authors said the “social security administration” indicator had been dropped in 2019 because of “data reliability issues”. The UK had topped that category in 2017.

Tags Cross-Government Efficiency Diversity International Affairs & Security Leadership & Management Operational Delivery Transformation Categories Employment Government and politics Image description PA Twitter Link

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National Security Council leaks ‘undermine officials’ confidence to speak truth to power’

6 hours 47 minutes ago
News

Former national security adviser Sir Mark Lyall Grant says leaks may undermine effective decision making in the longer term

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UK headquarters of Huawei in Reading. Photo: PA

A former government national security adviser has warned that leaks from the National Security Council could undermine the willingness of senior civil servants and intelligence officials to speak freely to ministers about sensitive issues.

Sir Mark Lyall Grant, who was secretary to the NSC as the government’s top security official from September 2015 to April 2017, said this week’s leak of details from the committee was “extremely unusual”.

Earlier this week it was revealed that ministers had decided Chinese telecoms firm Huawei could provide some elements of the equipment for the UK's future 5G data network, despite warnings of a security risk. It is believed the decision was taken at a meeting of the government's National Security Council on Tuesday.

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The leak has led to calls for an inquiry into how the information was made public. The Times reported that the leak had sparked anger among intelligence chiefs, with one source telling the paper the account of the meeting was "evidently briefed to make a leadership candidate look tough on China".

One minister told the BBC that the NSC was "the holy of holies", with the leaks branded "simply not acceptable", while Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said the NSC was being used “as political ammunition in a Tory party civil war”. 

"The government should launch a full investigation to get to the bottom of these leaks, otherwise it risks further extinguishing what little authority it has left,” he said.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Lyall Grant said NSC members discuss particularly sensitive issues and therefore a leak was extremely unusual.

“Agendas are not publicised in advance, the outcomes of meetings are not publicised after the meetings and I can’t recall during the two years when I was doing the jobs any leaks from the National Security Council of this sort,” he said.

He highlighted that the committee's members, who include senior military and intelligence officials as well as civil servants and ministers, “need to be able to talk honestly and openly to help ministers to reach effective decisions and if it is going to leak like every other committee, that can be damaging in the longer term".

“The risk is that it undermines confidence of those who are paid to speak truth to power, to explain to minsters some of the underlying intelligence issues. That would be very damaging in principle. So I can fully understand the demands for there to be a leak inquiry, though that is obviously a decision for the prime minister [Theresa May] and the cabinet secretary [Sir Mark Sedwill, who is also national security adviser].”

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington insisted that no decision had yet been made on Huawei's involvement in the 5G network, and said findings from an ongoing government review would be released "in the proper way".

The United States, New Zealand and Australia have already barred the company from supplying some elements of their own telecoms infrastructure.

But Jerry Wang, chief executive of Huawei UK, said objections to the firm in the US were "not based on security concerns, but a barely concealed protectionist trade agenda". The company has long denied links to the Chinese state and pointed out that its technology is already used in the 4G network.

Additional reporting by Matt Foster

Tags International Affairs & Security IT & Security Leadership & Management Legal & Constitutional Policymaking Science & Technology Categories Defence and Security Government and politics Science, technology and research About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Opinion: The UK civil service may be the world’s best, but even a Rolls Royce needs a competent driver

7 hours 59 minutes ago
Opinion

At a time when Brexit is revealing a lot about UK governance, a new report has found the British civil service is the worldwide leader. Calum Miller of the Blavatnik School of Government, which published the report, explains the ranking

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Photo: PA

Brexit has illuminated much about the governance of the UK. Who knew that all it took was a government whip to shout “tomorrow” for a vote on a motion to be delayed well beyond tomorrow? Had we considered that a minister could urge MPs to vote for the government position and then promptly vote against himself? And, most fundamentally, how can a parliamentary system of representative democracy organised around political parties respond to the result of an exercise in direct democracy that cuts across party alignments?

A brief glance at the disobliging headlines in the UK and across the world suggests a country in meltdown, incapable of governing itself.

Many will therefore react with amazement that, in the second edition of the International Civil Service Effectiveness Index (InCiSE), published today, the UK civil service is highest ranked of 38 countries, up from fourth in 2017. If our civil service is the best in the world, how can it all be going so badly?

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The most important point to make is that the civil service is not the government. The Northcote-Trevelyan Report of 1854 argued for a civil service appointed on merit not patronage. Though its implementation took some time, that report established that those who administer the state should be selected independently of those who govern it.

In short, the civil service can only serve the government of the day. Civil servants accept that, while they did not choose the government, they owe each one the same commitment to deliver impartial, honest, objective service with integrity. The civil service can do much to support ministers but it cannot – and should not – set the direction of the government.

All well and good, but there will remain those who understand this distinction and nevertheless believe that the UK civil service is not the Rolls Royce it was once claimed to be. Take the Department for Transport. For all the unkind epithets attached to Chris Grayling as secretary of state, weren’t his civil servants part of the process that led to the award of contracts for ‘no deal’ ferry services to a no ferry company to land at a no access port?

These objections are reasonable. Roles may be separated between ministers and civil servants within the executive but the separation is not always visible to those outside. When something goes badly wrong, it is hard to determine who carries the responsibility. Did the minister go against civil service advice? Was the advice flawed? Was the decision sound but the implementation faulty? And, if so, was that solely the fault of the civil servants or did an aspect of the minister’s decision impede effective delivery?

Let’s therefore be clear on what this remarkable result for the UK civil service really tells us. The InCiSE Index has been created to provide a picture of the relative effectiveness of central civil services, drawing on data gathered by a number of other organisations. By publishing comparative data on the performance of these civil services across 12 domains, it allows ministers, journalists and the public to see not only how their civil service ranks absolutely but also in which areas it is relatively strong, or weak.

The 12 domains divide into eight that focus on what a civil service does and four on how it does those things. So, for example, thinking about the activities of central civil services, the UK ranks top on regulation but less highly on digital services. Whereas, thinking about the attributes of a civil service, the UK is the third ranked on openness but only 14th on inclusiveness.

This shows that the UK civil service is not faultless. Like every country covered in the Index, it has the opportunity to learn and improve from the strengths and innovations in other countries. These leaders are diverse: 23 of the 38 countries in the Index rank in the top five for one or more domain. As the UK looks to improve, Estonia leads the way on digital services, while Canada is out in front on inclusiveness.

But – at a time when we are learning much about the governance of the UK – it is striking to consider that the impartial UK civil servants who serve each government are doing a relatively world-class job.

Author Display Name Calum Miller Tags Digital, Data & AI Diversity International Affairs & Security Leadership & Management Legal & Constitutional Operational Delivery Categories Government and politics International Relations About the author

Calum Miller is associate dean and chief operating officer at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University, which published the International Civil Service Effectiveness Index (InCiSE)

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DWP to spend £40m on reassessing benefit payments after errors

8 hours 54 minutes ago
News

Permanent secretary Peter Schofield details cost of deploying hundreds of civil servants to deal with historical errors

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Photo: PA

The administrative burden of correcting historic mistakes in assessing claims for jobseekers’ allowance is expected to cost the Department for Work and Pensions £40m, its permanent secretary, Peter Schofield, has said.

DWP expected to spend around £21m in 2018-19, and a further £19m this financial year, reviewing around 320,000 benefit claims, Schofield said in a letter to parliament’s work and pensions committee.

The department estimates that as many as 105,000 people may have missed out on some of their Employment and Support Allowance – financial assistance paid to people who have a limited capacity to work because they are disabled or ill – between 2011 and 2014.

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Last year DWP drafted in an extra 400 staff to help assess the cases and correct errors in calculating the means-tested part of the benefit, which arose from a national insurance error in 2011. Later in the year it redeployed a further 800 staff from within the department onto the exercise.

Schofield was responding to a question from the committee about how much this would cost the department. The cost of correcting the errors through repayments is already expected to cost the Treasury around £1.7bn by 2025.

His letter, dated 6 March, also showed some of the funding pressures facing his department. Schofield said 2019-20 was set to be the “most stretching year” of a four-year budget settlement decided at the 2015 Spending Review.

Schofield said the 2015 review awarded DWP only 95% of the DEL funding – the department’s discretionary budget – it required to deliver its departmental plan. It has therefore had to find “additional efficiencies” through, among other things, saving costs from third-party suppliers; a “more targeted approach” to spending on digital systems; and improving its use of technology.

The department’s spending budget for 2019-20 is £600m less than the previous year, Schofield said, “the lowest ever funding envelope for the department in recent history”.

“The plan will be challenging to deliver, and will require extremely close monitoring during the year to ensure we remain on track,” he said.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Leadership & Management Transparency & Open Data Categories Government and politics Society and welfare About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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Sedwill and Schofield join Charity for Civil Servants

1 day 1 hour ago
News

'The charity plays an increasingly important part in the wellbeing of so many people,' Schofield says

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The Charity for Civil Servants' 2018 mental health campaign launch at the MoJ. Photo: CSW

Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill has been appointed president of the Charity for Civil Servants, it has announced, while Department for Work and Pensions permanent secretary Peter Schofield will lead the organisation’s board.

Sedwill succeeds the late Jeremy Heywood, also his predecessor as cabinet secretary, as president of the organisation – the principal organisational charity for the UK’s more than two million current and former civil servants.

Schofield will take over as chair from Dame Sue Owen, who retired last month.

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Sedwill said he welcomed the opportunity to work with the charity as it supports civil servants who “work tirelessly to deliver the policy agenda of government, including Brexit – the largest peacetime task the civil service has ever faced”.

The charity provides financial assistance, money advice, counselling and other services for officials, as well as those who have retired or otherwise left the civil service.

The charity said civil servants had approached it for help 48,000 times last year – more than three times the 15,000 requests for help it received two years earlier in 2016. It has so far delivered mental health and wellbeing support on 31,000 individual occasions since launching its mental health campaign last October.

It also paid out £2.2m to alleviate financial need in 2018.

Schofield commented: “The charity plays an increasingly important part in the wellbeing of so many people and I am looking forward to joining the Board and the team at the Charity to help support them with this vital work.”

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Leadership & Management Categories Culture, media and sport Government and politics About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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No department to get NHS-style settlement before Spending Review, Hammond indicates

1 day 5 hours ago
News

Single-department settlements if the Spending Review is delayed would "pre-empt what should be a proper balancing discussion", chancellor insists

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Government departments should not expect to receive individual funding settlements like the one given to the NHS even if there is a delay to the Spending Review planned for later this year, the chancellor has said.

Giving evidence to parliament’s Treasury Select Committee today, Philip Hammond did not rule out the possibility of allocating department-specific funding settlements before a full Spending Review, but said he would oppose such a proposal.

“Setting those allocations for a single department or a single subset within a department would pre-empt what should be a proper balancing discussion across the range of public expenditure,” he said.

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Earlier this month, Hammond said the upcoming Spending Review may not begin before the summer recess as planned because the UK has yet to agree a Brexit deal with the EU.

Asked today whether the exercise could be pushed back to next year, Hammond said the Treasury would “keep an open mind about how the process should unfold”.

He added: “It seems to me that we need to have a clear understanding of where our economy is likely to be going over that three-year period in order to carry out that exercise.”

Challenged on the decision to announce a multi-billion pound settlement for the NHS ahead of the Spending Review last year, Hammond said that had been an “exceptional decision… which we judged was necessary in order to address some of the challenges that it was facing, particularly around workforce planning”.

But he said other departments should not expect the same treatment.

“It would be possible to set a department’s budget or a sub-budget out of the context of a Spending Review, but I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said.

Keeping options open

Hammond also cited Brexit-related uncertainty when asked whether he intended to run a budget surplus in the coming years.

He said for the first time in a decade, the government had "options" about whether to balance its budget or achieve a surplus.

"Given that there is very significant uncertainty about the future trajectory of the economy right now and will remain so until we have resolved the Brexit issue, I don’t think it makes sense to plump for one option or another and rule out the optionality at the moment," he said.

Questions have been raised about whether the chancellor intends to increase spending on public services, as despite his pledge to "end austerity", average departmental budgets are expected to remain flat in real terms.

Asked by committee chair Nicky Morgan whether the government should step up funding for public services in response to reduced private investment in the UK since the EU referendum, Hammond insisted private investment had merely been "postponed".

He gave scarce other details about his plans for the Spending Review but did say that as in previous rounds, departments would be encouraged to submit joint bids for funding in areas such as national security. He added that the Treasury would take a “more in-depth look" at the process for allocating cross-cutting funding.

“We’ve not completed our plans for what we do here, we’ll decide when we launch in the summer, but there are other areas of spending where you could take a similar approach – criminal justice would be certainly an example,” he said.

Brexit preparations to continue

Hammond told MPs that Brexit preparations were taking up a “huge chunk of the Treasury’s capacity”, with 400 of the department’s 1,500 full-time equivalent staff working solely on Brexit-related roles.

And he reiterated assurances by both cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill and prime minister Theresa May that across government, “medium-term work” to prepare for a potential no-deal scenario, such as building IT systems, would continue in the coming months.

This would ensure a “higher level of preparedness” if no deal is in place by the revised Brexit deadline of 31 October than if the UK had left the EU in April, he said.

He acknowledged that “the legal default remains exit without a deal if we can’t reach an alternative conclusion, and therefore it is prudent to continue planning.”

Hammond also confirmed reports that Operation Yellowhammer, the government’s contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit, had been paused in light of the October extension.

“The heightened and immediate work to prepare for a potential no-deal exit in the middle of April was stood down – crisis management teams that were working on an emergency basis were stood down, and that work if we approach October 31 without a resolution, will have to be stood up again but It can’t keep going at that intensity because people were working incredibly long hours, seven days a week,” he said.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Brexit Economy, Business & Infrastructure Finance Spending Review Categories Economics and finance Government and politics About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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UK Export Finance chief gets ministerial direction for £1bn Iraq trade support

1 day 5 hours ago
News

International trade secretary Liam Fox approves doubling of UKEF cover for exports despite warnings move would fall outside established risk framework

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Photo: Vehicles running by the building of Zawra Cinema on Al Rasheed Street in downtown Baghdad, Iraq. Photo: PA/Xinhua/Khalil Dawood

The head of UK Export Finance, the government body tasked with helping British businesses trade across the globe, has demanded a ministerial direction to go ahead with a plan to double its exposure in Iraq to £2bn.

Louis Taylor asked international trade secretary Liam Fox to approve the additional £1bn, which will be used to support exports to the country, after warning that it would “fall outside of UKEF’s established risk framework, which includes limits on the amount of capacity which can be deployed in individual markets based on its risk rating and the size of its economy”.

He added: “For this reason, it would be outside my authority as accounting officer to approve such an increase. While I am satisfied that the increased market capacity, once fully deployed, would not in itself cause UKEF to breach its financial objectives across the portfolio, it would have the potential to disproportionality consume our reserves and available risk appetite if we were to incorporate this support within those financial objectives.

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"This could have the effect of crowding out support for exports to other markets that UKEF may otherwise wish to support.”

Although Taylor acknowledged that UKEF’s existing £1bn support facility for exports to Iraq is “now effectively fully deployed”, he said he needed to ask for the direction to meet the tests of value for money, and for regularity and property, in the Treasury’s Managing Public Money guidance.

“The key tests in this case are regularity in operating within UKEF’s established risk framework, and value for money in terms of the highlighted potential portfolio impact in the event that the Iraqi government were to suffer debt distress,” he said,

“However, I recognise that you may wish to take a wider view of the benefits which UKEF’s ability to support additional priority projects in this market may achieve, and which projects would promote UK national interests.”

In his response, Fox said that having received legally-required consent from Treasury ministers, he was formally directing the finance chief to proceed with increasing UKEF’s available market risk appetite for Iraq by £1bn, to enable it to support further priority projects in the market.

"I also confirm that you should continue to apply UKEF’s established risk standards when considering the acceptability of individual transactions in this market,” he said.

He noted the concerns around the risk of the increased exposure, but said the move was “in the national interest in order to support Iraq’s economic development, promote nation-building and to support additional UK exports to Iraq”.

Taylor’s letter was sent to Fox on 5 April, with the secretary of state responding on 12 April. Four days later on a visit to Iraq, Fox announced the additional capacity, stating it would be used to help UK companies selling to Iraq or invest in the country, or help the government of Iraq access finance for projects that source goods and services from the UK.

“The British government, working closely with the UK private sector and our Iraqi partners, have a key role to play in the country’s long-term prosperity. The £1bn we have announced today will significantly strengthen our ability to do just that,” he said.

This is the first ministerial direction to be issued in 2019. Seven were issued in 2018, the most since 2009.

Four of these sought approval for Brexit-related spending before legislation had been passed, while three others related to policy matters – the decision not to recover overpayments made to local authorities as a result of calculation errors; the feasibility of implementing T Level qualification before 2020, and support for export of Typhoon aircraft to Qatar, also sought by Taylor.

Tags Finance Leadership & Management Legal & Constitutional Operational Delivery Partnership working Transparency & Open Data Categories Economics and finance Government and politics International Relations About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Defence & security focus: managing challenges of Chinese technology ‘one of the most important issues of our time’ says cyber security chief

1 day 7 hours ago
Feature

As the UK faces increasingly complex global threats, our defence and security organisations must work more collaboratively than ever. Here, CSW hears from National Cyber Security Centre chief Ciaran Martin

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The National Cyber Security Centre headquarters in London. Photo: PA

What has been the biggest challenge facing your organisation in the past 12 months?

Our challenge is making the UK the hardest target possible for malicious actors, be they criminals, activists or nation-states. Staying abreast of the evolving threat is definitely our biggest challenge. Following this would be making sure the public, businesses and other government departments are aware of, and taking steps to counter, the threat.

Helping to achieve this is the NCSC’s incident management team which has dealt with more than 550 incidents in the last 12 months. I think that keeping on top of that level of activity is an amazing feat.

“We also have a role in helping the government manage the strategic challenges of Chinese technology. This is one of the most important issues of our time”

How is your organisation adapting to reflect Britain’s changing place in the world?

We’ve made a global impact. More than 50 countries have been to see us to try to engage in partnership with us. Cyber security is the ultimate global issue. We are part of the historic, hugely important Five Eyes alliance with the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Within Europe, whatever else happens, we’re totally committed to European cyber security. And we have a really receptive group of partners in Europe.

We also have a role in helping the government manage the strategic challenges of Chinese technology now and in the future. This is one of the most important issues of our time.

What opportunities or innovations are you excited about in the coming years that will help you improve public outcomes?

I’m really excited this year about our initiatives to make the individual more aware and better-equipped to protect themselves and recognise when they are at risk. The best way of achieving that is by working with other government departments on strategic communications and initiatives. That way, we can engage the public and promote simple measures that people can adopt to stay secure online.

Additionally, the Top Tips for Staff launch will encourage employees in businesses large and small to do their part in keeping themselves, their businesses and – by extension – the UK safe from malicious actors (nation-state or criminal).

What do you think your role will look like in 20 years’ time?

We formed the NCSC in 2016. When we did, we didn’t know what the role would look like in 20 years’ time and I am not sure I can look that far ahead even now. What I can say is this: The NCSC was formed to bring together the community working in cyber-security. It is an agile, pioneering organisation and unsurprisingly there are many nations looking to replicate our model. Looking into the future, I expect my role will be charged with making sure that we are continually innovating and remaining the world-leader in making the UK the safest place to live and work online.

How do you unwind at the end of a long day?

It depends where I am. The only bad thing about this job is I have to spend a lot of time away from home. So when I get home I just want to enjoy family time. When I am away I try to make sure I get out running either at the start or the end of the day. Like many people I find running as much of a mental health benefit as a physical one.

Author Display Name Ciaran Martin Tags Digital, Data & AI International Affairs & Security IT & Security Leadership & Management Categories Government and politics Science, technology and research About the author

Ciaran Martin is the chief executive officer of the National Cyber Security Centre

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Defence & security focus: National Crime Agency DG on its drive to be the pinnacle of law enforcement

1 day 7 hours ago
Feature

As the UK faces increasingly complex global threats, our defence and security organisations must work more collaboratively than ever. Here, CSW hears from National Crime Agency DG Lynne Owens on its work

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National Crime Agency/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

What has been the biggest challenge facing your organisation in the past 12 months?

The NCA is a non-ministerial department like no other, and leading the UK’s fight against serious and organised (SOC) crime presents unique challenges. The scale and complexity of serious and organised crime continues to evolve, with technology playing a bigger role at all levels.

We see criminals using encryption to communicate, the dark web to sell illicit items and substances, and social media to groom victims of child sexual abuse or advertise people smuggling enterprises.

My role as director general of the NCA is not only to lead the agency, but to shape the response to SOC for the whole of law enforcement. This is why I am pressing for a whole system approach, making sure we have the right capabilities in the right places across the spectrum. Given the way policing is currently funded in this country, this is a huge challenge.

“I’m tired of us being referred to as ‘Britain’s FBI’. I want the FBI to be seen as ‘America’s NCA’”

What opportunities or innovations are you excited about in the coming years that will help you improve public outcomes?

We have an opportunity to have a serious conversation about what capacity and capability is needed at a national, regional and local level. This requires a big shift in thinking from where we currently are, but in my view it would enhance our ability to protect the public.

Counter-terror capability and capacity is already split between these levels, so we know it can work, and I’m working closely with national policing leads to define organised crime requirements.

The NCA has established three key projects: the National Data Exploitation Capability (NDEC), which will significantly reduce the time taken to ingest, process and exploit data; The National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), which will help us understand the threat posed by and better respond to economic crime; and the National Assessment Centre (NAC), which will allow us to better identify and understand the threat and prioritise our operational response accordingly. These will over time benefit all of law enforcement and I’m excited to see how they develop and evolve.

How is your organisation adapting to reflect Britain’s changing place in the world?

Brexit represents another significant challenge for law enforcement and the need to maintain our ability to exchange information with partners at pace is vital to our ability to keep the public safe.

Whether that is to access conviction data of overseas nationals or share law enforcement ‘alerts’ on suspected criminals or their activities, this cooperation is vital to the fight against SOC.

The NCA delivers a number of these tools for law enforcement as a whole, as well as maintaining a significant overseas network of officers to support our work. We have reviewed the distribution of our international presence to ensure it is aligned to the SOC threats that most impact the UK. And through close engagement with our counterparts across Europe we will ensure that we have the best access to information so we can maintain our collaboration going forward.

What do you think your role will look like in 20 years’ time?

I’m certain that the nature of serious organised crime will evolve even more significantly in that timeframe.

Traditional geographic structures in policing will be even less relevant and the need to build and share across Whitehall departments, the intelligence community and law enforcement should be embedded.

My leadership role will rely on the ability to influence/negotiate. I hope the Agency is recognised as the pinnacle of law enforcement with responsibility for those functions and capabilities that are best delivered nationally. I’m tired of us being referred to as “Britain’s FBI”. I want the FBI to be seen as “America’s NCA”!

How do you unwind at the end of a long day?

Keeping work and home effectively integrated works for me. It isn’t so much about ‘balance’ but more about trying to enjoy the company of people I am with, wherever that is.

Whilst I do a serious job I try not to take myself too seriously. My husband and daughter make me laugh, I enjoy walking with our maniac springer spaniel and I run (badly) to keep things in proportion.

Author Display Name Lynne Owens Tags International Affairs & Security Leadership & Management Operational Delivery Categories Government and politics Public order, justice and rights About the author

Lynne Owens is the director general of the National Crime Agency

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Alexa joins the civil service: GDS expands use of voice recognition

1 day 8 hours ago
News

More than 12,000 pieces of government information can now be accessed via smart speaker

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An Amazon Echo smart speaker  Credit: Best AI Assistant/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Government Digital Service has expanded its use of voice-recognition technology, with more than 12,000 pieces of information now available to citizens via the use of Alexa or Google Home devices.

Over the last six months, GDS has dedicated “a small team of experts” to a trial scheme to make more government information accessible using voice commands. 

Citizens with smart speakers can now ask the devices a range of questions, including "when is the next bank holiday?" or "what is the minimum wage?", or "how do I apply for a passport?" and "how do I get free childcare?"

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Over the coming months, GDS plans to make more services and information available via voice, including details on car-tax renewal and how to get married.

“We want to simplify people’s interactions with the government, making information clear and accessible to everyone,” said head of GOV.UK Jennifer Allum. “These results are promising because voice services can be a really convenient way to get information, particularly for people who find computers and phones hard to use.”

At its most recent annual Sprint event, which took place in May 2018, GDS indicated that, although its explorations with voice recognition were at a very early stage, it was beginning to examine the role that the technology could play in the digital-government landscape. 

Minister for implementation Oliver Dowden said: “This is all about making life easier for people who need to access information about government services. And with millions now using smart speakers, I want government to keep up and work smarter too.”

Author Display Name Sam Trendall Tags Digital, Data & AI IT & Security Operational Delivery Categories Government and politics Science, technology and research About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology, where a version of this story first appeared.

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DfT faces call for rail franchise probe after bid details leak

2 days 6 hours ago
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Stagecoach says that leak of its plans for East Midlands franchise requires further investigation

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Stagecoach lost the East Midlands franchise to Abellio after its bid was disqualified, Photo: PA

Rail operator Stagecoach has called for an independent review of the Department for Transport’s latest rail franchise award after details of its bid for the East Midlands contract were sent to rival operator Abellio.

DfT announced earlier this month that the East Midlands franchise, which has been run by Stagecoach since 2007, would be transferred to Abellio from August 2019. The department also announced that Stagecoach had been barred from winning the West Coast and South Eastern franchises, after submitting “non-compliant bids”.

Following these decisions, it was revealed that documents containing details of Stagecoach’s bid for the East Midlands route had inadvertently been emailed to Abellio by an official at Network Rail.

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The Times reported that the email included details of Stagecoach’s train service and performance plans and was inadvertently sent to its rival a fortnight before bids were due to be submitted.

DfT said an independent IT expert it commissioned to undertake an investigation following the leak had concluded that the email attachments containing the details had not been opened.

However, Stagecoach said there needed to be a full inquiry into the process.

A spokesperson for the firm said: “We are extremely concerned at what is a serious breach of the integrity of the procurement process and the failure of the Department for Transport to investigate it either promptly or adequately. We do not consider the matter closed and we believe there should be a fresh independent investigation into the confidentiality breach.”

DfT insisted that “Abellio did not access information relating to any other bidders that affected their bid” and that “[there] was no effect whatsoever on the outcome”.

The department added that Stagecoach had “disqualified [itself] from the process by lodging non-compliant bids” for the three franchises.

It is understood that the opertor's bids were deemed not to have met the funding requirements for the Railway Pension Scheme. The pension pot faces a funding gap estimated at as much as £7.5bn, and the government had asked bidders to set out “the costs involved and assumptions made in relation to pension contribution rates, both employer and employee”.

A DfT spokesperson said earlier this month that Stagecoach had submitted “non-compliant” bids not only for the East Midlands franchise but also for South Eastern and the West Coast Partnership, which is expected to be the launch contract for high-speed railway HS2.

The spokesperson said the company had proposed “significant changes to the commercial terms” for all three of the franchises, “leading to bids which proposed a significantly different deal to the ones on offer”.

"It is regrettable that they submitted non-compliant bids for all current competitions which breached established rules and, in doing so, they are responsible for their own disqualification,” they added.

Stagecoach said it had been told by DfT that its bids had been discarded because they did not meet the tender rules, “principally in respect of pensions risk”.

It said bidders had been asked to bear the full, long-term funding risk for parts of the Railways Pensions Scheme, which is facing a multi-billion pound deficit.

When the decision was announced, Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths said he was “extremely concerned at both the DfT's decision and its timing”.

He added: “The department has had full knowledge of these bids for a lengthy period and we are seeking an urgent meeting to discuss our significant concerns."

This is not the first time that Stagecoach and DfT have been at loggerheads over a franchise award. In 2012, the department decided to award the West Coast franchise to operator First Group, but this decision was then challenged by Stagecoach and its partner Virgin Trains, which questioned the viability of First’s bid. It had sought a judicial review of the decision. This led then-transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin to scrap the contract, admitting that DfT had made ‘unacceptable mistakes’, after which Virgin was awarded a series of extensions.

Tags Operational Delivery Procurement & Commercial Categories Government and politics Transport About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Search for next national statistician comes up empty

2 days 7 hours ago
News

Conundrum highlights a dearth of investment in official statisticians' leadership skills, Royal Statistical Society head says

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National statistician John Pullinger. Photo: Photoshot

The UK Statistics Authority’s search for the next national statistician has failed to find anyone to take up the post, it has said.

The UKSA began its search for the government statistics chief, who will also lead the Office for National Statistics, in November. The successful applicant will replace John Pullinger when he retires this summer.

But by the time applications closed in January, the search had failed to attract anyone qualified and willing to fill the £160,000-a-year role. A spokesperson for the authority confirmed that it was “discussing next steps” with the Civil Service Commission.

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The job advert offered a role of between £150,000 and £160,000 – the same as the incumbent’s base salary in 2017-18. When pensions and other benefits were taken into account, Pullinger was paid between £175,000 and £180,000 that year, according to UKSA’s latest annual report.

Officials must now choose whether to reopen the recruitment process or change the job specification. However, it is unlikely a successor will be appointed before Pullinger steps down next month.

Hetan Shah, executive director of the Royal Statistical Society, said that although the government’s deputy national statisticians would be able to “hold the fort” in the interim, it was concerning that UKSA had been unable to attract anyone willing to take up the role.

“The concern for the UK Statistics Authority will be how to get a field of strong candidates in any re-recruitment process that they run, if those candidates were not persuaded to apply the first time around,” he told CSW.

He also urged the authority to “look beyond the immediate problem” and address the management skills gap among civil service statisticians to ensure it does not run into the same problem in future.

“The deeper problem this all points to is that there has not been sufficient investment in building the leadership skills of official statisticians so that there is a pool of candidates for roles of this stature when they come up,” Shah said.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Digital, Data & AI HR Leadership & Management Categories Government and politics About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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Latest civil service & public affairs moves — April 23

2 days 7 hours ago
News

New appointments in the civil service, UK politics, and public affairs, via our colleagues at Dods People

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Government departments

  • Whips’ Office – Craig Whittaker became vice-chamberlain of HM Household (Government Whip).
  • Department for Work and Pensions – Emma Haddad became director general for service excellence, John-Paul Marks became directorn general for work and health services.
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Simon Mustard has been appointed British High Commissioner to the Republic of Sierra Leone. Alison Blake has been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
  • Ministry of Justice: Legal Services Board – Catherine Brown, Tim Sawyer and Ian Hamer named as lay members, Jemima Coleman and Michael Smyth reappointed as board members and Catherine Seddon reappointed as a lay members.
  • Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government: Homes England Lou Downe appointed as director of service design and transformation.
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: UK Space Agency Steering Board – Sally Howes named as chair, replacing David Southwood.

Devolved Authorities

  • Northern Ireland Civil Service: Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation – David de Casseres and Claire Williams appointed to the board.

Local authorities

 

  • Luton Council – Robin Porter to become chief executive on 6 May.
  • Scarborough Council – Michael Greene set to be appointed as chief executive, beginning in August. 

Interest groups

 

  • British Liver Trust – Pamela Healy appointed as chief executive. 
  • Human Appeal – Mohamed Ashmawey appointed as chief executive.

Trade associations

  • Public Affairs Board – George McGregor and Emma Petela became co-chairs, replacing Paul Bristow. Cathy Owens and Paul Church to become vice-chairs.
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Defence & security focus: Two of the PM's key advisers share their thoughts

5 days 17 hours ago
Feature

As the UK faces increasingly complex global threats, our defence and security organisations must work more collaboratively than ever. Here, CSW hears from Madeleine Alessandri, the prime minister's adviser on national resilience and security, and Dr Christian Turner, the prime minister's adviser on international affairs, about the challenges and opportunities ahead

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Photo: Crown Copyright

What has been the biggest challenge facing your organisation in the past 12 months?

The response to Salisbury. The incident tested every element of the national security community. It required a whole-of-system approach, from communications to the scientific, from diplomacy to intelligence, from police to those on the health front line.

In the National Security Secretariat we had to join up all the elements of recovery for the community in Salisbury, investigation of who was responsible and then our national and international response. 

Through an agile and fast response across the UK’s global network, we brought together an international coalition of countries, and domestically we instigated robust measures to crack down on other illicit activity such as money laundering and tightened some of our legislative powers. The immediate result was 28 countries expelling 153 Russian intelligence officers. This reduced Russian capability for hostile intelligence activity, took the Kremlin by surprise, and showed that the UK would act robustly to protect its core interests when under threat. 

The longer term outcome has been to raise international awareness of the threat and the importance of a considered response.

How is your organisation adapting to reflect Britain’s changing place in the the world?

The Fusion Doctrine is a new name for a familiar concept: joining up the various elements (security, economic, influence) of our national security to ensure we can have best outcomes and effect on the hardest challenges we face. This is all the more important in a world of increasing great power rivalry, of hybrid state threats using cyber and disinformation, and at a time of economic uncertainty and movement of populations. Irrespective of Brexit, the UK will need to adapt to face those challenges. We are building a genuinely all-of-government approach as we try to do that.

What opportunities or innovations are you excited about in the coming years that will help you improve public outcomes?

Data is a massive opportunity to make national security capabilities both more targeted and at the same time more transparent. We have to adapt to blend open source material with intelligence to ensure we have the best analysis for the threats that face the UK. 

At the same time the UK’s core strengths – 2% of GDP on defence, 0.7% ODA, world beating intelligence agencies and diplomatic service, and a P5 member [of the UN Security Council] – give us unrivalled soft and hard power and will mean that we are well placed to build the coalitions necessary to defend our interests in a multi-polar world.

What do you think your roles will look like in 20 years’ time?

That depends on what the world looks like. But the core need – to ensure the PM has the best advice and that our national security is greater than the sum of the parts – will not go away.

How do you unwind at the end of a long day?  

Christian sings and walks the dog in the woods (though not at the same time). 

Madeleine walks a different dog and tends to her busy bees.

 

Author Display Name Madeleine Alessandri and Dr Christian Turner Tags Justice and Public Safety Transparency & Open Data Categories Defence and Security Government and politics About the author

Madeleine Alessandri is the prime minister's adviser on National Resilience and Security, and Dr Christian Turner is the prime minister's adviser on International Affairs

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Cabinet Office ‘mentor service’ to match up civil servants

1 week ago
News

Data-processing notice alludes to new platform for pairing up potential mentors and mentees

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Photo: www.amtec.us.com

The Cabinet Office is preparing a new service for matching civil servants interesting in mentoring or being mentored, it is understood.

Earlier this week, the Cabinet Office published online official privacy-notice guidance for what personal data will be gathered by the “civil service mentor service” and how it will be processed by the civil service HR function housed within the department.

The notice outlines that users of the service will provide data on their name, address, department, job role and grade. They will also submit details of their areas of expertise or interest, any previous experience of mentoring, and geographic regions to which they would be willing to travel.

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The service will then “compare and match individuals who apply to become mentors and mentees”, according to the guidance. Anonymised data on prospective mentors or mentees may be shared, but contact details will only be shared once people have been matched.

Details of how the matching service will work in practice – such as the extent to which it will be manual or automated – are thin on the ground, and the Cabinet Office declined to comment further when asked for more information.

But an in-house government mentoring service is understood to have been in the works for some time. 

Earlier this year, about 7,000 users were saddened to hear of the closure of the Mentor Match platform for helping civil servants forge mentoring relationships.

The site, which ran for two and half years, closed after hosting costs became prohibitively high for what was a registered charity – entirely run and funded by its four civil servant founders: Bryony Taylor, Alys Cook, Andrew Wilkinson and Andrew Whitten. 

Before they decided to close the site, the Mentor Match team reportedly had discussions with officials to try and find an ongoing home for the service with government. The Cabinet Office ultimately declined to adopt the platform, deciding instead to proceed with the development of its own mentoring service, as part of the as part of the Learning Platform for Government programme being rolled out by Civil Service Learning.

In a statement issued to CSW's sister publication PublicTechnology in January, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We plan to provide further mentoring opportunities via Civil Service Learning in the future."

The new guidance on the planned activities of the civil service mentor service – which it is understood was published in error, and may be taken down presently – suggests that an in-house service is nearly ready for launch. More details are expected to come out of the Cabinet Office in the coming weeks and months.

Author Display Name Sam Trendall Tags HR Transparency & Open Data Categories Government and politics About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology, where this article first appeared.

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Defence & security focus: MoD head Stephen Lovegrove on competing for talent and combating extremism

1 week ago
Feature

As the UK faces increasingly complex global threats, our defence and security organisations must work more collaboratively than ever. Here, CSW hears from Ministry of Defence permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove about the challenges and opportunities ahead

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What has been the biggest challenge facing your organisation in the past 12 months?

There are many challenges that we work hard to overcome, such as the ever more prominent return of state-based threats, as demonstrated by continued aggressive Russian activity, our ongoing role in the final defeat of Daesh, and combating violent extremism around the world. 

The challenges posed by Brexit, both for the department and for how we can support the rest of government, is unique. 

There’s also the continued challenge of building a modern, fully recruited defence "whole force" that can keep pace with technological change and the evolution of threats, while being representative of our society.

How is your organisation adapting to reflect Britain’s changing place in the world?

We need to be even more representative of our society. There have been some real notable milestones in terms of female representation in the Armed Forces, but there is more we must do.

We are also focusing on strong alliances across the world – we can’t go it alone. NATO is the cornerstone, but also the Joint Expeditionary Force, building stronger links in Asia Pacific and Africa and reinforcing relationships with our allies in the Middle East. 

We have been able to respond more rapidly to the changing context by embracing technology and instilling the Fusion Doctrine. We are also transforming how we do business corporately to be more efficient.

What opportunities or innovations are you excited about in the coming years that will help you improve public outcomes?

Defence in Britain is on the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or perhaps phase two of the third): AI, data science, machine learning, cyber and space. We are superb in these areas. Let’s make them count. 

We’re working harder to get the right talent in the Armed Forces and MoD civil service. Technology and the competition for talent demand this. 

MoD is the biggest employer of apprentices, and I feel it is now more a place where some of Whitehall’s best want to work.

What do you think your role will look like in 20 years’ time?

It will be massively more integrated with every other department as a result of the Fusion Doctrine. Some things won’t change. Tradition and history – rightly applied – are key factors in why our people fight and make MoD such an interesting place to work. And I hope there will continue to be openings for English Literature graduates.

How do you unwind at the end of a long day?

I go home on two wheels, either powered or unpowered, and I find that by the end of 30 minutes of dodging London traffic most of the cares of the day have been firmly dislodged!

Author Display Name Stephen Lovegrove About the author

Stephen Lovegrove is permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence

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Tech solution to Irish border 'won't be ready until 2030', Home Office warns

1 week ago
News

Leaked document warns "government does not have the strongest track record on delivery of large tech projects"

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A mock checkpoint set up by protesters at the Irish border. Photo: PA

A technological solution to the Irish border problem posed by the UK's decision to leave the European Union may not be ready for a decade, a leaked document from the Home Office has revealed.

The department has been searching for technology that would enable it to manage the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – the UK’s only land border with the EU – without checkpoints after Brexit, as an alternative so the so-called Irish backstop included in prime minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.

But such technology would be costly and would likely take until 2030 to develop and deploy, according to a presentation by home secretary Sajid Javid’s policy unit, seen by Sky News.

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The document appeared to rule out the possibility of a technological alternative to the backstop being ready for the UK’s departure from the EU, despite the deadline having been extended to 31 October.

The backstop, which means the UK will effectively enter a customs union with the EU after Brexit if no other way to manage the Irish border is agreed, has been one of the main stumbling blocks for May’s deal, which has been voted down repeatedly in parliament.

The document, sent to HM Revenue and Customs and the Treasury, set out a complex system involving blockchain technology, sensors, machine learning and automatic revenue collection, Sky News reported.

The system would require input from 28 government agencies and “a myriad of interconnected existing and planned IT systems”, the presentation said.

It said the system would enable “seamless collection and analysis of the data needed” to monitor people and goods crossing the border, but would be expensive to implement.

"There is currently no budget for either a pilot or the programme itself," it added.

It also warned that such an approach was untested, as "no government worldwide currently controls different customs arrangements with no physical infrastructure at the border", and would require the agreement of the ROI.

The document also raised doubts about the UK government’s ability to deliver such an ambitious IT project.

"It is a big and complex project, with possibly tight deadlines. Government does not have the strongest track record on delivery of large tech projects,” it said.

Several high-profile tech projects have run into lengthy delays and costly overspends in recent years, including the Home Office’s Emergency Services Network overhaul and its programme to digitise DBS checks.

Addressing the combined overspend of nearly £1.5bn on these two projects last month, cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill told a committee of MPs that not all major government projects could be expected to stick to their original timelines.

“Programmes of this complexity sometimes go on and off track. They are subject to events,” he told the committee.

Last year the National Audit Office warned that departments were too often overambitious about what they can achieve on major projects, which risked public money being “wasted on a grand scale”.

A Home Office spokesperson said the department did not comment on leaks.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Brexit Economy, Business & Infrastructure International Affairs & Security Project & Programme Management Categories Government and politics International Relations About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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Crossrail opening ‘could be delayed until 2021’

1 week ago
News

Worst-case scenario timescale emerges after MPs voice doubts about official 2020 target

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Light at the end of the tunnel? Crossrail workers in 2016. Photo: PA

London’s troubled Crossrail project may not be fully operational until 2021, pushing back the £17.6bn project’s already-delayed opening still further, it has been claimed.

Earlier this month, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee expressed doubts that the rail link could be delivered to its agreed budget – already a £2.8bn increase on 2010’s planned cost – and the 2020 opening pledged after last December’s long-promised opening was pushed back.

In a further blow to a project described for years as “on time and on budget”, the BBC today reported sources suggesting that a “worst case” scenario would not see services operating through the new line’s central tunnelled section until Spring 2021.

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The report said the opening date would depend on progress made on matching the line’s signalling system with software on the new trains that will operate its services – which will run every three minutes through the central section at peak times.

Crossrail is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and Transport for London. Earlier this month, the PAC criticised DfT's governance of the project and demanded to know what consequences the “highly paid executives” of delivery body Crossrail Limited had faced for the cost overruns and delays.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said “serious risks” remained with the programme, and pointed out that a revised schedule and cost for completing the work were “still to be agreed”.

Crossrail Limited has yet to set at new opening date for the line’s main tunnelled section, but has indicated that it will be in 2020. The PAC said it was “not convinced” services would start to run in 2020, or that the department knew how much it would cost to complete the project.

Crossrail Limited chief executive Mark Wild is due to set out a revised “opening window” for the project later this month.

Today’s BBC story attributed the worst-case scenario of 2021 to a “senior source associated with the project”. Their best-case estimate for the line’s opening was Spring 2020, meaning that their “opening window” for Crossrail would be between Spring 2020 and Spring 2021.

Crossrail is designed to deliver extra rail capacity for London by linking Reading and Heathrow in the West to Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in South East London via 26 miles of new tunnels and 10 new stations. It will be called the Elizabeth Line when services are operational.

Services using Crossrail trains are already running from Shenfield into Liverpool Street, and services from Reading into Paddington are expected to commence in December.

However, any meaningful “opening” of the project would need to involve the cross-London services that are the project’s core purpose.

A spokesperson for Crossrail said that “dynamic testing” was under way on the tunnelled section on the line, with trains running speeds of up to 62mph ahead of planned trial running and trial operations phases. The line’s 10 new stations are at differing stages of completion, however.

“London needs the Elizabeth Line completed as quickly as possible and brought into service for passengers,” they said.

“We are working very hard to finalise our new plan to deliver the opening of the Elizabeth Line at the earliest opportunity and we will be providing more details later this month.”

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BEIS working up plans for new labour abuses regulator

1 week 1 day ago
News

Business department also aims to save £10m a year from research councils merger

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Business secretary Greg Clark. Photo: PA

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is working up options for creating its new labour market abuses watchdog, according to business secretary Greg Clark. 

Ministers announced in early March that it was pressing ahead with the creation of a single enforcement body for protecting employment rights.

The new body will bring together the relevant functions of the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the minimum wage enforcement arm of HM Revenue and Customs, and the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS).

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Writing to Rachel Reeves, chair of the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Clark said the government would publish proposals on the new body "shortly".

"As part of the Spending Review we will consider what level of funding is appropriate to ensure that it is adequately resourced to deliver its strengthened remit," he added,

The GLAA investigates reports of exploitation and illegal activity in the workplace, while the EAS safeguards the rights of agency workers.

The new body would have powers to police standards in areas like holiday pay and minimum wages.

In separate correspondence, BEIS permanent secretary Alex Chisholm revealed that the government is seeking £10m worth of annual savings from the merger of the government’s research councils.

Last year BEIS merged the seven councils, which fund R&D by universities and other bodies, with Innovate UK and the related functions of the Higher Education Funding Council for England to form an umbrella body, UK Research and Innovation.

Chisholm’s letter to the committee, which followed its recent hearing into the department’s supplementary estimates for 2018-19, said the savings would be achieved via a transformation programme that is kicking off this financial year.

He writes: "It is envisaged that programme will create administrative savings and efficiencies relative to total budget by reviewing both working practices across the former nine organisations (centralisation of common functions) and streamlining systems; once the programme is complete by FY (full year) 2022-23, relative annual savings of £10m are expected."

In response to a question about UKRI’s budget allocations, Chisholm’s letter states £242m, or 3.3% of UKRI’s total £7.3bn budget, was spent on overheads.

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FDA and Crown Prosecution Service team up to launch stress-busting toolkit

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Union says it took initiative after data showed stress and mental health are biggest reason for CPS absences

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Stress and mental health issues are the single biggest reason for absence in the Crown Prosecution Service, it has emerged as the organisation and the FDA union launched a toolkit to tackle the issue.

Helen Wheatley, the union’s health and safety representative at the CPS, began working on the best practice policy after analysing data provided by the agency showing how much stress and mental health issues are fuelling absence rates.

The resulting CPS Managing Work-Related Stress Policy, which is supported by the PCS, was put in place last month.

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The stress-busting toolkit, which has been designed by FDA members, is believed to be the first of its kind implemented in any UK government department or agency.

It seeks to tackle stress by providing tools for staff members and managers to identify the issue, while ensuring that “individuals who experience stress are supported and managed effectively and sensitively.”

The toolkit focuses both on at-risk staff members and the problems particular projects can generate.

Specific tools include a form that individuals can fill in about themselves where they answer a series of yes/no or ranking questions, and another to be filled in by managers about the staff members under them.

The toolkit also includes a stress identification and referral flowchart for managers, together with information on how to spot stress in yourself or others.

FDA national officer Steven Littlewood called for the toolkit to be implemented across government departments and bodies.

He said: “Stress is not just isolated to CPS – it is endemic throughout public service.

“What Helen has created is a blueprint. Her policy can be replicated, and we would like to see more employers use her work to help their staff.

“It looks at stress as an issue that can affect the individual and the collective."

Wheatley researched practice in the NHS trusts to develop a policy relevant for the CPS.

She said: “We do not come to work to be made ill. Seeking to address this issue head on has clear benefits for the organisation as a whole but also for the individual, who’s home life is also affected by issues at work.

“I am very proud to have been the FDA lead on this together with national convenor for the CPS Section David Chrimes, who realised some time ago that the CPS needed such a policy and who has provided support and advice throughout the negotiation process with CPS.”

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