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"A Departure from Normal Practice"

Posted on the 12 July 2013 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth
The Indie is currently running an exclusive reporting that "David Cameron is trying to force the head of Britain’s civil service - Sir Bob Kerslake - out of his job because of his (we assume they mean the PM's) frustration at the slow pace of Whitehall reform".

The report continues "It is believed that the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has been asked by Mr Cameron to draw up a shortlist of possible successors. In a significant break with tradition, the successful candidate could come from outside the civil service". Commenting on the appointment in November 2011 of Sir Bob as head of the civil service the same Mr Cameron who now apparently considers him a bit of a ditherer said Sir Bob would bring a "wealth of experience" to the role.

According to the Guardian (15th November 2011) "Kerslake will now combine his new role with his current job as permanent secretary at Eric Pickles' department for communities and local government – a role he has only occupied for a year, taking it up last November (2010). He previously established and then served as the first chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency (2008 - 2010). From 1997 to 2008 he was the chief executive of Sheffield Council".

Prior to that he was chief executive of the London Borough of Hounslow. In other words, Sir Bob is not your archetypal "career" civil servant - unlike Sir Jeremy - and the wealth of experience he brought with him mostly related to running a local authority, which is one of the reasons he was felt eminently suitable to be the permanent secretary at the DCLG, which, as the G made clear, he continued to be, in addition to being head of the civil service.

So the (relatively new) "tradition" that someone directly appointed to a post of Permanent Secretary with no previous civil service experience is then one year later made head of the civil service may be about to be broken; with someone with no experience at all being appointed to the role in succession to Sir Bob. Well it ties in nicely with the suggestion that Cabinet Ministers should be able to choose and appoint their permanent secretaries, and also directly appoint their own private office staff, and, obviously, once all that is in place, the wholly apolitical civil service will become a reality.

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