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All of Whitehall’s best jobs will be open to external recruitment

Credit: Alachua County/CC BY 2.0

A government reform statement pledging to make recruitment for all senior civil service positions open to external applicants by default has been posted online, Cabinet Minister Steve Barclay has confirmed.

Barclay said the change – effective from Friday when it emerged the government was planning a 20% cut in the civil service workforce over the next three years – would boost diversity across departments, widen expertise and would open up opportunities for people outside of London. The Cabinet Office said Barclay had written to his Cabinet colleagues outlining the changes and advising ministers that they will have to personally approve any application for an SCS post without external advertising.

Although the nomenclature differs somewhat from one agency to another, we find in the ranks of the senior civil service six key roles in the digital, data and technology profession: director of digital and information; chief architect; director or deputy director of the DDaT service; data controller; chief technology officer; and head of cybersecurity.

Confirming the enactment of the commitment to publicize these and all other SCS positions externally, Barclay praised the “great job of delivering public services to people across the country” that is being done by the public servants and highlighted the power of “diversity in leadership” to help organizations thrive.


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“The path to achieving this goal is to ensure that the civil service is able to select from the widest pool of talent possible so that we can hire the most qualified staff,” Barclay said. “It will also contribute to our commitment to improving opportunities across the UK by moving roles out of London.”

Barclay has acknowledged the government’s fast-track plans to downsize departments – which he has previously described as “empowering” for the career progression of lower-ranking civil servants. He said more open recruitment would help ensure departments hire the best people available.

“We want to reduce the size of the civil service so that it is back to the levels we had in 2016, but it remains important that when we recruit, particularly for management positions, we are able to bring in the best possible candidates for each position,” he said.

Baroness Gisela Stuart, the newly appointed first Civil Service Commissioner, told the FDA union’s annual conference last week that she expects the default opening of SCS positions to external applicants “to increase considerably” the number of recruitment competitions supervised by the commission. She said the commission should “evolve” accordingly.

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

He said a further change would mean there would be a requirement for all SCS roles to be advertised on both lateral move and promotion bases, expanding opportunities for progression and diversity in candidate pools.

According to the Cabinet Office, offering leadership positions on a promotion basis has been shown to increase candidate diversity, in particular bringing more women to the top grades.

He indicated that at present, 47.3% of SCS positions are held by women, compared to 35.9% in 2011. The department noted that this figure is nevertheless lower than the average for the civil service. – the majority of the workforce is female.

The Cabinet Office admitted that the representation of ethnic minorities in the SCS lags even further behind, at 8.2%, compared to 14.3% for the civil service as a whole. He said the new change to the civil service recruitment framework would boost diversity and “broaden the experience and background of civil service leaders”.

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