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Civil Service Recruitment: Heads of Departments

Published Thursday, February 8, 2018

This briefing sets out the current rules for recruitment to the heads of department roles in the Civil Service.

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The Civil Service Commission and the Recruitment Principles

The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 requires selection for appointment to the Civil Service to be on merit on the basis of fair and open competition. The Civil Service Commission is required to publish Recruitment Principles which Departments and Agencies must apply for this purpose. The Act also allows the Commission to exempt some appointments from these requirements. The last major revision of the Recruitment Principles was in early 2014. The Commission intends to issue a slightly revised version of the principles to come into effect from the 2018/19 financial year.

The Appointment of Permanent Secretaries

The Government’s June 2012 Civil Service Reform Plan stated that Ministers should have a greater role in the appointment of Permanent Secretaries.  In response, the Civil Service Commission published a note explaining the role of Ministers in Permanent Secretary appointments. It argued that giving Ministers a choice of candidates would not be compatible with the requirements of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. However, in October 2014 the Civil Service Commission announced that from December 2014, the Prime Minister would be given a choice of appointable candidates for Head of Department Civil Service roles.

Extended Ministerial Offices 

Following recommendations made in a June 2013 Institute for Public Policy Research report, the Government announced in July 2013 that Ministers would be able to establish Extended Ministerial Offices (EMOs). The IPPR’s 2013 report had recommended that Secretaries of State and Ministers who run Departments should be provided with an extended office of Ministerial staff that they could personally appoint and who would work on their behalf. However, the 2016 Ministerial Code removed the provisions for EMOs which led to their dismantling. Initial take up of the EMOs was low and the total number established during the period was five.

 

Commons Briefing papers SN06697

Authors: Lucinda Maer; Georgina Ryan-Whate

Topic: Civil Service

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