Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Memorandum by Mr Douglas Alexander MP, Minister of State, Cabinet Office (PAP 65A)


  During my evidence to the Committee on 31 October, we discussed the effectiveness of the Public Appointments Unit (PAU) and the need for a central directory of vacancies.

  I thought it might be helpful if I updated the Committee on the work we are doing to change the role of the Unit, as part of our strategy to encourage people from more diverse backgrounds to apply for public appointments.

  We recognise how difficult it is for people who are interested in serving on a public body to find information about the vacancies that are available and we are taking steps to address this. The PAU has been working in partnership with colleagues in the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on the development of a new vacancies website. This will provide, for the first time, a single source of information about public appointments vacancies at national, regional and local levels across England and the UK. People will be able to search the site by subject area, Government Department and by location to find details of the vacancies available and how to apply. The new public appointments vacancies website will be launched on 27th March at

  The website will be hosted alongside DWP's worktrain website which contains information about job vacancies, learning opportunities and opportunities in the voluntary sector. The joint partnership working of the Cabinet Office and DWP on this initiative is a real example of how Government Departments can work together to provide information and improve accessibility.

  The PAU's own website is also being relaunched at This will provide general information about public appointments, how to get involved, the process and the range of public bodies. There will be a direct link to the vacancies website and both sites will go on-line at the same time.

  For people who do not have access to the Internet, the Unit is producing a bi-annual newsletter that will include details of all the vacancies. This will be sent to individuals and other external stakeholders.

  The effectiveness of the public appointments register maintained by the PAU has also been reviewed. In the past, the register has been a source of names available to Departments when drawing up a field of candidates for specific appointments. However, it has not operated proactively and people have been on the register for a number of years and never been approached about an appointment. This has led us to conclude that a centrally maintained register is no longer the most effective way to meet the needs of people who wish to become involved in public life. We have therefore decided to close the register.

  We believe that the changes we are making will provide greater access to information about public appointments supporting the Government's wider objectives on diversity, putting citizens first and extending the range of services on-line. I hope the Committee will agree.

March 2003

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