Examination of Witness (Questions 60-79)|
THURSDAY 13 MARCH 2003
TURNBULL KCB CVO
60. If you are actually going to achieve this
transformation of public services that you have set out, one of
the things that will hold it back is the competence of individual
civil servants or particular sections, and we have had reports
from the Ombudsman, something like the Immigration and Nationality
Department, where they sent 5,000 cases in one day to the appeal
authority and did not even have an index of what those cases were.
What are you doing actually about the competence of civil servants
and Civil Service departments?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) There is work done to improve
the training of civil servants; there is a lot of training at
the point where people first come into the Service, but we are
increasing the amount of effort that we put in all the way through
people's careers, and we are relating more of that to certain
delivery capabilities. But, secondly, and this is illustrated
by the IND case, this may have actually very little to do with
the competence of individual civil servants, as opposed to the
system in which they work. And one of the things that has happened
is that the IND has worked in conjunction with the Delivery Unit
to improve issues of process. I will give you another example,
which is the Street Crime Initiative. Lots of people working,
very competent people, but not working well as a system. And one
of the results of the Prime Minister's intervention in that area
was to get work done on what is the role of all the players down
that chain, from the police on the streets arresting; the Crown
Prosecution Service bringing offenders to court; the courts themselves;
probation; the correction services, and whatever. And you can
make a huge amount of progress simply by improving the system
in which people operate, as well as raising their individual skills.
Certainly we have got to do both.
Chairman: Thanks for that. I think Gordon Prentice
would like to continue this line of questioning.
61. I wonder if I can ask you, Sir Andrew, to
tell us about the morale of the Civil Service; is it good, is
it bad, or what? It is not a trick question.
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) If you ask of the morale of
the Civil Service, my experience is, you get very different arguments.
If you say, "Do you like your job?" you get a very,
very high score. "Do you like the colleagues you work with;
do you like the unit you work in?" you can get some very,
very high scores. And the further you move away from that to the
point of saying, "Do you like the Head of the Civil Service?"
or whatever, unless that unit relates directly to you, the poorer
the score you will get. People like to succeed and feel that they
are making a difference and making progress, and there are large
numbers of areas where that is the case; but also feeling that
they are being resourced now with increasing amounts of money,
and so that alibi, you know, "We'd like to help you but we
just haven't got the money to do it" is being removed. So
I think people feel that this is a system that is developing.
They can see large numbers of areas where the outcomes that they
are working on are improving. On the other hand, there are a lot
of people still working under a lot of pressure. Working with
the public gets more difficult all the time, people are more demanding,
rightfully so, over time, probably better educated, ready to argue
the toss, exert their rights. So that side of working with the
public gets more difficult. But, overall, I think people feel
that this is a system that is moving forward.
62. What about the people at the very top, the
permanent secretaries, because I have in front of me here a recent
piece in The Times that talks about "bonfire of the mandarins"
and that you, not you, but permanent secretaries and the top people,
are all going to be subjected to rigorous psychometric testing?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) I think this is a derivative
piece from a piece that appeared two days earlier in the FT, which
was the originator of this story.
63. Is it true though?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) Not quite, no. When DEFRA was
set up, it was a department set up in some sense out of crisis,
and it recognised that the new structure gave the department a
new start. They recognised that the performance of their middle
managers, as a group needed to be improved. So they have instituted
a system which applies to roughly all Grade 5s who go through
a process of identifying their competences, 360-degree reporting.
This is then when the story starts to go wrong. What is the purpose
of this? The purpose is to identify one of three outcomes. What
is the training development that this officer needs; secondly,
in some cases, there are people who are very good but are in the
wrong job. They are specialists and they like being specialists
and they are good at being specialists, so you reorganise them
in a different way. Or, thirdly, there are some people to whom
we say, "Regretfully, we don't think you contribute to the
department," and you get into a discussion about severance.
Now that is the minority. The first category is the most important,
which is developing the people that you have got. The story was
written up as though it was entirely about category number three.
It was rewritten in The Times a few days later.
64. We are talking about top civil servants
doing these exercises, such as prioritising what is in their in-tray.
If I were the Permanent Secretary in DEFRA, I would find that
a bit demeaning, I suppose?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) I do not know; it depends how
it was done.
65. "Would you please prioritise what is
in the in-tray;" would that make a difference?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) I would not describe the assignment
in that way. First of all, you are working from the way it was
written up, not necessarily how actually it was being developed
in the department. But this process, particularly at this level,
roughly Grade 5, is the point in the Civil Service where people
begin to exercise significant management responsibility for the
first time. Lots of departments have recognised it. Certainly
it was true of the Treasury that we do not do enough to equip
people for that transition, for that step up in responsibilities.
And the DEFRA exercise is probably the most extensive of these
kinds of exercises, but you will find similar programmes in DTI,
the Treasury is working on one similar. It is not unique to DEFRA.
66. Was it your decision to bring Faraday Partnership
into DEFRA, or was it Margaret Beckett's, did she have any role
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) It was certainly a decision
of the DEFRA Management Board.
67. Well she sits on that, obviously?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) Yes, well not necessarily sits,
at meetings, month by month, but I assume that that was agreed
with her, and indeed this article was claimed to be.
68. Why was it necessary to go out to the Faraday
Partnership and not to use the in-house expertise that you must
have in the Civil Service to do this kind of work?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) I am not sure, necessarily,
that we have the expertise in the quantity that we need it. It
is a very large programme.
69. So we have got the DTI, DEFRA, you will
actually go sequentially through all the departments doing this
exercise; is that the idea?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) By and large, they will tailor
it to their own requirements, rather than having this imposed.
I think that gives more commitment and buy-in to it, but a lot
of departments will run similar programmes.
70. I am interested in performance-related pay
and how you motivate top people, and in your latest document,
which we all have in front of us here, it talks about new pay
systems to sharpen team and individual performance. Is it causing
any problems in the Civil Service that some people are being brought
in from outside, and you acknowledge this is happening, who are
on monster salaries, and working alongside people who are on the
traditional Civil Service scales; is that an issue?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) It is an issue, but one of the
features of the new SCS system is that we are establishing pay
ranges that are quite large, and under the old system we had these
large ranges but, by and large, people complained that they never
made any progress up, you could work for ten years and you made
ground only about a quarter of the way up the scale. The new system
is seeking to make it possible to make progress up to a certain
specified target point and make a reality of that. So we have
the consolidated increases up the scale that are significantly
bigger than the increase in the scale itself. So, the pay of individual
senior civil servants has gone up on average by, say, 4%, compared
with the increase in the scale by, say, 2%. In other words, we
have closed a bit of the gap between ourselves and the market.
Nevertheless, we are still bringing in people, there are several
people in the Service who are paid more than me.
71. That was my next question.
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) I do not find that a problem.
If it became a very, very kind of widespread problem, we would
have to deal with it. We are I think, in a phase where there are
certain market skills, particularly really good IT managers, project
managers and finance directors, which are scarce skills. Also
they are not available in the numbers we want inside the Civil
Service. I think there is a recognition that it is sensible to
go out and acquire those skills and pay what you need to pay to
72. I recall, a few weeks ago, that the Lord
Chancellor got a whopping great pay rise because his pay was linked
to the Lord Chief Justice, I think, and the Lord Chief Justice's
pay was linked to yours, am I right?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) I think the problem was that
the Lord Chief Justice's pay was not linked to mine. For good
reasons, it is thought inappropriate that judges are in a world
of performance pay; who then is to judge the judges? They are
on spot scales. In a world where the people that they are roughly
comparing themselves with have performance pay but they have a
spot points, over time their pay will fall behind our pay. Then
every so often there is a jump, and this year, for example, the
judiciary are getting the second stage of a kind of catch-up increase.
Now this process can go on indefinitely, having these periodical
catch-up increases. However, the SSRB decided it needed to bring
some kind of order or system to this. It is looking, as part of
its next year's review, at how you achieve some degree of equity
between civil servants who are on performance pay and judges who
are not, so they do not have this feeling of being left behind
and then taking a lurch every three or four years.
73. I understand that. Can I just move track
completely now and ask a couple of questions about targets. You
said in your opening statement that you wanted to give the front
line more responsibility for setting targets, and I am interested
in how this works in a devolved Britain. Because you are responsible
for outcomes across the United Kingdom, and yet we have a system
in Wales now, with the devolved administration there, which is
pretty sharply diverging from practice in England, where we are
still locked onto targetry; the Welsh are ditching that, are they
not, in large measure?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) I do not know whether they are
ditching it. Certainly in the devolved services they can develop
different ways of working, and in Wales and Scotland indeed that
is the case. And the Delivery Unit operates primarily on the English
departments, and then, by a kind of transfer of best practice,
that gets translated into Scotland and Wales, rather than any
sort of formal jurisdiction.
74. Would you still describe the Senior Civil
Service as a gentleman's club?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) I have never described it as
a gentlemen's club. I think I know where you got this from. There
was an article, which someone has got off the website, which had
some piece about me, and then someone else described it as a gentleman's
club. It is not a phrase I have used. However, I accept fully
that we have a duty to make progress towards our diversity targets
and we are making progress, but we are not there. A gentleman's
club is not quite the right characterisation; by comparison with
commercial life, our gender balance, for example, is better but
it is not satisfactory, it does not meet yet the objectives we
have set ourselves.
75. What steps are you taking actually to achieve
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) The first is over recruitment.
In the last few years, the graduate recruitment now has as many
women as men, but that takes you some way back in the pipeline.
Then there is the issue of women who lose a few years by taking
time out. How do you ensure that, their careers in the Service,
they catch up, that they do not lose time? I would not have thought
we have been as good at that as we should have been. We can try
to be more effective in ways in which we offer part-time working,
the kind of models of part-time working, all sorts of ways of
76. Do you do that?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) We do. Also we can harness technology,
in the sense that now we have secure modems which, effectively,
allow people to work on the same material at home as in the office.
This is not just useful for men who want to work all day and all
night but actually is a great boon to people that want to work,
say, four days but spend only three days in the office.
77. Can I just ask you, is there a uniform policy
across all departments, in terms of trying to change the balance,
and do you have departments which have a particularly low ratio
of female to male?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) The target for the SCS is one
for the SCS as a whole, and most departments simply have taken
that and made it their own departmental target. So there is variation.
The MoD, maybe for historical reasons. Maybe it will be always
have a lower proportion of women than elsewhere, because someone
has got to be lower than the average, but even they are accepting
that this is something that needs to change.
78. Also, if we look at people with disabilities,
there seem to be a few issues in terms of how many people are
being employed; have you got further plans in that direction?
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) Yes. Of the three targets, it
is possibly the most difficult. We have made some progress, but
we are trying to get the SCS from 1.5 to 3%, and we are only 1.7%,
so we have still got some way to go. But we have our various programmes,
and there is a thing called the "bursary scheme" which
is to help people with disabilities, try to find out what is the
nature of the disability, what is the particular special help
that they need.
79. Would you say that you are leading or lagging
in relation to private industry, as far as people with disabilities
(Sir Andrew Turnbull) I think, if you take the average,
we are probably better. But I am sure that you will find the best
private sector employers probably are ahead of us, and that is
what we should be aspiring to, rather than the average.