Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Call to end Whitehall 'closed shop'

Michael Dugher will say he wants to end the 'closed shop' culture of the civil service

The Labour Party is to unveil new targets to help boost the number of working class and ethnic minority candidates entering the civil service.

A future Labour government would fast-track hundreds of w orking class candidates and applicants from black and minority ethnic communities (BME) in order to create a more inclusive and representative civil service, as part of their One Nation vision for Britain.

In a speech on Tuesday, Labour's shadow minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Dugher will say that Whitehall has become too "distant and remote" from the very people it serves.

He will say: "Labour would make sure kids from working class backgrounds can help run the country by busting open Whitehall. We want ordinary kids with extraordinary talents to be able to go from the classroom to the corridors of power.

"Politics can often feel distant and remote from working people - Labour's answer is to put them at the heart of our system. We want a One Nation civil service which looks more like those it is intended to serve.

"The civil service is like a closed shop, with fewer women, fewer ethnic minorities and fewer kids with working class parents. Labour will create a new generation of civil service leaders which will change the culture of government."

Mr Dugher will tell the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank: "A Labour government would be One Nation in outlook as well as make-up. One of the greatest ambitions must be to help run your country and this should never be confined to one region, class or gender."

Under a shake-up of the Fast Stream programme, the proportion of black and ethnic minority candidates will double from its current level to 18%, while working-class candidates will need to make up 24% of the scheme.

Since 2010, the make-up of ethnic minority people in the civil service has fallen by almost 10%, with less than one in ten mandarins now from an ethnic minority.

There is a similar pattern regarding the number of women. In 2010, 43% of Cabinet Office senior civil service staff were women; this dropped to 39% last year, while numbers in the Senior Civil Service are down 9%. Two thirds of the lowest paid jobs but only a quarter of the highest paid go to women.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: "To win the global race we need the best civil servants regardless of their background. This Government's reform programme will ensure we have an exceptional civil service delivering high quality public services more cheaply. As part of our reforms, we launched a new apprenticeship scheme to open up Whitehall to those without a degree.

"We know that for too long talent management in the civil service has been weak. That's why Francis Maude has commissioned research to examine the blockages preventing women from reaching the most senior levels of the civil service."

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