The bad news is that the reforming ambitions of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are ill-judged and unrealisable. An Institute of Public Administration (IPA) report (Boyle 2013) compels this conclusion. The good news is that the makings of a more realistic model are available. Evidence from a National Economic and Social Council (NESC) report (NESC 2012) point a better way forward.
Who can doubt that weaknesses in the civil service contributed to the crisis. We cannot understand these weaknesses without attention to the links that inextricably bind the civil service to politics. We cannot expect to discover what might be done to improve the civil service without noticing how our politics have changed.
In my first post, I outlined the difficulties and incoherencies in the conduct of our politics that contributed to the crisis. In particular, I drew attention to the limitations of the ‘genre’ in which Ministers and civil servants cooperated. The ‘court’ model was, I suggested, no longer working. In this part, I attempt to make good that claim by showing how the quite dramatic changes in our political landscape that became manifest in 1980s have undermined the genre. I do this in two sections. In the first, I outline what the changes have been in terms of the strategy, culture and structure of the state. Having done that, I am in a position to discuss the consequences of the changes for democracy in general and the civil service-political interface in particular.