"Civil Servants, not ministers, are the main policy makers within the core excecutive." Discuss.


Mind Map on "Civil Servants, not ministers, are the main policy makers within the core excecutive." Discuss., created by Amber Turley on 04/17/2015.
Amber Turley
Mind Map by Amber Turley, updated more than 1 year ago
Amber Turley
Created by Amber Turley about 8 years ago

Resource summary

"Civil Servants, not ministers, are the main policy makers within the core excecutive." Discuss.
  1. The traditional Formal Constitutional Model (Kevin Theakson) behind the relationship between ministers and civil servants is the that, the civil servant advises, the minister decides.
    1. This theory is based on the expertise the civil servants have their department, as they know all of the facts they need to advise the minister on policies; however, it is down to the minister to make the final decision.
      1. In the end, it is the minister who is ACCOUNTABLE for the policy, not the civil servants.
    2. The civil service is the state bureaucracy and exists to administer government.
      1. Civil servants are meant to be impartial; however, as nearly all of the senior civil servants are white men with Oxbridge degrees, many Labour ministers have complained about the intrinsic conservatism of the civil service.
        1. Mandarins (the most senior civil servants) spend most of their career in one department and their roles include : preparing legislation, implementing policy, administering their department and managing their departmental budget.
          1. There is a set hierarchy in each department, starting with a permanent secretary, then deputy secretary, then under-secretary and so on.
            1. Civil servants keep their position regardless of changes in Government
            2. Civil Servants sign the Official Secrets Act which enables their advice to be CONFIDENTIAL and UNKNOWN to the public.
              1. This is because civil servants are meant to give their advice in PRIVATE and remain ANONYMOUS; however it is now the case that civil servants can now be blamed for bad advice as their advice is being made public.
                1. Example: David Kelly, a civil servant of the MoD, was blamed forgiving wrong advice on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. The release of his name resulted in him committing suicide.
                  1. 22000 civil servants in the MoD. There are about 6-7 ministers. This clearly shows the greater size of the civil service in comparison to the ministers.
                    1. Civil servants do not write memoirs after they retire like most ministers do as they have to keep their advice private due to this act.
                    2. Coalition ministers, such as Teresa May, the Home Secretary, have blamed civil servants for policy errors. In her case, she blamed her civil servants for the mistakes over the deportation of Abu Qatada (a terrorist suspect.)
                      1. She should have taken the blame, not the civil servants.
                        1. Civil servants can't defend themselves once they have been blamed.
                  2. The role of civil servants is very different to that of a minister.
                    1. Ministers have to decide on government priorities, allocate funds to tackle problems within their department, create green and white papers, defend their policies in the Commons and in the media whilst piloting their legislation through Parliament.
                      1. Ministers also have to find time for their constituents if he/she wants to retain their seat at the next election!
                    2. The relationship between ministers and civil servants.
                      1. The Adversarial model.
                        1. Defined by the relationship of conflict between the two.
                          1. In this relationship, the minister may chose to ignore or listen to the civil service advice so it is actually unknown who makes the decision here as it depends on who has the most power at the given time.
                            1. Labour ministers in the 60s and 70s such as Richard Crossman and Tony Benn complained that civil servants sought to undermine and plot against left-leaning governments supporting radical changes.
                              1. Recently, Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister in David Cameron's government, has accused civil servants of blocking initiatives agreed by ministers.
                        2. Other than the relationship between the key players, there are also other things which determine who makes the decisions.
                          1. There are many advantages that the civil service have over the ministers.
                            1. This would seem to show that it is the civil service making the decisions.
                              1. The civil service stays anonymous from any decisions made. Therefore, this means that they cannot be blamed as the public do not know about their input or importance in the decision making process. Increasingly, however, ministers are willing to blame civil servants for policy failures, such as Ed Balls and Teresa May.
                          2. There is the power struggle between ministers and civil servants due to civil servants knowing the facts about their departments as they are in the same job for the majority of their carreer.
                            1. This is a huge advantage over the ministers as the average length of service for ministers in deartments is 2 years.
                              1. Civil servants can use their expertise and experience to influence decisions whereas the minister knows much less and looks for support from his collegues. This is also an extreamely importnat advantage that the civil servant has over the minister as the minister wats his guidance and expertise within the department.
                                1. However, many very senior civil servants have stepped down.
                                  1. This began when Gordon Brown was chancellor because some mandarins felt excluded, others found that working with him and his temper intolerable.
                                    1. The steam of departures has continued , encouraged by redundancy terms that persuaded some of the best economic brains to pursue careers elsewhere.
                                      1. In some cases, therefore the minister can outlive the civil servants in their department, for example Gordon Brown was chancellor for 10 years, he had 3 permanent secretaries, meaning that he had more expertise in the department than the mandarins. In this case, it shows how Brown was the main decision maker as he knew more about his department and how it worked.
                                        1. Civil servants are also under a lot of pressure than the minister as they have fewer obs to do and more time to do them.
                                    2. Historically, civil servants were in permanent jobs and so could not be removed easily by the minister. However, recent reforms have weakened civil servants in respect of their relation to ministers.
                                      1. In 1996, the top 1% of those in the civil service were given a new category.. Manderins were placed on personal contracts with flexible salaries.
                                        1. It would be silly for those in such positions to do anything that endangered theirposition in the civil service.
                                          1. Therefore, the government has made the mandarins in the civil service nothing more than political poodles. However, as the civil servant is not responsible for any decisions made, they can influence, if not make any decisions in any way they wantwithout risking their job.
                                            1. The coalition government attempted to address this by introducing performance-related pay into the civil service. In addition, the coalition has also put 10% of civil service staff on annual probation thus strengtheing the hand of ministers.
                              2. The are however, many advantages that the minister has over their civil servants.
                                1. Being that the minister can decide to ignore all advice given to him by the civil servant.
                                  1. An example of this is when Michael Gove ignored his civil servants' advice in making reforms in the Education Department. He has brought in a superstructure of special advisors into the department which has enabled him to bypass civil servants.
                                2. Another advantage ministers have over their civil servants is the fact that ministers now have political advisors as well.
                                  1. This further widens the relationship between the minister and the civil servants in his department as the minister ccan gain advice from other places.
                                    1. There was a huge growth of special advisers under Labour: under John Major he had 8 special advisers in No 10 and Blair had 27. This is another factor which strengthens the minister and ensures that he is the key player in making policy and decisions in departments.
                                      1. Special advisers continued to grow under the coalition. In addition, the coalition has talked about out-sourcing policy making to think tanks and academics.
                                        1. This has angered mandarins. Under proposals initiated by Francis Maude, ministers will be able to turn to bodies outside of Whitehall to draw up detailed policy recommendations. This is further evidence that it is not civil servants who make policy decisions in Government.
                                  2. An advantage for the minister is political context.
                                    1. For example, if they have a strong personality such as: Denis Healy or Gordon Brown, they can gain control the actions of their civil servants.
                                      1. Also, if the minister is part of a newly-elected government, he can assert himself over his civil servants. Many civil servants have struggled with driven and focused ministers who are impatient for change and reform.
                                        1. Sir Terry Burns, Permanent Secretary for the Treasury, for example, retired in 1998 because of Gordon Brown's leadership style and the role of Ed Balls as his special adviser. Burns felt marginalised.
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