Cabinet Office has no records of obstructive officials

Francis Maude

Some top civil servants have deliberately obstructed plans that ministers want implemented.

That's the view of the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, who in a speech to the Institute for Government last month complained that "there are cases where permanent secretaries have blocked agreed government policy from going ahead or advised other officials not to implement ministerial decisions".

It's not happening all the time, he says, but there are too many occasions on which this "utterly unacceptable" behaviour has occurred. He's keen to stress that Labour ministers in the previous government also protested about the same difficulty.

In an interview in August Maude outlined one example where he said a permanent secretary's behaviour was "designed to give a signal to all the officials in the room that they needn't bother about what Francis Maude wanted".


It's one reason why he's introducing a plan for civil service reform, including greater accountability for the top officials in government departments.

But how often have senior officials actually been behaving in this unconstitutional and obstructive way to intentionally thwart the wishes of ministers? I made a freedom of information request to the Cabinet Office for examples of the problem Maude is angry about.

I was surprised to get the reply that they couldn't tell me about any - because they haven't got any relevant recorded information.

Response from Cabinet Office

So what is the explanation for this? "Francis Maude was referring to verbal communications rather any recorded information", a Cabinet Office spokesperson told me. (FOI requests only cover information which is recorded in some form).

'Not fruitful'

But why are none of the examples recorded? "There is no list of examples, because we haven't held a meeting to collate the examples," says a source close to Maude. "We didn't think it would be fruitful to do so".

So if that's the explanation, I suppose at least it means it wasn't because the minister asked officials to draw up a list of examples of civil servant obstructiveness and they refused to do so.

Martin Rosenbaum Article written by Martin Rosenbaum Martin Rosenbaum Freedom of information specialist

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  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    That could back fire that he needs to get in to the media before it does back fire laying the blame at officials rather than standing up and saying it was my idea it was wrong
    But officials are there for such thing to take the blame topical politician way out blame any one who can not speak up in the media because of there rule of employment and the law

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    To be honest some one needs to try and put a check on ministers as we who vote them in seem to after put up with the dead ideas they come up with that get passed senior officials
    What all so makes me laugh is that if minister as come up with a idea that is a total tank the minister blames the officials
    We have had it from Theresa May on many occasions what idea as Francis Maude come up with

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Perhaps Maude just thought it was time he had some publicity. The Politicians in Gov seem to be saying anything to get attention lately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Francis Maude is a self righteous, horrible, sneering, snivelling creep of a specimen, who is not fit to govern anything. Get rid of him immediately and the country would be a far far better place...

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I had been a Tory voter for nearly 40 years, I was deeply critical of Blair and Brown when they were in power, but the way this incompetent coalition blames the last Government and Civil Servants for all the countries woes is starting to wear very thin. I cannot wait to vote Labour for the first time. Maude has been caught out!


Comments 5 of 35


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