No, minister! Whitehall’s Sir Humphreys face ‘objectives’ horror

By Charles Maggs

"If people don't know what you're doing, they don't know what you're doing wrong," Sir Humphrey Appleby once said – but civil servants will soon have fewer places to hide.

For the first time ever the objectives of top civil service jobs are to be made available to the public, it was announced today.

The objectives will be agreed by ministers and updated every time either the minister or permanent secretary is replaced – in a move Cabinet secretary Francis Maude called "bold". It would leave Sir Humphrey turning in his grave.

"Publishing the objectives of permanent secretaries is an important step towards reforming the civil service and sharpening its accountability to ministers and the public," Maude explained.

"Everyone can now judge how well the most senior civil servants are doing at getting best value for taxpayers' money and delivering the government's objectives."

Those objectives will be available online and are part of the civil service reform plan, published back in June.

Maude also said the service needed to be "more open and less bureaucratic", an ambitious aim for the biggest bureaucracy in the country.

"Publication today fulfils the commitment to publish we made when we launched the civil service reform plan," head of the civil service Sir Bob Kerslake said. It is not clear whether his teeth were gritted together at the time.

"With the publication of salaries and expenses of senior civil servants this makes the UK civil service one of the most open and accountable in the world."

Yes, minister….