Book number: 93296 Product format: Hardback Author: MICHAEL COOLICAN

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Sub-titled 'The Origins of the British Civil Service', today we ask Is our Civil Service fit for purpose? Coolican takes John Reid's damning statement about the Home Office as his point of departure for a comprehensive overview and evaluation of the machinery behind the government and the people who make public services work on a daily basis. Beginning with Henry VIII's Chief Minister Thomas Cromwell, Coolican takes us on an odyssey through the history of the British Civil Service starting with a time when public positions were sold and traded through Royal Warrant. He examines the radical reforms of the Victorian era which entrenched a culture of elitism, misogyny and distrust of high-quality data as a basis for decision-making that, in some areas, persist to this day. The bizarre goings-on at the Immigration and Nationality Department were only an extreme example of the consequences of poor management and leadership which can be found in any government department. Even after the division of the Home Office, the solution had no bearing on the problem itself, as Amber Rudd was to discover 12 years later when she found herself mired in the controversy surrounding the Windrush generation and the way they had been treated by her Home Office officials. And it matters to us all, since most of us are in contact with governments in paying taxes, claiming benefits, safeguarding our employment rights and complying with regulations, and if the relatively junior civil servants who carry out these tasks cannot cope with grotesque systems, it will hugely affect their ability to deliver a decent service to the public. Yet each day a vast government machine delivers a reasonably good service at airports, tribunals, courts, laboratories, schools and local offices all over the country, as well as in Whitehall itself. It is largely incorrupt, mostly effective, and more often than not reasonably efficient, yet all well managed organisations need to identify and deal with their incompetents, over-promoted under-performers, and freeloaders and tackle misallocation of resources. In the UK we have two distinct images of the Civil Service - one a bowler-hatted collection of buffoons, and the other an urbane and brilliant set of intellectuals like the characters in a C. P. Snow novel. A former high-ranking civil servant with 40 years? experience, Coolican has produced a pithy and ruthless analysis. Private Eye renamed him Cool Hand Coolican. 357pp.

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ISBN 9781785904523

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