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Whitehall Analytica: Dominic Cummings’ Shake-Up of the British State Gathers Pace

David Hencke reports on how, having survived the scandal of breaking the COVID-19 lockdown, Boris Johnson’s chief advisor is not letting the Coronavirus crisis go to waste

Whitehall AnalyticaDominic Cummings’ Shake-Up of the British State Gathers Pace

David Hencke reports on how, having survived the scandal of breaking the COVID-19 lockdown, Boris Johnson’s chief advisor is not letting the Coronavirus crisis go to waste

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Dominic Cummings’ plan to revolutionise Whitehall is gathering pace with advertisements rushed out to recruit 59 new civil servants to handle the COVID-19 crisis, major infrastructure projects and the reform of further education.

Under its minister Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office placed advertisements at the turn of this month to recruit 43 civil servants to run two new networks across Whitehall. Meanwhile the Department for Education is recruiting 16 senior civil servants to change the further education system – something that both Cummings and Gove wanted to do when they ran the department.

The advert for a network of 30 deputy directors across Whitehall states that they will earn between £70,000 and £117,000 a year. It states that candidates should be familiar with “using data and evidence to make decisions and influence – experience of analysing complex problems and interpreting complex data to create and present evidence-based insight and recommendations. Using data to effectively drive recommendations, consider the impact on a vast range of customers from diverse backgrounds, understand and highlight risks to customers, and add value to the business. Encouraging others to do the same”.

Initially they will be employed to work on COVID-19 – with new posts in the Department of Health and Social Care; Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government; the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; and Department for Transport. The advert added that other ministries will later be involved.

“Successful candidates will be working on emerging priorities and as such the exact responsibilities and reporting structures for these posts will reflect the evolution of the Government’s response to the pandemic and new challenges over time,” it states.

It adds that candidates must be self-starters and have personal resilience with “experience of working effectively and of leading a team successfully during periods of sustained pressure, scrutiny and ambiguity”. It also emphasises that Whitehall is keen to recruit candidates from ethnic minorities because there are too few in top posts.

The jobs were advertised on 31 May and the closing date for applications is next Tuesday.

The 13 new jobs in the Infrastructure and Projects Authority advertised by the Cabinet Office offer salaries of between £57,000 and £77,877.

The work involves “experts in infrastructure, project delivery, and project finance, who work with Government departments and industry. We support the successful delivery of all types of infrastructure and major projects; ranging from railways, schools, hospitals and housing, to defence, IT and major transformation programmes”.

The closing date is next Monday.

Cummings, the Prime Minister’s controversial chief advisor, has been keen on reforming project management and attracting new people. 

In his blog in January, he wrote: “ If you think you are one of the a small group of people in the world who are truly GREAT at project management, then we want to talk to you. Victoria Woodcock ran Vote Leave – she was a truly awesome project manager and without her Cameron would certainly have won. We need people like this who have a 1 in 10,000 or higher level of skill and temperament.”

The 16 new jobs advertised at the Department for Education include five policy managers who will earn £60,290 a year, and 11 policy leaders who will earn £49,269 a year. Applications close on Friday.

The posts are for people to introduce “innovatory polices” in education. The advert states: “Our staff shape the future of education, training and social care, by working with industry and education leaders to develop policies and services in a post-Brexit global economy. We are working to ensure that our world-class education system continues to contribute to trade, exports, and the general economy by addressing labour market and economic challenges.”

Alex Thomas, programme director on policy-making at the independent think tank, the Institute for Government, said: “It makes sense for Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings to use the present COVID-19 crisis to pursue their policies about recruiting new people to make the Civil Service more diverse. Deputy directors are under enormous work pressure at the moment so they will welcome more staff.”

A Cabinet office spokesman said: “Coronavirus is the biggest challenge the UK has faced in decades. As you’d expect, it’s vital we have the right people in place from a range of backgrounds to effectively deliver the Government’s response.”  

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