The Coalition Agreement pledged:

“We will open up Whitehall recruitment by publishing Central Government job vacancies online”.

Of course with an employer as big as the Government there will be plenty of recruitment…even if the total size of the workforce is falling.

Opening up civil servant recruitment so that people with a background in private business have a chance to join allows at least a modest chance for the jobsworth culture in the public sector to change.

Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary has been setting the pace in this respect.

In a recent statement to Parliament he said:

“My Department has taken a series of steps to deliver savings for taxpayers. Staff costs for core DCLG have fallen from £216 million in 2009-10 to £95 million in 2013-14, a reduction of 56 per cent in cash terms and an annual saving of £121 million a year. The number of staff has been reduced by 57 per cent from 3,781 full-time equivalent in 2009-10 to 1,622 in 2013-14.

“Spending on temporary staff (which can be cheaper than permanent staff for specific projects) has fallen from £14.4 million in 2009-10 to £3.3 million in 2013-14. Spending on consultancies has fallen from £36.6 million in 2009-10 to £0.5 million in 2013-14. Yet there remains a need to replace staff from time to time due to general turnover.”

Last year the DCLG became the first Whitehall Department to systematically publish vacancies online.

Mr Pickles added:

“Under the situation we inherited from the last Administration, between a third and half of all job vacancies were not advertised to the wider public, but only to the Civil Service. This was the last closed shop – and a practice that was unfair not just to those in the voluntary or private sector, but also those who worked elsewhere in the public sector (such as local government). Under the last Administration, the practice also resulted in higher spending on consultancy contracts and recruitment agencies to bring in private sector expertise.

“All jobs are now advertised online at:

“From April 2014 to the beginning of March, we have made 136 appointments:

  • 30 per cent were filled internally;
  • 30 per cent were filled by applicants from other Departments; and
  • 40 per cent were filled by external candidates.

“I believe this provides a good balance between promoting hard working staff internally, tapping into the expertise of the Civil Service, and benefiting from the skills and experience of those from the wider public, voluntary and private sector.

“Parts of the Civil Service has been somewhat shy about recognising the benefits of this policy. I hope the wider government will embrace such openness in the months ahead.”

Indeed so. This is the type of reform that the Sir Humphrey faction will tend to resist looking for “practical difficulties”. But if those have been overcome in the DCLG then what is it that makes them so insurmountable in the rest of Whitehall?