Oxbridge Universities are the go to places for academic research and expertise: but it’s not the whole story

Can ‘outsider’ universities break the Oxbridge stranglehold on the Civil Service? Carole Talbot explores… It’s well understood that Whitehall Civil Servants go to Oxford and Cambridge Universities more often than elsewhere. And, many of the linkages into these universities are based on civil servants having attended one of the Oxbridge Colleges themselves and that the […]


‘Neither Unified, Nor Uniform – So What Civil Service for the Twenty-First Century?

In the final part of our special series on the Civil Service, Francesca Gains and Dave Richards sum up the debate and assess the future of the service during a period of great change. The most striking theme to emerge from the Policy@Manchester series of Civil Service ‘stocking-taking’ blogs by Martin Stanley and Colin Talbot […]


Civil Service Accountability to the Public Part III

In the latest blog in our series on the Civil Service , Martin Stanley continues his examination of whether senior officials should be more accountable – especially to MPs – for the advice that they give to Ministers.  Whatever the strength of the arguments for and against greater civil service accountability, there does seem to […]


Civil Service Accountability to the Public part II

In the second of three blogs Martin Stanley examines whether senior officials should be more accountable – especially to MPs – for the advice that they give to Ministers. This is the fourth post in our series on the Civil Service. How would officials react to greater public scrutiny?  Most of them, I suspect, would […]


Civil Service Accountability to the Public

In the second of our series of posts exploring the corridors of power in Whitehall, former senior civil servant and public sector chief executive Martin Stanley discusses how we are governed and the tensions between the needs of Ministers, MPs and the wider public.  The electorate clearly believe that ‘the Westminster Village’ is incompetent and/or […]

The case for a qualified Civil Service

Without effective policy deliberation, the Civil Service will struggle to do anything well. Professor Colin Talbot makes the case for postgraduate qualifications for the Civil Service Policy Profession. Since the introduction of ‘Professional Skills for Government’, we have had a defined group within the Civil Service known as the ‘Policy Profession’. Although the ‘Professional Skills […]


Breaking the Rules and Paying the Price: the lessons of Tony Benn, Cabinet Minister

Tony Benn found that without the help of officials, having radical ideas as a minister didn’t get him very far. On the day the veteran MP is laid to rest, Dave Richards and Martin Smith reflect on their interviews with Benn, his Cabinet colleagues and officials. Obituaries of Tony Benn considered his roles as campaigner, […]

Whitehall Watch Manchester Policy Blog

The last thing Whitehall needs is a Chief Financial Officer

It has been announced that the Treasury is to create a new chief financial officer role for central government. Professor Colin Talbot argues this is simply another impressive-sounding but ill-conceived attempt to quickly fix a complex problem. The coalition’s latest wheeze is to create a new government Chief Financial Officer, similar to the position found […]


The Blunders of our Governments

The Blunders of our Governments, Anthony King and Ivor Crewe.  Oneworld Publications, September 2013. This is a must read book for anyone interested in British public affairs, writes Prof Colin Talbot. It is seminal, not so much for the insight it offers – much of what it says has been said before – but in the […]

Whitehall Watch Manchester Policy Blog

Open policy making: don’t tsars count?

The idea of ‘tsars’ in Whitehall is a recent name for an old practice; bringing in outside actors to advise, and sometimes to act, on a specific issue. Although not all tsars hit the headlines, Dr Ruth Levitt and Bill Solesbury argue that these appointments are a bigger phenomenon than is often supposed and incumbents […]