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Key advice for new look Whitehall Boards

The Institute for Government has recommended further action to ensure new look Whitehall Boards can be as effective as possible in a report published yesterday. New lead NEDs for Departments meet this afternoon, their first meeting since they were appointed as part of a shakeup of Whitehall boards by the Coalition government. 

While the new lead NEDs present an opportunity for improved boards, there remains some work to do to ensure they can overcome past problems, the report says.

Director of Leadership Development at the Institute for Government , Zoe Gruhn, said:

"The Coalition government's major reforms to Whitehall boards raise big and challenging issues over matters such as leadership, accountability, strategy and delivery.

"If these are to be overcome, then all involved, ministers, NEDs and officials, will need to work hard and seriously at it.  The Institute will be monitoring progress as the new Boards get underway."

The Institute's summary report found:

  • Departments must address the lack of clarity that affects too many Whitehall boards.
  • The most significant structural reform of the new boards protocol is installing Secretaries of State as chairs of their departmental board.
  • Attendance at meetings must be consistent and chairing responsibilities must not be delegated to junior ministers. While we believe the Secretary of State should strive to attend every board meeting, the experience and independence of lead NEDs would be put to good use as deputy chairs.
  • The performance and operating of the board should be made transparent to conform to the Government's Transparency agenda.
  • Sound corporate practice in the private sector calls for annual evaluation and regular external evaluation of the board
  • Board development is essential to the success of the new regime for Whitehall boards.
  • The board secretariat function is crucial to a well functioning board.
  • Lead NEDs should be involved in the performance appraisal of ALL board members, including officials and politicians. 

A summary report, is available below and the full report will be published shortly.

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