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Ministerial appointment of permanent secretaries 'a step too far' says FDA

Commenting on yesterday’s Institute for Government report on permanent secretary appointments, Dave Penman, General Secretary of the FDA - the union that represents the country’s most senior civil servants - said:

“Ministers having the final say on appointment of their permanent secretaries would politicise the top tiers of the civil service and is a step too far.

“The role of permanent secretary is a vital one, not only must they have the confidence of ministers, but they are also key to the delivery of high quality public services. Ministers already have sufficient influence over the selection process including the skills required to deliver the key objectives of their department. Ministers as politicians are inevitably a product of their political background. If ministers have the final say then the view of civil servants and public alike will be that an appointment was made on the basis of personal or political association. This has implications not only for permanent secretaries but those in the tiers below who are aspiring for promotion or those that seek appointment from outside the civil service.

“The role of a permanent secretary is to serve any minister of Government; this will be fatally undermined if ministers make the ultimate decision.

“As we have argued in our alternative White Paper, ‘Delivering For The Nation: Securing A World-Class Civil Service’, the Civil Service Commission must be free to appoint candidates on merit, but the outcome of the process must ultimately deliver high quality candidates in whom ministers and the civil service have confidence.”
Notes for editors

1. The FDA is the trade union for the UK's senior public servants and professionals. FDA membership includes more than 19,000 senior civil servants, government policy advisors, diplomats, tax professionals, economists, solicitors, prosecutors and other professionals work across government and the NHS.

2. The FDA (formerly the First Division Association) should be referred to simply as "The FDA" and can be described as "the senior public servants’ union".  

3. The FDA can be found on Twitter @FDA_union and at www.fda.org.uk.

4. The FDA alternative White Paper, ‘Delivering for the Nation: Securing a World-Class Civil Service’, can be read here

5. For further information contact:

Dave Penman, FDA General Secretary, tel: 020 7401 5555 or 07967 503827.

Kay Hender, Communications Officer, tel: 020 7401 5589 or 07980 700747.

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