“We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful.” Well, not quite.
But the quote attributed to Mother Teresa might be the new slogan for Whitehall civil servants, where, the Institute for Government has just noted, there has been a spectacular turnover at the top.
Jill Rutter, herself a former senior mandarin, notes that since the general election there has been an ”unprecedented level of churn” amongst permanent secretaries.
Of the 16 major departments, just six now have the same permanent secretary that they did when the coalition took office. And of the nine new appointments made so far, just two have immediate prior experience of their department. Five have never worked in the department to which they have been appointed.
This means that in the department’s affected “ministers, all of whom have under a year’s experience, will all have someone with less experience at the top”.
The new perm secs will be playing catch up with their ministers, she notes. And “at a time when unprecedented cuts are being implemented, it might help to know where the bodies are buried and where the landmines are.” Quite.
And not only that. In some areas – health and DWP for example – policies are being tried that have failed, or far from suceeded, before. Having old hands around who know why things went awry last time – and therefore how to stop them going awry this time – might also, one would have thought, be useful.