By Ray Fleming

CIVIL servants come in for a lot of criticism, in Britain as well as other countries. They have the advantage of relative job security and good pensions but pay for this by salaries which, at least in the higher ranks, are considerably less than they could command in the private sector -- look at how quickly senior civil servants are snapped up by business after their retirement. Britain has about 500'000 civil servants at the moment and it might be thought that such a large diverse group should have the full time attention of a senior administrator to oversee its efficiency and welfare.

However, David Cameron does not think so. As a former civil servant I have complained in the past about his dismissive comments on civil service performance and his preference for bringing in outsiders to Downing Street who do not always meet expectations. Now, in a rearrangement of senior posts at No 10 following the retirement of Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell, Mr Cameron is outsourcing the task of managing the civil service on a part-time basis to the head of a Whitehall department.

The name being mentioned is Dame Helen Ghosh, permanent secretary at the Home Office, which is one of the most difficult departments to run (as current events show) without the additional responsibility of keeping the government's administrative machine working effectively.

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