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  • PM's senior aide Dominic Cummings calls for civil service changes

    • 9 hours ago

    Image copyright Getty Images

    The PM's senior adviser has called for changes to how government works, saying there are "profound problems" with how decisions are made.

    In a blog post, Dominic Cummings said the civil service lacked people with "deep expertise in specific fields".

    He said he wanted "weirdos and misfits with odd skills" to work in government.

    But a civil servants' union said currently staff were recruited on merit and "because of what you can do, not what you believe".

    The union also said recruiting world-class experts is hampered by the "government's failure to pay a market rate".

    In an unusual move, Mr Cummings also called for people keen to work in Downing Street to get in touch with him via a private Gmail address.

    The former Vote Leave campaign director said he wanted to hear from "an unusual set of people with different skills and backgrounds", some to work as special advisers and "perhaps some as officials".

    He said No 10 was keen to recruit data scientists, software developers and economists to improve the performance of government.

    In his blog, Mr Cummings added:

    • The aim of the new recruits is to improve performance but also make Mr Cummings himself "much less important — and within a year largely redundant"
    • A junior applicant will become his personal assistant for a year - a role which will involve "very interesting work and lots of uninteresting trivia that makes my life easier which you won't enjoy". The job will be so exhausting that "frankly it will be hard having a boy/girlfriend at all"
    • He also urged against applications from "confident public school bluffers" and added anyone who plays office politics "will be discovered and immediately binned"
    • He wants to hire "some true wild cards, artists, people who never went to university and fought their way out of an appalling hell hole"

    Mr Cummings added that the Conservatives' 80-seat majority meant ministers would try to solve political problems without worrying about "short-term unpopularity".

    "The point of this government is to do things differently and better and this always looks messy," he wrote.

    "We do not care about trying to 'control the narrative' and all that New Labour junk."

    He added that officials should be encouraged to stay in their roles for longer so that they are able to build up expertise in particular policy areas.

    "Shuffling some people who are expected to be general managers is a natural thing but it is clear Whitehall does this too much," he said.

    "There are not enough people with deep expertise in specific fields."

    Responding to the blog, the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, said Mr Cummings had not clarified how new recruits would be selected or what their role within government would be.

    Dave Penman, the union's general secretary, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The civil service is recruited on merit, it's a really fundamental principle.

    "You are employed in the civil service because of what you can do, not what you believe."

    "If you surround yourself with people who are recruited simply because they believe the same as you believe, and whose employment is at your behest, is that the best way for the civil service or advisers to speak truth unto power?