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Labour will boost the number of women and ethnic minority employees in the Senior Civil Service and bring a “new culture of respect” to the relationship with the Civil Service

Michael Dugher MP Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office has announced today (22 July) that Labour would set new targets for the percentage of women and black and minority ethnic (BME) employees in the Senior Civil Service.  He also set out the approach that Labour would take to bring a “new culture of respect” between ministers and the permanent Civil Service.     

In a speech to the National Trade Union Committee (made up of Civil Service trade unions), Michael Dugher said that David Cameron’s Government has created a “damaging atmosphere between ministers and the Civil Service” and that since 2010 we’ve seen “the worst crisis in Civil Service morale in living memory” in many departments. 

He also highlighted how women and people from BME backgrounds are still woefully underrepresented at senior levels and said that “the Government has lost sight of the diversity agenda in the civil service”.   Labour will set new Civil Service wide diversity targets for the Senior Civil Service and plans to implement a six point plan to deliver the targets by 2020. 


Labour will aim within five years for:


  • at least 45 per cent of all Senior Civil Servants to be women; and
  • at least eight per cent of the Senior Civil Service to be people from minority ethnic backgrounds.


Labour’s plan will also include:


  1. publishing a proper Diversity Strategy in 2015 and an assessment of progress against this strategy every year; 
  2. re-establishing the Civil Service-wide positive action leadership scheme - Leaders Unlimited.  This was a successful scheme aimed at talented women, people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds and disabled people at managerial grades six and seven with potential to reach the Senior Civil Service;
  3. putting departmental diversity targets on Permanent Secretaries’ set of objectives – and make sure they are judged on progress. Our Permanent Secretaries need to be properly accountable for delivering equality and diversity in their departments;
  4. increasing support for the META Growing Talent Programme that mentors promising staff from ethnic minority backgrounds. We will boost the number of people on the programme, ensure that every Whitehall department puts people forward and aim to at least double the number of people on the programme;
  5. ensuring that it will be the norm for jobs to be advertised as available for job-sharing or on a part-time basis.  Job-sharing can make it easier for some people to balance caring responsibilities with holding a senior position in the civil service.   Too often jobs at a senior level are not being advertised as being suitable for job sharing;
  6. cracking down on the over use of recruitment exceptions – a mechanism that sees an overwhelming number of the senior jobs going to men.  


On boosting diversity in the Senior Civil Service, Michael Dugher MP said:


“We need diversity at all levels of the civil service so that it is representative of the society it serves.  This is still far from the case in the Senior Civil Service.   


“Under this Government, things have either been stalling or getting worse.   At present, only 36 per cent of the Senior Civil Service are women.   And only 4.7 per cent are from an ethnic-minority background – a drop from 4.9 per cent in 2010.   The number of black staff members in the Senior Civil Service has fallen by a third since 2010.  This is not good enough.    


“That’s why we will act where the Government is failing.   Through a series of reforms, we will set new targets and build a civil service that is more reflective of our society and more able to rise to the challenges we face.”     


On the relationship between Ministers and the civil service, Michael Dugher said:


“Since 2010, we’ve seen the worst crisis in Civil Service morale in living memory. Civil Servants, at all levels, are currently being made to feel like they are part of the problem, rather part of the solution. We need a completely different approach to restore, rebuild and re-set the relationship between ministers and the permanent Civil Service.  


“Labour wants to see a re-energised Civil Service that feels valued and motivated to help implement the vital reforms the country so desperately needs. The dysfunctional relationship that ministers have instilled has got to end. 


“Of course, there are challenges and reforms that still need to be made in order to create a more efficient and effective Civil Service. Labour is committed to continued reform. But we need to start with a new culture of respect – something that has been sorely missing in recent years.  We will have a new collaborative approach that sees the Civil Service as a partner for change, not the enemy of it.”  




Editors’ notes:


Diversity in the Senior Civil Service:


  • The Government missed its target of women making up 39 per cent of the Senior Civil Service by 2013.   And it has also failed to meet the target of staff from an ethnic minority background making up over 5 per cent of the Senior Civil Service. http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/diversity-strategy.doc (Source: ONS Civil Service Statistics 2009 – 2013) 
  • In 2010, half of all Permanent Secretaries in Whitehall departments were women and three were from BME backgrounds. But now we only have four women at the top of departments and not one Permanent Secretary from a BME background.  
  • In 2009, 36 per cent of new entrants to the Senior Civil Service were women. This fell back to 30 per cent last year. (Source: ONS Civil Service Statistics 2009 – 2013) 


Labour’s Fast Stream policy:


In April 2014, Michael Dugher announced Labour’s new policy to reform the Fast Stream process to open up the civil service to more people from non-traditional backgrounds, in particular from ethnic minority and working class graduates.   The plans included


  • new targets for the number of successful BME and working class candidates entering the Fast Stream programme, reflective of the proportion of national graduates from those backgrounds;
  • an expansion of internship programmes for those from non-traditional backgrounds
  • followed by a fast-track on to the Fast Stream for those who have completed an internship programme.

These changes will ensure many more BME and working class candidates can enter the Fast Stream over the course of the next Parliament.




The National Trade Union Committee (NTUC):


The NTUC currently consists of: the FDA, PCS, Prospect, Unite, GMB, NIPSA (Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance) and the POA (Prison Officers Association).​


Recruitment exceptions:


 Recruitment exceptions need to truly be the exception. Last year, 35 per cent of those appointed at SCS pay band 2 or above through open competition were women. But a quarter of the most senior appointments were made using a recruitment exception.  And of the 31 requests that the Civil Service Commission was asked to approve using a recruitment exception during the past year, 87 per cent were requests to appoint a male candidate and only 13 per cent a female candidate. It appears that departments are much more likely to choose a male candidate when they are appointing by exception.

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