A New Civil Service? The Next Steps Agencies



The late 1980s saw the launching of an initiative that has been described by the government as a ‘quiet revolution’ in the management of the civil service, and which is considered by others to be ‘the most ambitious attempt at civil service reform in the twentieth century’ (Treasury and Civil Service Committee, 1990, para. 1). Known as the ‘Next Steps’ programme, the initiative involves the separation of the small core of civil servants involved in the policy-making and ministerial support functions of government departments from the vast majority of civil servants, who are involved in the service delivery or executive functions of central government. The intention is that by the end of the century most of the latter group will have been transferred to semi-autonomous executive agencies, headed by chief executives who are set performance targets and given certain financial and managerial freedoms. The hope is that the reforms will lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness in the civil service and to a better quality of service to the public. By the middle of 1993, just over 60 per cent of the British civil service were working in Next Steps agencies or organisations operating on Next Steps lines.


Civil Service Chief Executive Efficiency Unit Step Programme Framework Agreement 
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© Tony Butcher 1995

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