New Hub will cut back government spending on external staff

  • Government Consulting Hub launched to support civil servants to take on a greater role in projects, reducing spend on external consultants.
  • The hub will build internal civil service expertise and will work across all departments.
  • New Consultancy Playbook will show government officials how to get best value for money when external consultants are needed.
  • Cabinet Office also tightening up spending controls around procurement of external consultants.

A new strategy and consulting hub, staffed by civil servants, has been launched today to boost internal expertise across government, saving the taxpayer money.

The new Government Consulting Hub will be based in Glasgow, Birmingham and London, and will upskill civil servants, reducing the reliance on external consultancy firms.

The hub will be part of the Cabinet Office and will work across all departments to reduce consultancy spend by using internal civil service resources, rather than hiring external staff. In 2019/20, central government spend on external consultants was more than £700m.

Cabinet Office Minister, Lord Agnew, said:

I want government to rely on and invest in the talent which I know the Civil Service already has.

The Government Consulting Hub will improve the skills of our civil servants, make sure that where consultants are still needed, we get the best value for money and guarantee that government departments work together to get the best results.

This is not just about saving money; it’s a real opportunity to guarantee that taxpayers get value for money.

The Cabinet Office is also tightening up rules on consultancy spend, with departments required to submit for approval consultancy and professional services spend over £500,000. Currently the spend threshold which requires central approval is £10million.

Before its official launch today, the Government Consulting Hub has been running as part of a pilot programme within the Cabinet Office for the past three months.

During that time, it has successfully delivered a number of projects, including a strategic advisory service to support work on the most complex challenges facing government. These include work on the new government curriculum, providing consulting to a number of departments and creating a new triage process for sorting consultancy requests, ensuring that internal government expertise is fully used first.

The hub has also worked with the Government Commercial Function to create the new Consultancy Playbook launched today, which will ensure that government is only using external consultants when necessary, and deliver value for money and the highest quality results when they are.

Consultants can bring highly valuable expertise that supports government in delivering outstanding public projects, and the playbook is a guide to help officials get the best value for money and deliver the highest quality results when working with external consultants.

The playbook also sets out how officials should make sure that all of the knowledge and experience gathered from projects where external consultants are used is fed back into the government. This will build the skills of the Civil Service and help it to become less reliant on external resources.

Tamzen Isacsson Chief Executive of the Management Consultancy Association said:

As MCA members, all our firms are committed to promoting the highest standards of client service and we have welcomed the opportunity to input into the Government’s new playbook and the Cabinet Office efforts to ensure excellent results for society are delivered.

There are circumstances when it is highly valuable for government to use consultants for their expertise and there are improvements to be made in the way government, as a client, engages with our sector, including the importance of specifying outcomes and deliverables at the start and planning adequately from the government’s side to ensure the successful transfer of skills and knowledge.

This playbook is a first step on this journey and we look forward to further collaboration and additional work to ensure the true value of consulting can be achieved for every project across the public sector.

Government and the consultancy market are committed to working together to get the most value from our spend and to achieve the highest quality results.

This month’s Queen’s Speech also outlined reforms to the UK’s public procurement regime, making it quicker, simpler and better able to meet the country’s needs while remaining compliant with our international obligations. This will replace the current regime which was largely transposed from EU procurement directives.

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