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British Civil Service

From Academic Kids

In UK politics, the civil service of the United Kingdom is the permanent bureaucracy that administers the United Kingdom. The British practice, of maintaining a permanent, theoretically politically neutral, Civil Service with staff who are not dependent on elected politicians for reappointment, is in contrast with the early 19th century American spoils system in which all public officials were dependent on elected politicians. Aspects of the British model have been copied in other nations such as The Federal Republic of Germany and the United States with modifications. For example, in the United States the top several layers of government departments are political appointees who are dependent and who change with different administrations. By contrast, political appointees within the British ministries consist only of the ministers and a few advisers.

The British Civil Service was heavily influenced by the bureaucracy of the British East India Company which also resulted in the Indian Civil Service.

The British televison series Yes, Minister is a parody of the Civil Service's relationship with government.

The civil service is meant to be politically independent, and is not appointed by ministers. However, ministers can appoint "special advisers" who are not politically independent. This has caused conflict between special advisers and members of the civil service, such as that between Martin Sixsmith and Jo Moore, who both worked for Stephen Byers when he was Transport Secretary.

As part of the programme of politicisation of the civil service, Margaret Thatcher exercised her prerogrative powers of patronage to appoint Permanent Secretaries which were sympathetic to her government's aims. Tony Blair has been seen to be following the same course through his appointment of Andrew Turnbull as Cabinet Secretary.


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Grading schemes

The grading schemes used in the civil service have changed many times, and it is common for old and new systems to be used side-by-side. All grades down to SCS Band 1 are part of the "Senior Civil Service", which is managed nationally. Below this, each department can put in place its own grading and pay arrangements.

Grade Title SCS Band
0 Cabinet Secretary -
1 Permanent Secretary -
1A Second Permanent Secretary -
2 Deputy Secretary † 3
3 Under Secretary † 2
4 various titles* 1A
5 Assistant Secretary 1
6 Senior Principal
7 Principal
Senior Executive Officer (SEO)
Higher Executive Officer (HEO)
Executive Officer (EO)
Administrative Officer (AO)
Administrative Assistant (AA)

† - The positions of Deputy Secretary and Under Secretary are now commonly called Director-General and Director, respectively, instead. However, the Director-General of MI5 are in fact at grade 1 (Permanent Secretary) level.

* - This grade is not normally used - a grade 5 would answer to a grade 3. It is only used for particularly high profile jobs that require a grade higher than Assistant Secretary but lower than Under Secretary.

There are also special grades, eg in scientific or technical disciplines, or training grades. Training grades include the Fast Stream graduate entry scheme, which formerly included grades of Assistant Principal, and later Administration Trainee and Higher Executive Officer (Development) - these have now been incorporated within departmental grading structures although the Fast Stream continues to be administered Civil Service-wide.

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