The largest-ever academic study of the workings of British government has been welcomed by a former head of the civil service.
Lord Bancroft, head of the home civil service from 1978 to 1981 told the launch of the Economic and Social Research Council's Whitehall Programme last week: "I greatly welcome this because while for most of the first century after the Northcote-Trevelyan report there was a major inquiry into the system every decade or so, the past half century has seen only two such reports.
Priestley was largely concerned with pay and Fulton with how we managed ourselves. It is also right and welcome that it should be an outside inquiry."
He said he hoped the findings of the programme - costing Pounds 1.5 million over the next four years for 23 studies divided into six themes - would also supplement the work of the new House of Lords select committee on the public services, and that its findings would be published in generally accesible form.
Ben Pimlott, professor of contemporary history and politics at Birkbeck College, London, and chair of the programme's commissioning panel, said the choice of projects - made from a total of 110 applications - was book- oriented: "I hope it will produce a bundle of books, articles and path- breaking guides to the workings of British government." He said they expected around 24 books arising from the programme.
He said the plan is for an integrated set of projects, and for closer relationships between academics and civil servants: "We would hope to build up a rapport with practitioners which would extend beyond the programme into a closer, longer-term relationship."