Why Francis Maude and Amyas Morse are right to ginger up complacent Whitehall

2015 General Election - Cabinet

Lord Maude Pic creditL gov.uk


Last week I attended  what turned out to be a highly controversial debate on the future of the civil service – one of a series on various issues chaired by John Bercow,  at Speakers House in the House of Commons.

I found myself  surprisingly agreeing with Lord Maude, the former  Tory Cabinet Office minister, and with his opponent, Bronwen Maddox, director  of the Institute of Government, ( who rightly highlighted the mistake to privatise the probation service) over why the top echelons of Whitehall need radical reform.

Don’t get me wrong I am not about to become a card carrying member of the Tory Party ( even if their average age at 72 is nearer mine) and I would  disagree with Maude profoundly over his savage cuts agenda, but on the management of Whitehall he is talking sense. He is also a Whitehall insider and his full speech is here.

I have often wondered why time and time again Whitehall is  dragged before the Commons Public Accounts Committee to explain fiasco after fiasco on how millions if not billions of pounds are wasted on defence contracts, computer projects, collecting tax, benefit errors and big transport  and energy infrastructure projects.

Francis Maude provided part of the answer – our top civil servants are not up to the job. because they are not trained properly  to do it. And they rely, I am afraid, still on too much secrecy, to cover this up.

They are not trained for the complexities of modern Britain and complacently still believe we have the best civil service in the world while the rest of the world is changing fast.

What was more shocking is that he proposed some  modest remedies to change this – and brought down a howl of protest from  stuck in the mud mandarins. He thought it might be a good idea if fast stream graduates got wide ranging training in different government departments over a  two year period rather than being stuck in one ministry.

As he said : ” Bright graduates thought they were joining the Civil Service; and were then surprised to find that they joined a specific ministry where training took a definite second-place to the job to which they were assigned.

My modest reform to make the Fast Stream programme look and feel more like a typical two year graduate training programme met with surprising resistance, with four permanent secretaries, including at the Treasury, showing up to tell me that it was completely impossible.

Apparently, if the Civil Service trained its graduate entry the way high-performing private sector entities do, the government would fall apart. If I insisted, as I did, that Fast Stream trainees did four six months postings in different parts of government, then they would be unable to do any useful work.”

He also suggested a much broader programme for the top senior mandarins – giving them international business school experience – and , believe or not, got threatened with exposure in the Daily Mail for wasting taxpayers money!

As he said: “The second eye-opener was when I proposed that senior civil servants headed for very big responsibilities should be put through top management courses, typically three months, at top business schools. High performing organisations routinely do this; and I have seen people come out transformed into a bigger, more confident and capable leaders. So I proposed first that the ten permanent secretaries should go through these courses before the 2015 election.

“The first objection was that this would be very expensive and that the Daily Mail would make a fuss. My response was to say: Bring it on. If the Mail really want to object to us spending £60,000 on someone managing a budget of tens of billions, I’d love to have the argument.”

He also, in answer to a question from me, about the secrecy surrounding who decided the bonuses paid to top Department of Works and Pensions who are responsible for Universal Credit, called for more transparency. He also suggested that civil servants should be much less timid in challenging ministers over public spending projects – ending the idea that when a top civil servant demands an ” ministerial directive” to do the job it shouldn’t be seen as a nuclear option but commonplace.

Since going to the debate I have discovered he has a strong ally over this – Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office -wrote a year ago about the failure of Whitehall to do the job in this area.

“The threat of this can prevent poor decisions about use of taxpayers’ money, and discussions about possible directions can have ‘invisible’ positive influence on decision-making.

” However, the evidence suggests the mechanism is not being used effectively. Major projects where there were clear value for money concerns, such as the FiReControl Project (2004-2011 which had cost £635 million when it was cancelled) or the National Programme for IT in the NHS (costing £11.4 billion between 2002 and 2011), were not the subject of directions.”

Instead the timid mandarins query  tiny projects by comparison – such as the use of money for a consultancy on the future of Manton Airfield in Kent- and are too frightened to challenge really big decisions.

The time has come for a radical change in direction in Whitehall to get better and more broadly trained civil servants at the top who would take better decisions on how they spend our money.


Revealed: How Francis Maude and Chris Grayling are actively working to remove jobs from Britain to some risky terrorist destinations

Francis Maude: Actively encouraging off shoring Whitehall jobs

Francis Maude: Actively encouraging off shoring Whitehall jobs

David Cameron and George Osborne have been boasting how many new jobs their new economic recovery has created.

What they haven’t told you is that their Cabinet colleagues are actively working to strip Britain of existing jobs and replace them with new cheap skate jobs overseas, including some countries which have high risks of riots and terrorist attacks. And further the new jobs will mean the transfer of personal data on staff, possibly police and criminal records and the transfer of patient details from GP to GP to a foreign country.

I have written about this in Tribune magazine this weekend. But the two ministers are being very crafty – they are leaving it to a private company to sack the former civil servants and  transfer your records  and appointing a man who can hold both a Whitehall job and a private sector post at the same time to hand the companies the power to do it.


Peter Swann: the man enabling Steria to outsource jobs to his own company's high risk terrorist destination

Peter Swann: the man enabling Steria to outsource jobs to his own company’s high risk terrorist destination

The man is Peter Swann – or Peter S as he likes to hide under his Linked In entry unless you know him well. His entry shows he is currently Director of Crown Oversight at the Cabinet Office under Francis Maude and his job description according to his own Linked In Entry is “transforming the delivery of Civil Service back office functions to over 500,000 staff across the UK and in all Government Departments.”

 His other simultaneous job is  executive director of Aon Risk Solutions which in his words is famous for ” relocating corporate Head Office functions and aligning this strategy to Aon’s captive offshore arrangement and existing outsourcing contractual arrangements.”

 To put it simply he is an outsourcing and off shore fanatic whose company has had a 43 per cent rise in dividends this year. Incidently  his firm provides a Terrorist Tracking Tool and up to date world guide on the dangers of strikes, riots and terrorist attacks in dodgy foreign countries. Download the map here.

So it should be no surprise that within a year a French firm, Steria, have now taken over all the back room jobs for the Department of Work and Pensions, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency and is now looking at bidding for the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. Again the move is subtle, Whitehall has created a new UK company to do it, 75 per cent owned by the French. It came one year after the Department of Health ensured that Steria also took a majority holding in a NHS data  company providing the ” invisible information” through NHS Shared Business Services, including patient information to GPs and clinical recall services.

And now Steria is arranging that jobs currently in Newport, Cardiff, Sheffield and Leeds are destined to be replaced by ones abroad and staff in Newcastle, Blackpool,Peterborough and York are facing the sack. An analysis of Steria’s accounts – which they are required to disclose under EU law- reveals that they make the most money out of their British operations – but their biggest off shore operation is in India with lesser ones in Morocco and Poland. They also derive 39 per cent of their income from the public sector,

 So what will be Sheffield’s loss could well be Pune and Chennai in India’s gain. And here’s the irony  Peter Swann’s company, Aon, rates India as a high risk country for riots, commotion and terrorism, while Sheffield is low risk. It is also amazing that to save money our justice secretary, Chris Grayling, and Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, are quite happy for Steria to do what they like with our personal data. I bet they don’t take such risks with their own personal security. Perhaps both of them should be removed to exile in Pune.


Exclusive: Millionaire Francis Maude: the bad bill payer

Francis Maude: Difficulties in paying his taxpayer funded bills on time

Do you fall behind with the gas and lecky?Forget to pay your TV licence and struggle to pay charges? Well spare a thought for poor struggling millionaire Francis Maude who just can’t seem to get his act together when it comes to paying his bills.

The man  was rightly castigated  last week over his ill-judged and downright dangerous public advice to stockpile jerry cans. But there is another side to his character which is equally surprising – his record for paying bills on time.

Hidden on the Parliamentary website following the great expenses scandal is an extraordinary documentation of the time when he owned a flat  in Imperial Court in Kennington, south London between 2007 and 2009. ( anoraks can peruse all Francis Maude’s bills at http://bit.ly/Hbu1Vo )

At the time he was severely criticised by the Daily Telegraph ( see http://tgr.ph/HkjDGC ) for purchasing the flat for £430,000- with a £345,000 mortgage- and claiming all the interest when he owned a house outright in Denny Crescent nearby. As a previous blog disclosed he also got a mortgage on this house and let it out to Tory special advisers – Maude’s madrassa – as it became known.

What the documents also  reveal is an amazing lax attitude to paying his gas, electricity  and telephone bills and service charges.  Not just  the delays in paying out the cash but being threatened with disconnection  and legal action for non-payment.

In August 2007 he was threatened with a termination notice for not paying a £36 telephone bill.

At the beginning of 2009 he received a letter from Kevin Roxburgh, head of energy debt collections, at British Gas because he hadn’t paid his £188.24 gas bill for over a month. The letter asks whether he has payment difficulties and tells him about direct debit.

EDF his electricity supplier also suggests he might like to pay by direct debit because of his overdue payments.

Finally he is threatened with legal action for an overdue bill of over £2600 from his landlords. They write to him warning that his long delay has already led to administration charge of £29.37.

The letter warns:” We request that you settle the amount outstanding within 14 days of the date of this reminder in order to avoid incurring additional costs or further legal action.”

The irony about this is that all his bills were being paid anyway by the taxpayer – he didn’t have to pay a penny as he could claim them back through his Parliamentary expenses.

Yet somehow he couldn’t  get his act together to send them a cheque. Finally the records show that he learns there is something easier called direct debit – and two years after moving into the flat actually sets up direct debit payments for his TV licence and  utility bills. This man is supposed to be a world-class banker -the ex md of Morgan Stanley. And he is charge of getting more efficiency in business payments to the government. God help us.

More Revelations after Christmas

A seasonal Xmas Picture: courtesy http;//email-junk.com/wallpaper

It is time for a Christmas break. Thanks to all followers  and viewers who have read this blog over the past year.

Normal service will resume after Christmas with fresh investigations in the pipeline  including one on a leading Labour councillor. There may also be further revelations about the life  and wealth of Francis Maude as the government in the season of good cheer ratchets up its campaign to increase pension contributions from teachers, civil servants, firefighters,probation officers, health workers and local government staff while cutting their benefits.

Francis Maude is  the first national figure subject to an armchair audit on this blog – part of the open society which he and David Cameron say they are keen to promote.

Also expect some suprising and fascinating revelations about Whitehall.

In the meantime have a good festive break while you can afford it.

Maude’s Tory Madrassa: The House of the Rising Spads

Come into the garden,Maude. leafy outlook at Denny Garden - a tenant's perk

This is the second part of the Armchair Audit of Francis Maude -looking at his role as a landlord.

Not only can Mr Maude look forward to a platinum pension  from investment bankers, Morgan Stanley, (see previous blog) but he is  also making money as a  landlord in Kennington, south London by letting out rooms available only to young  ambitious Tories.

Just off the Kennington Road where he once lived lies Denny Crescent, a beautiful and leafy enclave in a somewhat grotty  area.

Here Mr Maude purchased  a home for £240,000 cash in 1999. The  three bedroomed property, one of a terrace, has more than doubled in value since then – a next door home was recently sold  for £485,000 – and boasts two special  features.

One is  a restricted covenant signed between Mr Maude and as the title-deed shows ” His Royal Highness Charles Philip Arthur George Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Rothesay,Earl of Chester, Carrick,Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Great Steward of Scotland.”  Originally it was owned by the  Duchy of Cornwall which has imposed restrictions.

Mr Maude’s  terraced home  is Grade II listed. Lambeth Council’s description describes the  terrace as built in  “1913 by J D Coleridge for Duchy of Cornwall Estate. Crescent of 2-storey red brick cottages in Dutch style. Dark tiled roofs with dividing chimney walls and moulded wood eaves cornice. Returned crowstepped gables, with Roman cement coping, at ends and flanking centre. First floor brick band. Sash windows with glazing bars in moulded wood architraves. Half glazed doors in plain wood frames have low oblong fanlight. Handsome rainwater heads with Prince of Wales’ feathers and motto. ”

The second is membership for £125 a year and use of a private garden for his tenants, Denny Garden Ltd, opposite his home. You can find out all about this at http://dennygarden.wordpress.com.


This property featured in the Daily Telegraph’s expenses scandal. It was the family’s London home – the electoral register shows Francis, Christina, and two of his daughters  Julia and Cecily, lived there until 2006.

Then Mr Maude  and his family swapped homes to a flat in nearby Imperial Court taking out a £345,000 mortgage and began claiming  substantial Parliamentary expenses on the flat. They charged the taxpayer £387.50 for moving the furniture from Denny Crescent there.

What the title deeds reveal is that Mr Maude also took out another mortgage with the HSBC Private Bank  on Denny Crescent raising another tranche of cash.

Mr Maude’s “tax efficiency” as they call it  is clever – at the time he claimed  interest on one mortgage from the taxpayer and offset new rental income from Tory activists in his old home  by loading all the mortgage  interest costs and repairs against the rental charge. That way he pays little tax.  And he has released hundreds of thousands of pounds of capital to spend himself. No wonder he is a highly paid former investment banker.

The property unlike next door – where the tenant pays Prince Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall  £500 a month for the unfurnished house – is not registered as a  fair rent.


Westminster gossip  among Tory Spads ( the name for political advisers to ministers) has it that the only way you can get a convenient place to lay your head at the Maude address is to be vetted by his daughters. No chance if you are not a rising Tory activist, preferably a special adviser or wannabe MP. It also ensures no indiscretions to outsiders at the dinner table. Some wag described it as “Maude’s madrassa”.

True or not Mr Maude has had both  infamous and rising stars as his tenants.

Maude's most infamous tenant: James McGrath Pic courtesy: Daily Telegraph

 Chief among them is Australian James McGrath, a  40 something strategic adviser to Boris Johnson.

 He was exposed by journalist and campaigner Marc Wadsworth for suggesting that black immigrants who were unhappy with living in a London run by Boris Johnson should go home (See Guardian comment  is free  http://bit.ly/sWjUCq). Despite being close to Lynton Crosby( now masterminding Boris’s campaign again) he was forced to quit and he ended up going home to Australia where he is campaigns director for the Liberal Party. He has threatened to return.  In an interview with Shane Greer in Total Politics,(see http://bit.ly/sN4Sgd ) he said: ” I might come back here, we’ll see what happens.

Shane: Who knows, maybe the Boris re-election?

James: “Maybe actually, that would be nice actually especially if Ken runs again. No worries.”

Shane: “Good to stick it to him?”

James: “Totally.”

Less controversial is Martha Varney, Maude’s tenant until 2010, but a rising star,in her late 20s / eraly 30s and now special adviser to  eccentric bin dumper Oliver Letwin, who works with Francis Maude, in the Cabinet Office.  She is paid between £40,000-£54,000 a year.

Even less well-known is Alistair Richardson, in his late 20s, another Tory wannabe who has written blogs for Platform10, urging in 2o08 that MPs  (now on £65,000) should be paid at least £100,000 a year.

There are also  people not on the public electoral register. So which rising Tory star will kip at Maude’s listed home next?

Francis Maude powers site hits to 80,000+

Thanks to all who read my tale on Francis Maude’s gold plated pension. The number of hits is 1671  so far – most in the 48 hours after the story went up. Special thanks to Political Scrapbook who made it their main story for a couple of days, Hugh Muir at the Guardian Diary who wrote up the tale in the paper and Jonathen Ledger, general secretary at NAPO, plus the 25 or more of you who liked the tale so much that you retweeted it- fromRichard Simcox at the  Public and Commercial Services Union, Barnet bloggers,to cityalan, a professor at City University.

There is more on Maude to come soon -watch this space.

Exclusive: Francis Maude’s secret gold plated banker’s pension

Francis Maude: The man with the gold plated pension. Pic courtesy: The Guardian

Armchair audit is  raising its sights. As well as looking as councillors like Brian Coleman, it is now turning the spotlight  on auditing the  seriously wealthy to see if they follow David Cameron’s dictum that we are in it all together.

Francis Maude is the public face for taking on the public sector trade unions and  insisting their low paid members are being offered the best possible  pension terms which anyone in the private sector will be really envious.

But is everyone in the private sector worse off than public sector workers? Not Mr Maude for a start.

He has taken one hit and is about to take another since he rejoined the Conservative led coalition.

His  Cabinet Office minister salary  is £98,740 (includes MP’s salary of £65,738). This is a reduction of £5197 on his Labour predecessor, Tessa Jowell.

It is his pension history which marks the real divide. When he reaches retirement age at 2018 he will be able – unlike his public sector colleagues –  to be able to draw FOUR pensions.

 He will get the state pension – promised by the coalition to reach £140 a week – which will go to everybody.

He will get  TWO public sector pensions – one as an MP and one as minister. Their arrangements are hideously complicated – and not as open as figures available for public sector workers.

As an MP  since 1983 of 28 years standing ( he was out of parliament between 1992-97) by 2015 he will entitled – assuming a virtual wage freeze – to a pension of around £31,000 a year because he has a private sector pension and this taken into consideration to save taxpayer’s cash. Otherwise it would be worth over £46,000.

But while workers will be paying higher pension contributions Mr Maude is able to pay less under this deal. His contribution rate drops from 7.9 per cent to 5.9 per cent.

His minister’s pension by 2015 will be worth over £10,000 a year. His contributions, to be fair, are now 11.9 per cent and will rise to 18 per cent.

This gives him a state pension in excess of £40,000 a year – TEN times the average pension of lower paid civil servants bearing the brunt of the cuts and FIVE times the average civil servant pension. For that matter it is also FIVE times the average teacher’s pension.

But this is by no means the full picture. These calculations  miss out Mr Maude’s private pension – which is a huge elephant in the negotiating room.

 During the period he was out of office Mr Maude was director of  27 companies between 1992 and 2011. Six were dissolved and three went bust.

 But standing out from the lot is a period of over two years from February 1994 to November 1996 when Mr Maude was managing director of  investment bankers,Morgan Stanley, in London and New York.

The accounts are still available at Companies House and the salaries – paid in 1990s money – were stratospheric for directors.

The highest paid director’s salary went from £786,873  in 1994 to £1,234,690 in 1995 and to £1,708, 063  in 1996 – a rise  of well in excess of 100 per cent. And that excludes pension payments.

Mr Maude’s salary is not  identified –  but as MD in two countries – it will be nearer to those  figures – plus a pension to boot.

 The Cabinet Office declined to comment on his private pensions arrangements. But a City management consultant told me:

“It would be inconceivable that Morgan Stanley would not have paid Mr Maude a high pension because it is a much more tax efficient way of paying out money. Often City firms offer pensions equivalent to say 10 years service, rather than three, as a way of giving more money to people when they leave.”

Indeed Mr Maude had a lot of spare cash in 1996. Land registry records reveal that on 1st August 1996 Mr Maude and his wife Christina, bought for cash a large farmhouse and land at  Dial Post in West Sussex.  Property around there with land goes now for sums well in excess of £1m.

Perhaps the time has come for Mr Maude to reveal his true pension status when he is lecturing people to settle for less for life. He is the Government’s Mr Transparency and has released lots of personal data on individual civil servant’s  pay and pensions.

Just this weekend, his boss at the Cabinet Office, Nick Clegg, called for more transparency on top executive pay and perks. Mr Maude could lead by example by revealing the historic facts of his secret pension deal.

 My guess is that he has a private fund worth well over £1m on top of his three other state pensions. Prove me wrong, Mr Maude.

You can of course express your own views – you might feel Francis Maude is worth a mega pension, or you may feel he doesn’t  deserve anything like it.. You can e-mail him on psfrancismaude@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk .