Treasury officials ‘too young and inexperienced’ to make good decisions, says think tank

Treasury officials ‘too young and inexperienced’ to make good decisions, says think tank

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Treasury officials are “too young and inexperienced” to make good decisions about how to spend taxpayers’ money, said a think tank.

The Institute for Government urged the Treasury to replace young “generalist” staff for those with financial experience.

The average age of a Treasury official is 31 and one in four leaves the department every year, it found.  

The report from the think tank said that staff were “hard-working” but lacked “key skills”.

The report said: “The Treasury’s staff are widely characterised as bright, hard-working problem-solvers, but they also lack experience and key skills.

“Although they have access to Cabinet Office expertise in procurement, project management and digital, spending teams rely heavily on young generalist civil servants, who move between jobs frequently; a model that has some benefits but brings many risks.

“Turnover of staff means spending teams tend to lack deep insight into public services and projects, and lack the contacts who would help inform them.”


‘Increasingly isolated’

The think tank suggested the Treasury should “make use of expert panels, and selected short-term external hires” to give insight into the most challenging issues for the 2019 Spending Review.

Spending reviews are there to carefully manage the public finances as they set out departmental budgets. The 2019 Review is needed because there are no plans in place for 2020-21.

The Institute for Government added: “The Treasury needs more of the people managing public spending to be qualified in finance, accountancy or both.”

The think tank also noted that the Treasury was “increasingly isolated from public services and their leaders”.

One public service leader in the report said: “[The Treasury] reaches a view without engaging outside government, above all with leaders at the sharp end of public service delivery.

“Not only does this mean its view lacks grasp of the real world, it also insulates itself too much from politics.”