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Report shows pressing need to appoint Head of Civil Service, says Blair

There is a pressing need to appoint a new Head of the Civil Service (HOCS), Alliance MLA John Blair has said, after a major report stated the civil service was at a ‘critical crossroads’.

The report by the Audit Office stated almost 1,500 vacancies in the civil service have yet to be filled, with sickness levels remaining the highest in the UK – with almost 13 working days lost due to sickness per staff member, compared with the average of between seven and eight days in the rest of the UK.

“It is clear the civil service is struggling to cope with the pressures put upon it and there is a need for a complete transformation. The report states many pressing issues, including needing to improve recruitment processes, a need for succession planning and a high use of temporary appointments,” said Mr Blair.

“The civil service has been without a HOCS for almost three months now. This report lays bare the fact it is missing the strategic guidance and direction a HOCS can give, in order to lead the reform and transformation needed.

“That is a massive gap at any time but particularly during a pandemic and with a rapidly approaching Brexit. The First and Deputy First Ministers rejected the previous candidates interviewed for the job. They need to continue the process and prioritise this appointment, which would not only help the civil service but also assist in a range of Executive discussions.”