Public Services > Central Government

UK ranked fourth in new global civil service performance index

Neil Merrett Published 07 July 2017

Institute for Government findings praise Whitehall for its work on data availability, but urge improvements in areas such as risk management


The UK has been praised over the availability and accessibility of its data and the impact of information it uses, yet remains behind a number of countries in digital services and risk management, according to data-based findings considering civil service effectiveness around the world.

Part of a collaboration between the Institute for Government and the Blavatnik School of Government, the International Civil Service Effectiveness (InCiSE) Index is a first of its kind report looking at public sector performance in 31 countries across a number of performance metrics.

According to the findings, which were supported by the UK Civil Service and funding from Open Society Foundations (OSF), Britain was rated fourth overall  based on current metrics that saw it being viewed as leading areas such as policy making and social security administration.

“For the openness indicator, the UK scores highly on two themes – government data availability and accessibility, plus government data impact – coming top in two of the metrics used. It also scores well on the public consultation theme,” said a breakdown of the findings.

“The UK’s social security administration ranking suggests that system costs as a proportion of sector expenditure are comparatively low. The UK scores highly on regulation as well (ranked 2nd overall), coming top on the impact assessment theme, and on tax administration (ranked 5th overall), with consistently good scores across all metrics.”

However, the country did not place in a top five ranking for digital service provision, which looked at cross-border mobility of online functions, user focus issues and enabling technological innovation through infrastructure investment.

Estonia was given top the rank under the metric, with Austria, Denmark, Australia and Finland rounding out the top four in terms of digital service.

“On digital services, the UK scores relatively highly for the cross-border mobility of services theme (ranked 4th overall) but less well against other themes considered,” noted the findings. “The UK’s scores for the integrity and capabilities indicators may also benefit from further analysis, learning from the leading countries.”

Another area of concern for the UK that was identified in the index was crisis and risk management, where the country was deemed to be “just above average”.

Future InCiSE findings, which are built around a peer reviewed methodology, are anticipated to be published on an annual basis going forward.

Of the 76 metrics on which the findings were based, only the UK and Norway were able to provide full sets of data for the initial findings, which is intended to become a well tool for benchmarking civil service work internationally.

“InCiSE is not claiming at this stage to be a comprehensive measure of civil service performance. Some countries and data are missing which prevent the index from being as robust and comparative as we would wish,” said the findings.

Responding to the publication of the index, Civil Service head Sir Jeremy Heywood welcomed an independent assessment of the government’s capabilities, as well as potential areas of concern.

“Notably, we ranked first for policy-making, openness and social security administration, and also performed strongly on regulation (ranking second) and on tax administration (ranking fifth),” he said.

“However, there are also areas where we performed less well, and in the coming months we will examine where we could learn from the approaches other countries are taking, supporting our vision for ‘A Brilliant Civil Service’.”

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