But Prospect, which represents professional staff, warned that effective reform would never take place until it was targeted at all civil servants, and in particular, at professional grades whose pay and career management always took second place to the interests of the Senior Civil Service.
The union was commenting on the recent report by the Institute of Government designed to improve administration at the heart of government - No10, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury.
On behalf of 122,000 scientists, engineers, managers and specialists, Prospect endorsed the IOG's proposals to strengthen Cabinet Office leadership, focus on performance management and co-ordinate action on cross-cutting issues. These were "an important contribution to a debate in which the political parties need to engage before the general election," said Dai Hudd, Deputy General Secretary.
But he criticised them as ‘too timid by far' for neglecting the need to improve career opportunities for those with the specialist expertise to handle the complex social and technological problems faced by the modern civil service.
"For instance, it is a fact that Government's own workforce data are totally inadequate, Government does not know how many scientists and engineers it employs, let alone plan to raise their status and give professionals a stronger voice in departments and at the centre. This is vital if departments are ever to become ‘intelligent' customers."
Hudd welcomed the Institute's call for the Cabinet Office to be given stronger powers over human resource management, and for the Treasury's role to be confined to decisions on spending and tax. The Institute acknowledged that the huge number of different pay rates in and between departments had hampered the movement of staff, said Hudd.
"But it does not follow through with a call for more consistent pay levels or any reform of the current chaotic regime of pay delegation."
Hudd urged political leaders to respond to the report and grasp the nettle of real organisational change rather than wait until the election to engage in another bout of inefficient machinery of government changes in Whitehall.