‘Senior civil servants were my biggest frustration’, says former UK civil service training chief

By on 08/09/2015 | Updated on 25/09/2020

Departmental senior leaders showed an alarming lack of interest and commitment towards staff training and development, the civil servant who introduced a centralised training system to the UK government has said.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Global Government Forum, Jerry Arnott, who retired from the civil service last autumn, said that the “biggest frustration I had during my time was around the senior civil service community not accepting the importance of learning and capability.”

In his role as chief executive of Civil Service Learning (CSL), Arnott said, he’d tried to influence permanent secretaries and senior leaders across the civil service to invest more in training their staff in specialist and leadership skills – key capabilities gaps identified under the civil service reform agenda. But, he told GGF, “not all, but certainly some of our leaders were just paying lip service to this agenda, and didn’t really accept the importance of investing in staff learning and development unless it was business critical.”

Founded in 2012, CSL buys generic skills training for the whole civil service, replacing a system under which individual departments bought their own training from a range of different suppliers. The government estimates that the reform saves around £100m a year through economies of scale, eliminating duplication, and a shift to digital training.

See also: Our full interview with Jerry Arnott

Our full interview with Kevin White, Former Director-General Of HR, UK Home Office

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About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.


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