Civil Servants

Highest title

Secretary of the State (political head of department)

Political adviser

Permanent Secretary (Administrative Head of Department)

Numbers in 20171



423,0002 (of which less than 1% is Senior Civil Service)

Salaries in 2017


(Cabinet Minister £79,721 plus MP £76,011)3

£65,000 - £140,000

Median £69,000 (and £72,000 for 32 SpAds who work for the Prime Minister)

Median £25,900 (March 2017)

Ascendance to office

Elected politicians (mainly)

Appointed official

Appointed official

Loyalty to


Minister first, party second

Must serve any government of any party. No political allegiance to be displayed— neutral/impartial— “neutral on the government side”

Public visibility

High public profile

Publicly accountable

Potentially visible outside, as well as within, Whitehall

Anonymous—expected to offer confidential and neutral advice, behind closed doors


Runs department

Works for the Minister and government

Works in department


Makes political decisions/policy

A number of inter-related roles (advancing/defending the Government; management role)

Provide party political assistance

Reviewing papers, checking facts from a party-political viewpoint

Contributing to policy planning

Briefing party MPs

Liaising with outside interest groups

Advice on policy

Prepare legislation

Drafting answers to Parliamentary questions

Implementing and managing policy

Proactive guardians of propriety within their departments

Responsibility to

Parliament, for their actions and for policies directly associated with them, as well as for the actions and behaviour of their SpAd(s)




Politician-Until next election

Reshuffling of the Cabinet by Prime Minister—average 2 years

Temporary civil servant—dependent on ministerial tenure and favour

Permanent—do not change at time of election

The average tenure in post for members of the SCS is 2 years (HCPACAC, 2018)

Statutory guidance

Ministerial Code (2018)

Code of Conduct for Special Advisers (December 2016)

Civil Service Commission (2015) and Civil Service Management Code (2016)