The Constitution Unit


Non-Executive Directors in Whitehall


Whitehall building

Read the project report published January 2018

This is the first major study of non-executive board members in Whitehall, assessing their contributions in and outside departmental board meetings. The project was led by three former civil servants, Alan Cogbill, Howard Webber and Hilary Jackson, with strong support from David Owen and Lucas Chebib. 

We began by compiling a database of all the non-executive board members and their backgrounds. We then reviewed published information about the work of non-executives, and in summer 2017 we conducted 70 interviews of board members - non-executives, ministers, senior officials and stakeholders. With Cabinet Office support we also issued an online survey to non-executive board members, and in October 2017 we held a private seminar at the Institute for Government to discuss our emerging findings.

In January 2018 we published our report, 'Critical Friends? Non-Executive Directors on Whitehall Boards'. We found that non-executives are high calibre, committed people, whose expertise is greatly valued by the civil service. Non-executives however, find the role frustrating, and feel they could be much more effective if the system only allowed. 

Further information