Whitehall civil servants may take lessons from their New Zealand counterparts in a shake-up of how government works.

The Cabinet Office has launched a review which could see Britain adopt a new way of working - making mandarins and bureaucrats more accountable.

The Contestable Policy Fund will see the government commission a think-tank or academic body to review other countries’ civil services - and see what the UK can learn.

Researchers will study how governments operate in Australia, Singapore, the US, France, Sweden and New Zealand.

Ministers are particularly keen to discover more about the New Zealand system, where there is a contractual relationship between ministers who set clear outcomes, and top civil servants charged with delivering them.

Cabinet office minister Francis Maude said: “While we are rightly proud of our civil service, we shouldn’t hubristically assume that there’s nothing we can learn from other successful governments, whether like Australia and New Zealand, where they have political arrangements which are broadly similar to ours, or like Singapore or the United States, where they are more distinct.

“To meet the future challenges of our fast-changing world, Britain’s civil service will need to continue to change and adapt, and that’s why we are determined to draw on new ideas.”

Civil service head Sir Bob Kerslake said: “This is about better equipping the government to carry on doing what it does best, which is delivering essential public services that make a real difference to people’s lives.”