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Union rejects civil service reform plans

Civil service professionals reject management by diktat

Prospect today said the Government’s reform plans would fail to create a more professional civil service and would “import the worst excesses of David Brent’s The Office into government.”

On behalf of 34,000 scientists, engineers and specialists in departments and public bodies, general secretary Paul Noon said politicians had obsessed for years over issues of policy and management. “But what the public cares about is service and services. The acid test is what the reform plans will do to improve delivery of those services.

“And what do we get? A fact-finding exercise on skills which is welcome but hardly a programme of reform. And a series of internal navel-gazing exercises with fancy names like contestable policies, project progress reports, cross-government MI systems, leadership schemes and departmental improvement plans.

“These short-term gimmicks and obscure slogans are no substitute for clear goals and motivated staff.

“What is planned for the Government’s own workforce is more of the same – pay and job cuts, once again without any indication of what tasks are to be shed or their impact on core skills.

“The cuts are to be achieved by a human resources policy that takes it out on people who don’t get on with their boss, which will only create a culture of fear and import into government the worst excesses of David Brent’s The Office.

“This is not a vision of a professional civil service attuned to an economy in crisis or the technological needs of the 21st century. It is management by diktat and another nail in the coffin of the public service ethos.”

Prospect argues that the internal managerial skills promoted by government – finance, IT, procurement – are narrow subsets of the key skills it needs to discharge its responsibilities, in particular to maintain its capacity as an ‘intelligent customer’.

“These reform plans say nothing about the role of scientists and engineers, or experts working in defence, meteorology, vehicle testing, cartography, prison management, nuclear regulation or veterinary science, to name just a few.

“They are a sideshow to the bigger debate that needs to take place on a new employee deal, given that the civil service is the one major part of the public sector that has not had pay and conditions reformed in the last 20 years. When will government actually do what it preaches and listen to the professionals?” Noon asked.


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