Unions say Coalition plans will ‘import worst excesses of David Brent’s “The Office” into government’

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Unions say Coalition plans for reform of the civil service are ‘built on sand’, because it will be impossible to improve public services at the same time as cutting more than 100,000 jobs.

The Cabinet Office Minister, Frances Maude has told MPs that his White Paper proposals ‘are not an attack on the civil service’, however both unions and opposition MPs say problems in the civil service management are a result of failures of minister, not of civil servants themselves.

PCS says ‘huge and unsustainable’ job cuts will allow profit margins to drive decisions about the provision of services instead of public need.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This plan is built on sand because cutting more than 100,000 jobs and allowing the pursuit of private profit to dictate what we do is entirely incompatible with providing the kind of good quality public services that we all rightly expect and demand.

“Instead of seeking to blame civil servants, ministers should recognise that austerity isn’t working and, far from making our economic situation better, it is their political choices that are causing misery for millions of people in this country.”

In a statement to the House of Commons, Frances Maude confirmed plans for a new ‘performance management appraisal system’ which could see up to 10% of civil servants being put ‘on probation’ and threatened with losing their jobs if they fail to meet new performance targets.

However, he said no decision had been made on the introduction of regional pay in the civil service, repeating comments this week from Downing Street that the government ‘would not proceed without good evidence’ in favour of a new structure for public sector pay in different parts of the UK.

Unions say the proposals fail to address concerns of civil and public servants over cuts in jobs, pay and pensions.

Prospect said the reform plans would “import the worst excesses of David Brent’s The Office into government.”

Its general secretary Paul Noon said politicians had obsessed for years over issues of policy and management: “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.

“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.”

Civil service unions dispute ministers’ claims of support among civil servants for key proposals contained in the White Paper, such as a new ‘mutual’ pension and the introduction of a more ‘entrepreneurial’ culture in government departments.

8,000 PCS members at the Department for Transport have already taken strike action this month against cuts to jobs and services.

A further 55,000 members at HM Revenue and Customs are due to take similar industrial action next week (25th June).


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