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Home Office pledges to address 'systemic challenges' following DNA testing scandal

2 days 8 hours ago
News

Singh review finds poor coordination and outdated IT systems made it difficult to find everyone affected by demands for DNA evidence

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DNA testing Credit: PA

The Home Office has this week admitted to having “systemic challenges” with record-keeping and coordination across the borders and immigration system following revelations it wrongly compelled some visa applicants to take DNA tests.

Eight months after it came to light that the Home Office had illegally rejected some visa applications because applicants had refused to provide a DNA sample, the department said flaws in its collection and recording of data had hindered its ability to identify all the people who had been affected.

The department's latest admissions come in response to an independent review conducted by former riots commission chair Darra Singh, the second probe prompted by the DNA-testing revelations, which was published earlier this week

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Although DNA evidence can legally be used to support an immigration application, for example to prove a family relationship, it cannot be a requirement. However, a review published in October found samples had been “improperly required” in some visa and permanent residence applications – and that it was “impossible to quantify” how many times this had happened.

The Home Office has so far identified 1,351 applicants or family units who had been wrongly told to supply DNA evidence, according to Singh's review. It found just over half of those people – 590 – supplied the evidence, and 339 paid for it.

But in its response, published alongside the review, the Home Office admitted its ability to collect and analyse data effectively – including records of who had been told to give DNA samples – had been hampered by poor coordination and outdated IT systems.

Singh, a partner at the consultancy EY and former civil servant who led a commission on the 2011 riots, said the Home Office had not done enough to identify all the people who may have been affected by demands for DNA evidence.

He said the department “should have assessed and utilised a greater range of information and applied a more appropriate degree of professional curiosity” to identify all the people affected. Among other things, the Home Office should have used better statistical methods to assess the scale of the problem, Singh said.

He also said his review had highlighted gaps in the Home Office’s record-keeping.

“A lack of rigour in the management information used, both from the Home Office IT systems and locally kept information, hindered the Home Office’s ability to account for this cohort. The review found additional people impacted, not identified by the department,” the report said.

In its response, the Home Office said the review had highlighted “systemic challenges with how work is coordinated across the borders and immigration system as well as the limitations imposed by a legacy IT system on effective data collection and analysis”.

The department said it had started to address these problems through a major plan, called the simplification and streamlining programme, to “provide a single source of truth for guidance, policy, and immigration rules, providing information that is consistent and accessible for both decision makers and the public”.

A replacement IT system, Atlas, which is being rolled out at the moment across the department, would help to improve record-keeping and data collection, it added.

The department also said it recognised it needed to build on its existing work to “bring its component parts into an aligned whole, reduce siloed working and increase collaborative working across operational and policy areas”.

The Home Office said it had already implemented many of Singh’s recommendations, including better staff training and stepping up its efforts to publicise a helpline set up to assist people affected by the scandal.

The report welcomed the speed at which the department had put a new policy and guidance in place for the use of DNA evidence in immigration applications. The policy was published in November, a month after reports of the errors came to light.

However, it said improvements were needed as outdated guidance was still being shared on local IT hubs and shared drives.

Home secretary Sajid Javid was forced to apologise when the scandal came to light in October last year, saying it was “unacceptable” that some people had been forced to take DNA tests.

He added: “I want to take this opportunity to apologise to those who have been affected by this practice. The law in this context is that the provision of DNA evidence should always be voluntary and never mandatory.”

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Digital, Data & AI Justice and Public Safety Science & Technology Categories Government and politics Public order, justice and rights Science, technology and research About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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Jacky Wright interview: HMRC's digital chief reflects on insourcing, inclusivity, and the ‘teething pains’ of transformation

2 days 8 hours ago
Interview

Department’s chief digital information officer tells Civil Service World about transforming working practices and service delivery at the UK tax authority, and why improving diversity starts with leaders who are self-aware

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Jacky Wright Credit: Baldo Sciacca

To get an idea of the scale of HM Revenue and Customs’ transformation plan, consider that the 10 years that have been allotted for its delivery is 36 months longer than host cities are given to put together the summer Olympics – a feat of organisation that requires the construction of infrastructure to support several million visitors from more than 200 countries.

The project represents the biggest modernisation of the UK tax system in a generation and, according to the government, involves fundamentally changing the way the department works and the services it provides. This includes installing – and, in many cases, uprooting – HMRC’s 65,000 employees into 13 regional hubs across the country by 2025.

As building work on the new offices continues, the focus is on giving employees a working environment “designed to support digital, flexible ways of working”.

Technology is also at the heart of changing how HMRC delivers services, as the department implements a range of platforms to enable it to collect an annual tally of more than £600bn in tax revenue electronically.

Heading up these twin technology transformations – reimagining both the working lives of the department’s tens of thousands of employees and the way it serves citizens – is Jacky Wright, who joined HMRC in October 2017 as chief digital and information officer. She believes that if HMRC is to make good on its grand ambitions, it must conceive of those two strands as part of a singular mission, and address them simultaneously.

Think about what it takes to insource a whole organisation; you do not overnight create an organisation that is just ready to go. We still have an ecosystem where we have suppliers – and we’ll always have that. The challenge is, do you have the right mix?

“You have to,” Wright tells Civil Service World. “Because we’re talking about transforming how we do what we do… In order for us to transform, you have to work with the right people, those people have to have the right capabilities, and we have to provide the tools and processes to enable them, so that we can transform the services we ultimately deliver to our customers and businesses.”

Wright, who grew up in Tottenham but has spent much of her working life in the US, joined government from her previous role as a corporate vice president at Microsoft, based at the tech giant’s headquarters near Seattle. Before this, she held senior roles at a number of other multinational companies, including BP, General Electric, and Andersen Consulting.

She arrived at HMRC at a time when improving digital skills and technology infrastructure was especially important: the Aspire IT contract – the department’s long-running (and controversial) outsourcing deal with suppliers Capgemini, Fujitsu, and Accenture – finally reached its conclusion the same year that Wright became CDIO. The contract covered the supply of a comprehensive range of IT products and services, including computing and network infrastructure, and maintenance and support services.

Over its 13-year timeframe, Aspire was worth in excess of £10bn to the three suppliers. The second half of its lifespan took place against a backdrop of the Cabinet Office’s drive to break up such monolithic contracts and replace them with smaller, more SME-friendly engagements.

13

Number of regional hubs where HMRC employees will be based

65,000
The department's approximate number of employees

10 years
Length of time allotted for delivery of transformation strategy

2020
Date by which government wishes to become the UK’s most inclusive employer

HMRC has previously estimated that its post-Aspire landscape could feature as many as 200 tech suppliers. Alongside this is a commitment to bring back in-house many services and functions that were for so many years outsourced.

“The Aspire project is gone – that’s done. And we have, to all intents and purposes, insourced,” Wright says. “But think about what it takes to insource a whole organisation; you do not overnight create an organisation that is just ready to go. We still have an ecosystem where we have suppliers – and we’ll always have that. The challenge is, do you have the right mix? And do you have the right capabilities in house? And so where we are right now, and what I have focused on, is deciding where you want core competencies internally versus externally.”

Where previous suppliers may have been seen as merely that – there simply to supply the department with kit – Wright is determined that the commercial engagements taking HMRC forward will be “true partnerships”.

“There’s a change in the expectations,” she says. “We want partners that help us to understand how we innovate more, to help us accelerate where we need to accelerate, and also to help with skill sets and infuse us with capability.”

She points to a recent programme she sponsored, conducted by government and industry body techUK in which civil service Fast Streamers worked with counterparts from similar schemes in the private sector. The two groups dedicated themselves to examining “government problems” and proposing solutions.

“That worked really well,” she says, adding the department must do more such programmes “as part of this insourcing that we’ve taken on board”.

Making Tax Digital 

HMRC’s most visible service transformation is the £235m Making Tax Digital programme, which has encountered various criticisms and concerns since the rollout began in 2016.

Nevertheless, the implementation has proceeded steadily and, as of 1 April, all businesses with annual turnover above the £85,000 threshold must now file VAT returns using the digital system.

After some initial challenges, the platform is performing well, Wright says: “There were a few teething pains, but right now we are in a good place, and we can build on that.”

HMRC has promised that it will initially take a “light-touch approach” to enforcement, with penalties for non-compliance not to be sought as a matter of course. Mandatory use of MTD for income tax returns will be delayed until at least April 2021. 

Between now and then, HMRC will work towards “setting out the ways we can improve and make it easier” for businesses to use, Wright says.

“It is about making sure that we think through all of the aspects of rolling out digital services, and a key part is how we socialise them – being clear on how the service works, and that it is consumable by everyone.”

Asked how she has found the digital awareness and skills of government compared with the private sector, Wright first says that “it’s not a fair comparison” for an entity as vast and diverse as government – nor a private sector that encompasses “high-tech organisations, old manufacturing organisations” and everything in between.

That said, she acknowledges that government’s growing digital, data and technology (DDaT) profession needs to do more to educate civil servants on the benefits of new tools and ways of working.

“I would say we need to do a better job of equipping our people and making sure that they understand how technology can be used to enable them to do what they need to do,” she says. “We’re also deep seated in bureaucracy and policies that may not necessarily be fit for purpose. And because of that, our ability to adopt and consume our technologies in an agile way isn’t always feasible.”

A key part of moving past these inhibitions is ensuring that the DDaT profession works more closely with policy and operations professionals.

And the impetus to make this collaboration happen does not just come from the top down, the CDIO says. Civil servants designing policy – and those creating the technology used to deliver it – must better understand each other’s needs. 

Wright says: “The policy organisation is responsible for working with every other part of the organisation – including mine – to understand how policy gets implemented… what does it cost, how do we campaign, how do we work with our intermediaries, our agents, our software developers to implement that policy – and what are the inhibitors?

“Every stage of the implementation requires a digital element. So digital and IT becomes the axle by which things get done. For me and my team, we have to have the necessary skill sets in every one of those areas to be able to understand and translate and enable each one of those areas from a digital perspective.”In coordinating such an effort across an organisation as vast as HMRC, is Wright’s leadership approach more strategic, or hands-on?

[Inclusion] starts with the leaders. I have to know whether I have inherent biases in who I attract, who I hire, who I bring through, and who I encourage to work with me and for me. Each one of us has to do that... If every leader in this organisation were self-aware, then by the nature [of that], we would have a more inclusive environment.

“I characterise myself as a coach and a helicopter mum,” she says with a smile. The “coach” part of the equation, she goes on to explain, involves providing her people with the “the goal line” and giving them “the idea of where we want to go”.

She is there to help her staff along the way – “if they have issues, they’re able to come to me” – but also wants to give them the platform to be able to do their jobs properly.

“And then I empower. Trust, empower, and give them accountability,” she says. “And then I’m the helicopter mum, as I put it. Where I need to drill down with precision, […] where something is going into crisis or needs to be corrected, my role is to make sure that I’m focused and I help course-correct. I help understand with detail so that I can help people know where they need to go and redirect them accordingly.”

Diversity, inclusion, and respect
In a GOV.UK blogpost published in early November 2018 to mark the end of Black History Month, Wright wrote that: “As the daughter of a Windrush immigrant and a native of north London, I might not fit into the small box of what some people think of as a typical civil servant – but I am helping to change that.” 

The government has pledged to become “the UK’s most inclusive employer” by 2020, but there is still some way to go to achieve this – as evidenced by a conversation Wright had the day before we meet.

“I was talking to a group of people and I mentioned that I was going to be in Civil Service World. The response I got was: ‘We don’t remember ever having someone like you that we could read about in the magazine.’ 

“So, what does that tell you? It tells me we have work to do.

“That starts with the leaders. I have to know whether I have inherent biases in who I attract, who I hire, who I bring through, and who I encourage to work with me and for me. Each one of us has to do that. And, so the question I would put to you is, do you believe the civil service has created the framework by which we do that? If every leader in this organisation were self-aware, then by the nature [of that], we would have a more inclusive environment – because people would know. The fact that we don’t says that we, the leaders, have work to do to make sure that we are overcoming those barriers.”

Becoming a more diverse environment is not just about making government a better workplace, says Wright – who, since arriving at HMRC, has sat alongside 14 other senior civil service managers on government’s Diverse Leadership Taskforce, and has also worked with the Civil Service Ethnic Diversity Programme and Civil Service Race Networks. It is also about enabling government to work better: you can more effectively serve the breadth of the citizenry if your workforce is composed of a similarly broad cross-section, she says.

Data sharing and governance 

Wright says that, while data sharing is currently taking place across Whitehall, such work is still “in the early stages”. 

To support its expansion, HMRC is working with other departments to help develop the necessary frameworks, and try and ensure that citizens are not required to provide the same piece of information to multiple government entities. 

The tax agency has also established a data governance group with senior representatives from across the department.

Wright believes that HMRC could, ultimately, use data in a way that allows it to better support citizens by anticipating their needs.

“We know the journey of a citizen from when they are born, through to when they turn 16 and get National Insurance, when they start their first job – and whether it is with an SME or a large business,” she says.

“We want to really understand customers’ journeys so there is a seamless experience where we know about every life event and we can anticipate the services it requires.”

For her part, Wright says that she wants her team to develop a culture which is more inclusive, collaborative, and dedicated to solving problems. The trait she values more than any other is “curiosity”.

“I want my team to be an inclusive team from all walks of life, because then we can best address problems,” she says. “[Diversity] informs me like it should inform anything that anyone does… We’ve got to understand the citizens, because we have to make sure they are able to interact with us – no matter who they are, what walks of life they are from, or whether they have disabilities. And, in order to do that, I’ve got to think broadly.”

In February, HMRC published the Respect at Work Review, a 60-page report in which former John Lewis personnel director Laura Whyte revealed her findings from an in-depth study of the department’s workplace culture. 

Amid the 1,400 contributions made by civil servants were a number of stories that likely made uncomfortable reading for the department’s senior managers.

Whyte concluded that “many of the processes that should support respect at work require urgent improvement”. 

This includes the procedure for reporting grievances – the report was unable to find a single HMRC employee “who had confidence in the grievance process”.

£235m

Cost of delivering the Making Tax Digital Programme

1 April 2019
Date from which VAT returns must be filed using the Making Tax Digital platform

13 years
Length of HMRC’s Aspire engagement with IT suppliers Fujitsu, Capgemini and Accenture

£10bn
Approximate worth of the Aspire contract over its lifetime

Overall, the department is pockmarked by instances “of both ‘abusive’ and ‘abrasive’ behaviour” towards employees, Whyte concluded, and “HMRC does not have a systematic and data-driven approach to the management of people”.

Wright says that work is well under way to address the problems identified by the review. Moreover, the publication of its findings in the first place should also be recognised as progress.

“Let me start by saying that being transparent is a good thing. It enables folks to see that we are taking this seriously – and we’re not hiding anything,” she says. “It also enables employees to have a narrative and feel that we are actually paying attention here. And so now they can speak up and help be a part of changing the culture.”

Since the publication of the report, HMRC’s DDaT employees have undertaken training focused on empathy and the impact of micro-behaviours: small, often unthinking, actions that have an unintended adverse impact on others.

This training has been particularly important for senior managers, Wright says.

“Micro-behaviour training is about understanding, and the empathy training is about having a heightened awareness of when something’s not right. You can tease out what it is that’s really causing problems, and then create the environment where people can speak up and where the processes [for doing so] are not onerous… We’re focused on helping people become more self-aware, and then creating an environment where we are visibly rooting out, and not accepting – not tolerating – bad behaviour.”

In addition to these efforts to make the department a more open and empathetic workplace, Wright also feels strongly about dispelling any misconceptions in the wider IT sector that Whitehall is not a suitable destination for career technologists seeking to experience life on the bleeding edge of innovation.

She is keen to promote wider understanding of what she believes are the great opportunities the civil service can offer digital professionals. “From a career perspective, government is a great place,” she says. “People do not always recognise the breadth, depth and quality of things you can do – and in a culture where people feel included.”

Upon joining HMRC, the scale and sophistication of the work at hand was a surprise even to her, Wright says.

“What surprised me is, when we look at HMRC, it is as large as any FTSE company. Then there’s the nature of what we do, the breadth of what we do – everything from taxes to customs and trade – and the impact that we have in society.”

Wright joined HMRC in October 2017 on a two-year contract. Civil Service World suggests, with apologies for a slightly cheeky question, that it sounds like she might like to stay in government for the longer term.

“You’re right,” she says. “That is a cheeky question.”

 

Author Display Name Sam Trendall Tags Digital, Data & AI Diversity Economy, Business & Infrastructure HR IT & Security Leadership & Management Project & Programme Management Categories Business and industry Employment Science, technology and research About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of Civil Service World's sister title PublicTechnology

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DCMS and Cabinet Office to create joint Digital Identity Unit

2 days 9 hours ago
News

Cross-departmental body will help to create digital identity market, Cabinet Office says

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The Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are preparing to set up a team to foster cooperation between the public and private sectors on digital identity, as the GOV.UK Verify tool heads into commercial ownership.

The government is shortly to launch a consultation on how it can “deliver the effective organisation of the digital identity market”, the Cabinet Office announced this week. This process will focus on how best to ensure interoperability by setting “rules of the road” for private-sector providers.

Once the consultation is complete, the government set out more detailed plans – the delivery of which will be the responsibility of the newly-created Digital Identity Unit. 

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Jointly run by the Cabinet Office and DCMS, the unit's remit will be to “help bring the public and private sector together, [and] ensure the adoption of interoperable standards, specification and schemes”, the Cabinet Office said.

Verify, an identity-assurance tool developed by the Government Digital Service, will be handed over to five of its commercial partners in April 2020. The product’s new private-sector owners will be responsible for its development from that point, with no further government money invested thereafter.

Government has begun the process of developing a commercial framework through which, from April onwards, public-sector bodies can access Verify and other digital identity tools. With 20 government services relying on Verify, a key consideration is ensuring that any deal protects the continuity of citizen services, the Cabinet Office said.

“GDS will continue to ensure alignment of commercial models that are adopted by the developing identity market to build a flourishing ecosystem that delivers value for everyone,” it added.

Author Display Name Sam Trendall Tags Digital, Data & AI Science & Technology Categories Government and politics Science, technology and research About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of CSW's sister site PublicTechnology, where this article first appeared.

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Government gets keys to new Edinburgh hub

2 days 12 hours ago
News

Developer hands over state-of-the-art base for HMRC and Office of the Advocate General

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The New Waverley hub Credit: HMRC 

Plans to relocate almost 3,000 civil servants to a new office building in Edinburgh city centre have moved forward, with secretary of state for Scotland David Mundell formally taking possession of the building.

Developer Artisan presented Mundell with the keys to the seven-storey building, near the Scottish capital’s Waverley Station, at a ceremony yesterday.

From spring next year the building will house HM Revenue and Customs staff, along with the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Office of the Advocate General – whose staff will move from their current Melville Crescent and Victoria Quay bases in the city.

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New Waverley will also be the new base in Scotland for the Office for Statistics Regulation, the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Government Actuary’s Department.

The  building is expected to enable “closer collaboration” between departments, smarter working, and use of the latest technology.

The hub – which is being delivered by HMRC on behalf of the UK government – will also incorporate a purpose-built cabinet room for UK cabinet meetings. Mundell said it was the first time such a facility had been available in Scotland.

“The formal handover of the building’s keys is an important milestone, demonstrating we are making real progress towards opening the flagship building in the heart of Edinburgh next year,” he said.

“The Edinburgh hub is a great example of the UK government’s extensive support for the capital’s economy – which we are also driving through the ambitious Edinburgh and South East Scotland Growth Deal.”

Work is currently underway on a first Glasgow hub, with a second one to follow. UK-wide, the hubs programme is projected to save more than £2 billion of public money over 20 years, relocating civil servants from smaller offices to modern cross-departmental workplaces.

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Cabinet Office guidance sets flexible 2% pay increase for 2019 but unions criticise ‘grudging’ award

3 days 4 hours ago
News

Individual civil servants’ pay awards could vary depending on where each department decides to target increases

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Photo: Pixabay

Civil servants could be in line for a pay rise of up to 2% this year, the Cabinet Office has said, in guidance that also invites departments to make the case for higher increases where needed to help them recruit and retain staff in competitive roles.

The pay remit guidance, published this afternoon, says that this year departments will be given the flexibility to award civil servants an average 1% pay rise on top of the average 1% budgeted for in  the current Spending Review period. This is an increase from the 1.5% under the 2018-19 guidance, which like the 2% announced today was set an average, meaning individual civil servants’ pay awards could vary depending on where each department decides to target increases.

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“It is for organisations to target their pay award based on their own workforce and business needs,” the guidance explains.

The guidance, published on the gov.uk website, sets out pay arrangements for all civil servants in central government departments, non-ministerial departments, agencies and arm’s-length bodies in 2019-20.

Each department will decide whether to award the full 2%, “provided it is affordable within budgets and will not impact on the safe delivery of public services”, according to the guidance.

Departmental budgets set in the last Spending Review only cover half of the proposed award – an across-the-board increase of up to 1%. Departments that want to top up the total to 2% must match that funding themselves. They can use recyclable savings – money saved when civil servants leave the organisation and are replaced by someone on a lower salary – to help pay for this, the guidance says.

Any department that wants to increase across-the-board pay by more than 2% will have to submit a business case to the Cabinet Office and the Treasury. They may be able to argue the case to award bigger pay rises if they are needed to address recruitment and retention issues, or if they are needed for “transformational workforce reform”, changes designed to increase productivity in a way that will save the organisation money, the guidance says.

Departments will also have the option to submit a business case to use non-consolidated pay pots to fund consolidated pay increases above the 2% limit.

Organisations that already have arrangements in place outside existing pay guidance – including through multi-year pay awards – are excluded from today’s update.

That means the 2% guidelines published today will not apply to the Foreign Office, which reached a bespoke deal in March to increase pay by 6.4% over a 28-month period starting in April, and the Department for Work and Pensions, which agreed a four-year deal in 2016.

The guidance does not cover progression pay, and departments will still be able to promote staff members up through existing pay bands as well as awarding the overall pay rise.

Although higher than last year's 1.5% award, trade union representatives criticised the settlement, which comes after the 1% pay cap was in place from 2012 to 2018.

Garry Graham, deputy general secretary for Prospect, said the 2% settlement would look “grudging and hypocritical to many”, in light of the 2.7% rise given to MPs in February.

Graham welcomed the flexibility offered in the guidance to use recycled money and use non-consolidated pay pots to help fund further pay increases, and its “recognition that structural issues such as a lack of pay progression need to be addressed”.

He said that the union would be encouraging employers to “be ambitious” and submit guidance-busting business cases. “The anger of members and their determination that things need to improve should not be underestimated. We will hold the Cabinet Office and employers to account,” he said.

“As we launch into the bargaining round, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Will the Cabinet Office be as flexible as they suggest? Will organisational leaders step up to the plate and press for a fair deal for the staff they purport to lead?”

FDA general secretary Dave Penman said that at a time when the government and country is relying on the civil service like never before and earnings across the economy are rising at 3.4%, it was “unforgivable that civil servants will once again be languishing at the bottom of the public sector pay league”.

He added that while the Cabinet Office had engaged more with the unions this year compared to 2018, when the pay award was subject to a judicial review by the FDA, Prospect and PCS unions, it was the outcomes that matter

“Long-term uncompetitive pay levels only threaten the government’s ability to deliver Brexit and essential public services,” he added. “It’s time to remove civil service pay from the annual political bun fight that characterises the current remit process and introduce an independent pay review body for the whole civil service.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka criticised that the basis for the award remained the 1% pay level budgeted for in the 2015 Spending Review, at a time when some civil servants are already struggling on low pay.

“It is disappointing to see the Cabinet Office not make a case for their own staff to get more money, when other public sector workers have had the pay cap lifted,” he said.

“We are continuing to make preparations for another national ballot on pay and our delegated bargaining units will examine the detail of the pay remit guidance in their areas.

“If they feel they want to take industrial action, we will support them fully.”

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From Yes, Minister to On the Buses: Lessons on how Whitehall should work with the private sector

3 days 8 hours ago
Feature

Does it really matter who represents your department at stakeholder meetings – or whether you’ve done a secondment outside Whitehall? Yes, says insider-turned-outsider John Dowie, who moved to work for First Bus after a 27-year civil service career. Here, sharing his observations of government from the other side, he explains why

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The notion that business is simple and government much more complex is a myth.

And it’s a bit of a self-justifying myth at that. The bus sector may be towards one end of the spectrum, but it can hardly be unique in having to deal with safety, economic regulation, environment, industrial relations and technology transformation. And looming above all are our customers, with their changing needs and rising expectations, and our investors, with their demands for disclosure and sustained returns. The basic building blocks of customer-centred delivery – driver behaviour, reliability, ease of ticketing, fare levels, information, cleanliness, safety – all require disciplined, sustained corporate commitment. So civil servants should remember that the lives of people in business are also complex.

Never underestimate the burdens imposed by the policymaking process.

The bus sector is affected by the transport department, obviously, but also Defra, MHCLG, BEIS (because of climate change, energy and innovation); regulators (such as traffic commissioners, DSA, DVLA, the HSE, and the CMA); and advisory bodies such as the National Infrastructure Commission. If you work across the UK then you also have to engage with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments. And, of course, there’s local government, including the alphabet soup of city-region and subnational transport bodies, such as Transport for London, Transport for Greater Manchester and Transport for the North. There is a deluge of policy proposals, consultations, guidance and regulations. Some of them are excellent, but too many are badly written and unfocused. It is impossible to keep up. The trade press becomes ever more important as a filter and intermediary.

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Be careful how you delegate stakeholder engagement

I used to wonder why my part of the Department for Transport fared badly in external stakeholder surveys, but no longer. The answer is all too obvious now. The talent, imagination and all-round excellent work of the civil service is too often invisible, directed inward toward ministers or departmental process. Time to reach out externally is pressured and rationed. Dealing with stakeholders is all too often delegated to junior staff. Some are good, but some are not – whether through lack of experience, lack of clear guidance or lack of empowerment. The civil servant who is “only here to listen” is all too real. And, at the other extreme, I’ve witnessed the junior official who thinks they are entitled to tell CEOs of major operations with annual turnovers of hundreds of millions of pounds how they should run their businesses. And don’t neglect the ministerial speech – they are attentively listened to outside and can set the tone for relationships, yet often drafting is delegated downwards as a chore and speeches are padded with boilerplate. Ask yourself what impact a bland, self-regarding speech is going to make to key delivery relationships. These are the contacts that shape the stakeholder view of your department and the civil service as a whole. My plea to the Senior Civil Service is to lead by example: make sure you allocate more of your time to getting out and engaging. And stick to it through the barrage of day-to-day pressures. You will learn much and, what is more, the people you’re speaking to will begin to understand your world.

Sector knowledge is more than just a nice-to-have.

Civil servants probably don’t change jobs more often than people in the private sector, but they are more likely to change subject matter. The delivery world places great store by sector knowledge, professional and tacit. It’s essential if you are to understand a sector’s business, how it delivers, how it co-operates. Limited mutual understanding undermines effective collaboration. Neither party understands the pressures and challenges faced by the other. It’s not just the overhead costs of repeated re-learning, it’s the cost of the ill-informed decisions while the re-learning is underway. Surfing implementation – riding over the top of the issue on the basis of flimsy evidence and a few anecdotes – is not a sustainable strategy. Continuity and reinforcement of sector expertise is critical when building and re-building teams, whether at divisional or departmental level. You need a strategy for inward and outward secondment. And you need a strategy for getting newcomers up to speed. You neglect all this at your peril.

“The talent of the civil service is too often invisible, directed inward toward ministers or departmental process”

Developing your career across boundaries is the way to become really effective.

I changed sectors in the last quarter of my career. In retrospect, I would have learnt much, developing my personal impact, if I had stepped outside the government bubble earlier and travelled more flexibly across the public/private divide. A narrow view might suggest sticking to the civil service greasy pole, beefing up your CV with internal secondments to the right departments, staying visible and playing the internal game are the way to go.  But that doesn’t necessarily make for a better civil servant who is well-placed to make a difference. Civil servants would be well advised to think about what they could learn in terms of different ways of working, tools and experience. And, indeed, how much more interesting they could be to future line managers.

Local government is seriously under the cosh, and that makes it harder to get things done.

All too often talk of “place leadership”, “partnership” and “enabling authorities” is just that: talk. That’s not to say there aren’t still excellent authorities, it’s just that their number is diminishing fast. This is light years away from my experience of local government in the 2000s. Austerity has bitten, troubleshooting is dominating agendas and the headroom for strategic leadership is rapidly diminishing. The end result is that actually getting things done is becoming harder and harder. There is an irony here – the decade of devolution, real if perhaps piecemeal, is also the decade in which the means to deliver is dissipating.

Stepping out helps you appreciate the strengths of the civil service.

From the viewpoint of an outsider, there is much to admire about the civil servant’s ability to sift and disentangle complexity, separate wood from trees and translate the results into action. The same can be said for inclusive policymaking, engaging and involving all with a stake in the outcome as a matter of course, and the discipline of writing it down with clear process. Done to excess, this can all degenerate into wasteful bureaucracy. But its value shouldn’t be underestimated: it clarifies tasks and takes us halfway to delivery. It’s a skill set that has real value in a world that is more informal and pacey, but also less inclusive and process driven. Drummed into the civil servant through years of practice, these skills translate into a big part of your unique personal selling point.

I would encourage civil servants to take time out to examine their own impact beyond the civil service community. How can you use your stakeholders’ experience and deep knowledge? What are you doing to understand, engage with and partner your delivery chain?  It’s not too late to make the effort. Who knows, you may even enjoy it!

Author Display Name John Dowie Tags Economy, Business & Infrastructure HR Operational Delivery Partnership working Categories Government and politics Transport About the author

John Dowie spent 27 years in the civil service, most recently working as acting director general of roads, traffic and local in the Department for Transport. Prior to this he worked in a range of departments across England and Scotland including the Treasury, the Scottish Executive, the Government Office for East of England and the transport, energy, and trade & industry departments. He now works at First Bus, operator of 5,750 buses in 22 markets across the UK

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PM hopefuls urged to not 'reinvent government’ with departmental changes

3 days 8 hours ago
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Warning comes after PM hopefuls hint at plans for departmental culls

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MOG changes: the UK's next PM 'shouldn't reinvent government'. Photo: PA

The UK’s next prime minister should resist the urge to overhaul the structure of government departments or their own office, the Institute for Government has said, as the Conservative Party leadership contest picks up steam.

Although it can be tempting for an incoming prime minister to embark on a major reorganisation of the machinery of government, such changes would take up time that should be devoted to addressing urgent policy questions, Catherine Haddon, senior fellow at the IfG, said in a briefing for PM hopefuls published today.

“New prime ministers will often come with preconceptions about how No.10 works, based on their experience of it from the outside and their views of how their predecessor did the job,” Haddon wrote.

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“There are many ways it can work better, but when new governments change too much of how the centre operates this can take up valuable time and put No.10 on the back foot with departments.”

Likewise, machinery of government changes should not be taken lightly, she added.

“When Theresa May became Prime Minister, among her early changes were the creation of the Department for International Trade and the Department for Exiting the EU. She appointed David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to key roles. All these early decisions would have a lasting effect on her premiership,” she said.

“By understanding better the organisation they inherit and the consequences of key decisions that must be made, a new prime minister will be better prepared to secure real change while in government.”

Several of the MPs who are standing for election as Conservative Party leader have said or hinted that they plan to scrap or consolidate departments if they are successful.

Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has indicated he could embark on an aggressive cull, saying he wants to "cut down the number of Whitehall departments, cut out the bureaucracy", while former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has previously said he wants the Department for International Development to be subsumed into the Foreign Office.

Haddon also urged candidates not to wait until their first day in office to begin preparing for the role of prime minister.

Unlike many former prime ministers including Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, who were leaders of the opposition before leading the country, Theresa May’s successor will not have spent years preparing for their new role, Haddon said.

“Preparation can be a very different experience for a leader of the opposition coming into government compared with a prime minister taking over while their party is in office.”

She urged the candidates to carve out time now to preparing for the role they hope to secure in the coming weeks.

They must be ready for an “unprecedented scale of decision-making and level of urgency”, and should therefore lay the groundwork by thinking about who they want to appoint to critical appointments both within No.10 and the cabinet, Haddon said.

“If there is no time to do this before taking office, take more time to make these key decisions when starting out."

Too few prospective prime ministers think about how they will adapt to the breadth of the role, scale of the workload, unexpected crises and government machinery, she added.

“We will be watching to see which candidates are putting in serious time and thought about what they want to achieve before inheriting the keys to 10 Downing Street.”

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags HR Parliament Categories Government and politics About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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Government’s Help to Buy scheme ‘benefiting homebuyers who don't need help’

3 days 9 hours ago
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£22bn scheme has exposed the government to significant risk and has tied up significant public financial capacity says NAO

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Then-chancellor George Osborne lays a block during a visit to a Barratt Homes building site in Nuneaton in 2014 Photo PA

The government has been accused of presiding over "fundamental" flaws in a key housing scheme, as the public spending watchdog found that many of those who benefited from Help to Buy could have bought a home without it.

Help to Buy was launched by then-chancellor George Osborne in 2013 in a bid to boost home ownership and housing supply by making it easier for people to get mortgages.

Under the scheme, which is administered by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, home buyers receive a government loan of up to 20% of the market value of a new-build property. This is paid back when they sell the house on, or after 25 years.

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But the scheme, which is set to run until March 2021 and has an expected maximum value of £22bn, is not means-tested and is currently open to both first-time buyers and people who have previously owned a home. £11.7bn has been loaned by December 2018.

A new report from the National Audit Office said the scheme had "increased home ownership and housing supply", with the government's own research saying 37% of households who used the scheme would not have been able to buy a home without it.

But the watchdog also found that "many of those using the scheme would have been able to buy a home anyway".

According to government figures, almost a third (31%) of all buyers "could have purchased a property they wanted without the scheme".

Meanwhile around 4% of those who had used the scheme by December last year had household incomes of over £100,000, the NAO found.

Auditor general Gareth Davies said: "Help to Buy has increased home ownership and housing supply, particularly for first time buyers.

"However, a proportion of participants could have afforded to buy a home without the government’s help.

"The scheme has also exposed the government to significant market risk if property values fall, as well as tying up a significant public financial capacity."

The government is proposing a successor Help to Buy scheme that will run for two years to March 2023, but this will be will be restricted to first-time buyers and will introduce lower regional caps on the maximum property value

Davies added that the government’s greatest challenge in the scheme is now to “wean the property market off the scheme with as little impact as possible on its ambition of creating 300,000 homes a year from the mid-2020s”.

He added: "Until we can observe its longer-term effects on the property market and whether the department has recovered its substantial investment, we cannot say whether the scheme has delivered value for money."

MHCLG ‘must safeguard taxpayers’ money’

Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier said the NAO report showed the Ministry of Housing needed to "safeguard its investment of taxpayers’ money" and urged ministers "to exercise caution in winding down the scheme if it is to minimise negative effects on the housing market".

Responding to the report, housing minister Kit Malthouse said: "Help to Buy has been genuinely life-changing for first-time buyers across the country, helping them secure their first step on the property ladder. Not only has it supported more than 170,000 first-time buyers, it has increased home building by nearly 15pc, and is set to make a profit for the public: it’s been a win-win."

Author Display Name Matt Honeycombe-Foster Tags Economy, Business & Infrastructure Finance Operational Delivery Policymaking Categories Communities, housing and planning Economics and finance Government and politics About the author

Matt Honeycombe-Foster is the news editor of PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared.

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DfE must improve trust on stats, admits perm sec

3 days 9 hours ago
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Permanent secretary admits there is "more we can do" to improve access to education stats

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Jonathan Slater, permanent secretary at the Department for Education, has said his department is striving to build a reputation as a “trustworthy communicator of statistics”, following multiple warnings from the stats watchdog about ministers’ use of figures to back up questionable spending claims.

In a letter to Ed Humpherson, director general for the UK Statistics Authority’s Office for Statistics Authority, Slater said DfE had “taken a number of steps over the last few months to ensure statistics are always accurate and used in the appropriate context”.

Slater said the department had made considerable progress since being warned by the regulator of “serious” problems about its presentation and use of statistics in October last year. He said the department needed to improve its performance after UKSA sounded the alarm about a string of claims by ministers and the department itself about schools’ performance and funding.

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But at the end of last month, Humpherson urged the department to start publishing official statistics for school funding, after receiving further complaints about ministers’ statements.

He wrote to both Slater and Neil McIvor, DfE’s chief data officer and chief statistician in May about both ministers’ use of disparate data sources to back up claims, which made them difficult to verify, and how statistics were presented. For example, in claiming that the government had “protected school funding in real term terms” since 2010, schools minister Nick Gibb had failed to make clear that the figure referred only to schools’ budget for 5 to 16 year olds, Humpherson said.

He said it would “help support public understanding if the department were to publish a consistent and comprehensive set of official statistics on school funding, to which all participants in public debate could refer”.

Responding last week, Slater said the department published a “wide range” of information on education funding.

"As you have recognised, we have taken a number of steps over the last few months to ensure statistics are always accurate and used in the appropriate context. And, more broadly, I am committed to ensuring we build the Department’s reputation as a trustworthy communicator of statistics."

However, he added: “I agree with you that there is more we can do to bring that wide range of information into one place and to help users navigate this complex landscape, as well as to consider the potential for additional information where this would be helpful.”

DfE officials would continue to work closely with UKSA to improve its use of statistics and raise awareness of the need to communicate figures in a way that was accurate and clear, Slater said.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Digital, Data & AI Skills & Education Transparency & Open Data Categories Education and skills Government and politics About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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DWP acting chief digital officer McKinnon to stay in role until May 2020

3 days 14 hours ago
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Seven months after launching recruitment campaign, department reveals interim digital chief will continue in role

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Simon McKinnon, the acting chief digital and information officer at the Department for Work and Pensions, will continue in his role until May 2020.

McKinnon has held the digital top job since the departure at the end of 2018 of former CDIO Mayank Prakash. Shortly before Prakash departed to take a role at British Gas parent company Centrica, the DWP opened applications for his replacement. The job, which was advertised for about a month from mid-December onwards, came with an expected salary of £180,000.

It is not clear whether this recruitment process failed to turn up any suitable candidates, or whether the department simply chose to extend McKinnon’s tenure as a preferable option. Nor is it known whether the role will be re-advertised in, or shortly before, May 2020.

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Civil service World's sister title PublicTechnology had contacted DWP requesting clarification on these points and was awaiting response at time of publication.

The announcement that McKinnon is to stay on was made yesterday by DWP permanent secretary Peter Schofield.

The acting CDIO said that he is “very pleased to be continuing in the role”.  He flagged up DWP’s recent success at the National Technology Awards – when prizes were given to its Find a Job service and its Intelligent Automation Garage initiative – as an indication of the department’s progress.

“I’ve been in this role since December 2018 and there’s never been a more exciting time to be part of DWP Digital,” McKinnon said. “We’re well on the way to becoming an outstanding digital organisation. Our transformation is driven by innovative, curious and enthusiastic teams and I’m delighted that I’m able to continue to lead this work.”

Tags HR Leadership & Management Categories Government and politics About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology, where a verion of this story was first published.

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Listen with an open mind and be ready to advise on trade offs: Ex-Treasury perm sec on how to prepare for a new PM

4 days 9 hours ago
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Speaking at a think-tank event, Lord Macpherson also offered thoughts on the economy to incoming prime minister, while Treasury Select Committee chair said a full leadership contest is needed “so the maddest ideas perhaps don’t make it to asking for official civil service advice”. 

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Lord Nick Macpherson Credit: Chris McAndrew/ CC BY SA 3.0

Former Treasury permanent secretary Lord Macpherson has said the civil service needs to be ready to present the new prime minister and chancellor with information on the trade offs of new policy ideas “very quickly” when they take office.

Speaking at a event hosted by the think-tank Policy Exchange yesterday evening titled ‘The Economy: What do we want from the next prime minister?’, Macpherson, who was the Treasury top official from 2005 to 2016, said “this is what the civil service is there for”.

In his comments, he set out the need for supply side reform to boost the economy but called for a “sensible tax system”. He highlighted that the pledge by leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson to raise the 40% tax rate threshold from £60,000 to £80,000 was not the best way to boost the economy.

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“I can tell you for free that if you want to promote growth, chucking £8bn at people earning between £60,000 and £100,000 is probably not a terribly well targeted way of doing that, but other people have different views.”

Asked by CSW how civil servants should prepare for the arrival of the prime minister during the Conservative leadership election, Macpherson said that “very simply, the civil service need to be prepared”.

He added: “It needs to listen some of the options that are currently being considered, approach them with a totally open mind and be ready to advise whomsoever is the chancellor in the coming period.”

There were “a whole set of processes that are either underway or due to come to a head in the autumn” that the new prime minister and chancellor will inherit, Macpherson said. “There will be a whole lot of issues about how you sequence those from the appointment of the next government of the Bank of England through to the next Spending Review.

“But this is what the civil service is there for. When it comes to things like tax options, these things have been under consideration for years and years. The critical thing is to be able to present to the new government very quickly what the trade-offs are and what the baseline is – there will be another OBR fiscal sustainability report [and] this is the decade when the demographic pressures really start hitting us. For the civil service this is quite frankly business as usual.”

Fellow panellists agreed civil servants were well placed to deal with changing policies. The chair of the Treasury Select Committee Nicky Morgan highlighted that the final two candidates who will be voted on my Conservative party members would be known by next Thursday, “so I’m not sure I’d rush to look at everything”.

She highlighted that, unlike the appointment of Theresa May as prime minister when her challenger Andrea Leadsom pulled out of the final round of voting in 2016, there was a need for a full contest.

“The reasons that we need to have a contest that goes all the way to 22 July [when the result of the vote of party members will be announced] is to make sure that scrutiny has happened and so the maddest ideas perhaps don’t make it to asking for official civil service advice.”

'Hanker after a cross party consensus on skills'

Elsewhere in the session, Macpherson set out what should be the next government’s priories for economic reform.

Setting aside the issue of Brexit – he said “this Europe business is going to go on for years, there will be a whole lot of posturing about it but in the end we will reach a new equilibrium” – he set out key areas for economic reform.

“If you actually want to address Britain’s economic problems, you’ve got to look at the supply side, and that is all about micro economic policy,” he said.

“What you need is you need proper competition and you need serious infrastructure investment. That is not about chucking £50bn at High Speed 2, that is about having a really good analytic base that will enable you to see which projects will deliver the highest economic return on investment.”

He said that “fortunately the Treasury has that capacity now” to compare and contrast different schemes, and highlighted that the most economically beneficial projects were often the “really prosaic things”.

“They’re about building really good bypasses, or an extra lane on a motorway, and most important of all building some extra houses.”

As well as infrastructure, he said innovation and skills were important, and called for a cross-party consensus on the latter to allow a system to be planned for the long term.

“The most important thing of all, seeing we’re leaving the European Union, is skills. Every single government says it is making a radical reform of the skills system, and we spend an awful lot of money on skills.

“I speak as a bureaucrat and you just hanker after a cross party consensus. If only we could have a skills system which the parties can align around and then don’t rearrange the deckchairs but actually see it through over a 20-year period, this country might yet have some hope.”

Tags Brexit Economy, Business & Infrastructure Leadership & Management Parliament Skills & Education Transformation Categories Communities, housing and planning Economics and finance Government and politics Science, technology and research Transport About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Send civil servants on secondments to unlock innovation, new government strategy says

4 days 11 hours ago
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Other initiatives unveiled in hotly anticipated strategy include a cross-government plan to ‘tackle legacy technology’

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The long-awaited Government Technology Innovation Strategy has set out plans to boost the number of civil servants on secondments to digital companies to “learn from their innovative culture”.

The strategy was first announced in August, when it was revealed that a dedicated team within the Government Digital Service had been established to deliver the strategy and spearhead government information more widely, also sets out plans to develop a government-wide understanding of Whitehall’s legacy technology estate and “put in place plans to tackle it”.  

The document, which originally scheduled to publish by the end of March, has now been released, and Its proposals are split into three categories: people; process; and data and technology.

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The drive for secondments is the most eye-catching initiative in the ‘people’ section of the strategy. It called on government to “explore seconding senior civil service leaders to industry to allow them to witness the benefits of a culture of experimentation and empowering them to adopt these practices when they return to government”. Traffic will also move in the opposite direction, with the government seeking to “bring people in from the tech industry to help government identify the best opportunities for using emerging technologies”.

This part of the strategy also pledges to use facilities such as the GDS Academy and government’s Data Science Partnership to increase the overall data literacy of civil servants. The government also wishes to “establish a pipeline of digital talent to all levels of the civil service” by doubling the number of digital, data and technology apprenticeships recruited centrally, while also helping senior managers to better take advantage of technology innovation.

The ‘process’ segment of the strategy points to progress in the recent creation of government’s £650m Spark marketplace – a dynamic purchasing system covering 64 types of technology across eight different areas: the internet of things; AI and automation; simulated and enhanced environments; engineering and materials science; data; wearable technology; transport; and security – to improve tech take up.

There will be other tweaks to buying processes, including increased use of “challenge-based procurement methods” – such as the GovTech Catalyst programme, where public-sector entities put forward their challenges and invite proposed solutions

For government entities planning digital projects, there will be changes to the process of creating business cases, with the intention of reducing the need for “a high degree of upfront certainty in terms of the eventual costs and benefits of a project”.

The data and technology section centres on the plan to “develop a detailed cross-government view of the scale of the challenge of legacy technology, put in place plans to tackle it, and make sure there is continuous improvement in our technology estate”.

The strategy added: “Legacy technology and infrastructure will always exist and new will always become old. We need to proactively manage legacy systems so that they do not become urgent issues. We can do this through continuous improvement by learning while systems are being used, and by continuous maintenance, staying ahead of threats and actively managing risks. We must understand more about what our legacy looks like and where it is, so we can build a roadmap for the future.”

Elsewhere in the data and tech section, the document revealed that government will also work to update its standards and guidance for technology, while ensuring innovation is aligned to the upcoming National Data Strategy being put together by DCMS.

Cabinet Office minister for implementation Oliver Dowden began his foreword to the strategy by noting that “the age of the internet is the age of opportunity”.

“Citizens don’t have an option when it comes to interacting with government. We provide services which no one else can,” he said. “It is the duty of a government to serve, and it’s in everyone’s interests that government serves with excellence. For me, excellence relies on innovation and the judicious implementation of new technologies.”

Dowden added: “I believe we can do this. Our foundations are strong. The work we’ve done over the past few years, underpinned by our user first philosophy, has made the UK’s public services some of the most digitally advanced in the world.”

Tags Digital, Data & AI HR Transformation Categories Government and politics Science, technology and research About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology, where a verion of this story was first published.

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Home Office paid £10m in compensation payments last year, annual report reveals

5 days 3 hours ago
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Payments include £8.2m paid to people who had been wrongly detained

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The Home Office paid out more than £10m in compensation payments last year, mostly to people it had wrongly detained, it has emerged.

The department was forced to compensate 312 people last year that it had wrongfully detained – 100 more than in 2017-18, according to its annual report. Total compensation for wrongful detention came to £8.2m – up from 5.1m more than the previous year.

And it paid out a further £2m in other compensation payments, up from £1.3m the previous year. The number of individual cases more than quadrupled in the space of a year – from 941 in 2017-18 to 4,269 in 2018-19, meaning that the average sum paid in each case was considerably lower in 2018-19.

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Including these compensation payouts, the Home Office made £36.4m in so-called “special payments” last year – those that parliament could not have anticipated when passing legislation or approving departmental budget estimates.

The total was slightly less than the previous year’s £37.4m, and also included a £1.1m settlement in a discrimination case settled in March after a seven-year legal battle, and £1.5m related to a human rights case brought against the department.

The department also lost £2.5m in so-called fruitless payments last year – around the same as the previous year. Cancelled flights accounted for £2m of that figure, including flights that had been scheduled to deport people whose applications for asylum had been denied – either because asylum seekers had been granted the right to appeal or for other reasons.

A further fruitless payment worth £400,000 was chalked up to the cancellation of an unnamed secure network service.

Data breaches

The report also revealed a spike in the department’s reporting of data breaches last year. The Home Office reported 35 data breaches to the Information Commissioner’s Office, up from two the previous year.

A further 1,895 data breaches were recorded by the department’s data controller but not deemed major enough to warrant reporting to ICO. Sixty-four such breaches were recorded the previous year.

The report attributes the sharp increase in reporting to “greater awareness and vigilance amongst staff” since the introduction of GDPR in May 2018. Guidance published post-GDPR and a revised reporting process “has raised awareness across the Home Office regarding the need to escalate such incidents”, it says.

However, the report does reveal concern about the Home Office’s compliance with data protection regulations. A section on risks to the department’s work stresses that “it is essential that we manage those assets properly and do not lose the public's trust and confidence, in particular by being non-compliant with data protection legislation”.

It addresses in particular a three-day period in early April in which three separate data breaches occurred. On 7 April, when sending an email to 240 EU settlement scheme applicants, an official failed to use the BCC function to hide recipients’ email addresses from each other. The following day, a similar error happened in five batches of emails to people who had contacted the Home Office about its Windrush compensation scheme.

In a third incident on 9 April, which has been less well publicised, an administrative error by a contractor meant the email addresses belonging to 168 users of the General Aviation Report system – a Border Force system used by pilots and flight handlers to register who and what is being carried on non-scheduled flights – were shared.

The department said it had introduced an unspecified “technical solution” on 5 March to minimise risk of similar breaches happening in future.

Digital and Brexit planning push temp staff costs up

Spending by the department and its arm’s-length bodies on consultancy services and temporary staff meanwhile rose by more than a quarter in the space of a year, totalling £120.1m in 2018-19.

Those costs included £87m in temporary staff costs in the central department, £33.7m of which was to pay for extra agency staff in UK Visas and Immigration, the passport office and immigration enforcement. “Agency staff have been retained primarily as a flexible resource to deal with backlogs in migrant casework, passport application/examination, asylum applications and in preparation for exiting the EU,” the report says.

The remaining temporary staff costs included pay for specialist contractors and interim managers who worked on the department’s transformation plans, delivery of its digital strategy and Brexit preparations.

Spending on consultancy services rose sharply from £12.7m in 2017-18 to £23.4m last year. Most of that spending was by the core department, while the figures show the trouble Disclosure and Barring Service alone spent £1.2m on consultants. The College of Policing spent £1.3m on consultants in the same year.

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Beckie Smith

Just 13 Windrush victims given emergency support, Javid reveals

5 days 8 hours ago
News

Update also reveals Windrush taskforce has rejected 1,445 applications for documentation proving status

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The home secretary, Sajid Javid, has revealed that his department has provided emergency financial assistance to just 13 Windrush victims so far, even as he pledged to ensure people who have been sanctioned or detained because of the Home Office’s hostile environment policy receive support.

The Home Office launched its compensation scheme in March, but has not yet made any payments to members of the Windrush generation – Commonwealth nationals who arrived in the UK before 1973 – who have been affected by policies designed to deter people from living in the UK illegally, despite having a legal right to be in the country.

The department opened a scheme in December to provide emergency financial assistance scheme in “exceptional cases” where people’s need was so immediate that they could not wait for the full rollout of the compensation scheme, but Javid said yesterday that only 13 people had been able to access the funds.

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In a letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Javid said 91 people had applied for emergency support as of 30 April, meaning just one in seven people who had applied for help had been successful. Forty-one applications for emergency support had been refused, three had been withdrawn and the remaining 34 were still being considered, Javid said.

The letter, which updated HASC on the Home Office's progress on dealing with the Windrush scandal, said 6,470 people had so far received documentation proving their right to remain in the UK through the Windrush taskforce set up last year. It had refused a further 1,445 applications for documentation, he said – 796 made in the UK and 649 from outside the country.

“None of the refusal decisions have been made lightly, and all of them have had lengthy and detailed consideration. The decision to refuse in these cases has been checked and challenged extensively at operational level and been approved at ministerial level,” Javid wrote.

So far, 126 people whose applications had been refused had requested an independent review of their case. In 103 cases, the decision to refuse their application had been upheld, and three decisions were overturned. The remaining 20 cases are still under review.

The letter came the same day as Javid said he had apologised to 46 members of the Windrush generation who had been sanctioned, despite having a legal right to live in the UK.

He had also apologised to seven people with criminal convictions who were wrongly held in immigration detention centres after being released from prison, he said.

In an announcement promising to "right the wrongs of successive governments", Javid said: "I have personally apologised to those identified through this review and I will make sure they receive support and access to the compensation scheme."

According to Javid's letter to HASC, the Windrush taskforce found government departments had taken action against 55 Windrush victims, including revoking some of their driving licences, tax credits or welfare benefits, or telling their employers they may not have the right to work in the UK.

Of those 55, he wrote to the 46 identified as being the “most likely to have suffered detriment because their right to be in the UK was not recognised which led to sanctions being applied to them”, as they have remained in the UK permanently since arriving, Javid told the committee.

The remaining nine people had lost their entitlement to remain in the UK indefinitely because they appeared to have spent more than two years overseas since arriving in the UK, Javid said.

'Taking immediate responsibility'

Also published this week was the government’s response to Public Accounts Committee report concerning the Home Office’s handling of the Windrush scandal.

In its March report, PAC said the department was “shirking its responsibility to put right the wrongs suffered by individuals because of its mistakes”, which it said had led to Windrush victims losing jobs, benefits, homes and access to healthcare. It urged the Home Office to “take immediate responsibility for meeting the urgent needs of individuals”.

Responding via a Treasury minute, the government said it had already implemented the recommendation, citing the launch of the compensation scheme and the emergency support scheme – despite the latter only having supported 13 people to date.

In contrast, the government said it rejected PAC’s call to improve the way it secures housing for people who have been made homeless because of the so-called hostile environment policy, which has since been rebranded the compliant environment policy. It said the vulnerable persons team set up by the Home Office as part of its efforts to address the Windrush scandal was working with local authorities to secure emergency housing where needed, and had referred more than 300 people to the Department for Work and Pensions for help with benefits and housing.

Elsewhere in its response, the Home Office said it was holding a series of events to raise awareness of the Windrush scheme, after PAC said it was not doing enough to make sure people knew about the support available to them.

It also agreed to set out its plan for monitoring and evaluating its “compliant environment” measures, including how it was listening to feedback from people affected by the policy, by December 2020.

The plan would be based on engagement with organisations with a “close interest in the operation of these measures” and the recommendations of the Windrush lessons-learned review that is being carried out at the moment, it said.

“The department needs to complete the process of engagement before it can set out its plans and will set out its proposed new evaluation and monitoring regime in due course,” it said.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags International Affairs & Security Justice and Public Safety Transparency & Open Data Categories Government and politics Public order, justice and rights About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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Joe Owen: The hardest part of Brexit is still to come

5 days 9 hours ago
Opinion

The scale, constraints and pressure of Brexit have very few comparators – and the clock is ticking. Is it any wonder that the complexity of trying to deliver it is keeping civil servants up at night?

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“The biggest problem with Britain today is its politics.” It’s easy to imagine that being said in pubs or cafes around the country at various points over the last few months; it was more of a surprise when it came from the mouth of the prime minister just days before she announced her resignation.

She could have easily followed that up by saying that the biggest problem with politics in Britain today is Brexit. Few could disagree with that. And the problem seems only to be getting bigger and more divisive.

But Brexit is much more than just a political problem, it’s a practical one too. Even if a majority of MPs in Westminster start to agree with each other (as challenging as that has proved), it still needs to be negotiated, implemented and legislated – all at the same time. And that’s the job that’s been keeping civil servants awake at night.

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The run up to October could be the biggest challenge the civil service has faced yet on Brexit

The sleepless nights are far from over. The success of the Brexit party – and its effect on the Conservative leadership contest – means no deal cannot be ruled out.

Preparing for a possible no deal is undoubtedly the biggest practical challenge for the civil service. It’s the most extreme change in the shortest amount of time. It seems almost impossible to claim the UK was ready for no deal in March and – it’s probably safe to bet – the same will be true October. Of course, any judgement rests on what is meant by “readiness”. If it is “did the civil service implement the systems and processes they could, given constraints”, then you can make a good case.

But that’s unlikely to be how many in the country define readiness. Is there going to be disruption? Is business ready? Will there be problems in Northern Ireland? Giving a prime minister the answers they want to hear on those questions will prove much, much harder – in some cases impossible, given the circumstances. More time might be helpful, but the October deadline also brings new challenges: gearing the Whitehall machine – and crucially business – back up to full speed could be harder a second time round.

Brexit is like organising the Olympics, but without knowing the year, the location, or which sports or countries are entering

And the fog of uncertainty is unlikely to clear in the near future

No deal is not the only game in town, though. Whitehall needs to be gearing up for a much bigger, more complex set of negotiations with Europe and it needs to be working on the longer-term changes that could be needed after any transition – in everything from immigration to agriculture.

But can anyone offer a reliable answer about if or when those two things might happen? Or what the government of the day’s priorities will be for them? Brexit is like organising the Olympics, but without knowing the year, the location, or which sports or countries are entering. And a much, much harder ask.

Completing the necessary work for the next phase in a 21-month transition was always an unrealistic stretch. In the 14 months now available, due to the extended Article 50 period, it’s surely an impossibility. But a new prime minister is unlikely to want to accept – yet – that a transition will need to be extended beyond 2020. That refusal has real implications for project plans and risk registers all over Whitehall. Likewise, a new PM could turn plans and structures for the next phase on their head or decide there will be no next phase – at least for now.

There should be some clarity in the coming months. But it seems like that gets said every few months and the Brexit fog only thickens.

Brexit has already pushed the civil service to extremes

Working through a degree of political uncertainty and overcoming practical challenges is a big part of what the civil service does. But the scale, constraints and pressure of Brexit have very few – if any – comparators. A minister has resigned, on average, once a month over the last three years. Over 10,000 pages of legislation have been created using Brexit-related statutory instruments. High profile new systems are up and running within three years of the referendum. A withdrawal agreement was struck after intense talks.

The shape and size of Whitehall has changed, with 16,000 civil servants working on Brexit at its peak. If every official working on Brexit was plonked in a single Whitehall department, it would be the sixth largest – bigger than the Treasury, Foreign Office, Defra and Cabinet Office combined. And it would no doubt be one very exhausted department.

Throughout this, the civil service has had to silently sustain criticism. Many of its prominent critics could quickly find themselves in ministerial office. The challenge for Whitehall then is having honest conversations about what is and is not possible, while also trying to (re)build positive relationships.

When all is said and done, no-one is claiming that Brexit will have been a perfect process. The civil service will have to learn some very hard lessons. But anyone who argues the civil service has been trying to stop Brexit has somehow overlooked the extraordinary amount that’s been done. No-one has done more to try to deliver it.

Author Display Name Joe Owen Tags Brexit Leadership & Management Operational Delivery Parliament Policymaking Categories Government and politics About the author

Joe Owen is programme director at the Institute for Government and leads its EU Exit work

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MPs back government measures to limit use of non-disclosure agreements

5 days 9 hours ago
News

Committee heard from civil service chef people officer that NDAs are ‘not a particularly useful tool’

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Rupert McNeil giving evidence to the committee in February. Photo: Parliament TV

A select committee of MPs has said it is encouraged by the government’s efforts to limit the use of non-disclosure agreements and has called on the rest of the public sector to follow suit.

In a report examining the use of confidentiality clauses across both the public and private sectors, the women and equalities committee set out a series of recommendations to better regulate their use.

Among the recommendations, MPs called on public sector organisations to “take the lead in ensuring that NDAs are not used to cover up discrimination and harassment” after chief people officer Rupert McNeil told the committee how the civil service had regulated their use.

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McNeil told MPs said that Cabinet Office guidance published in 2015 meant the standard for using NDAs was “very high” and specified a number of instances where they should not be used, including as a tool to cover up an organisational failure or to prevent employees from speaking out about malpractice.

In his evidence, McNeil revealed that more than 70 staff at a government arm’s-length body were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement over a pay dispute within the last four years.

The unnamed ALB is one of two government bodies – the other being a central department – that have signed non-disclosure agreements with civil servants in cases linked to allegations of discrimination in the last four years, the government’s chief people officer has said, although the Cabinet Office guidance meant “that wouldn’t happen now”, he said.

McNeil said NDAs were “not a particularly useful tool” for employers, although there were “some circumstances where it might be appropriate to have [an NDA] to protect both sides and as part of getting closure”.

Asked whether the civil service would ask a member of staff who had made allegations of sexual harassment to sign a gagging clause, he said: “That’s not something that we would expect.” He later added that doing so would be “completely unacceptable”.

“Speaking for the civil service as a large employer… if you want to create an inclusive culture and you want to create a safe workplace for people, I don’t think they’re a particularly helpful tool,” he said.

The committee said such measures to limit the use of NDAs were welcome.

“We are encouraged to see that some employers, particularly in the public sector, now routinely settle discrimination cases without using NDAs, demonstrating that confidentiality clauses are not intrinsic to settlement agreements,” the report concluded.

“Other public sector employers must now take the lead in ensuring that NDAs are not used to cover up discrimination and harassment, allowing such behaviour to go unchecked. Lawyers and employers must think more carefully about why they are requesting confidentiality and whether it is needed at all, and individuals should never feel forced into signing an NDA.”

Committee chair Maria Miller said that the use of non-disclosure agreements in settling sexual harassment allegations is “at best murky and at worst a convenient vehicle for covering up unlawful activity with legally sanctioned secrecy”.

She added: “It is particularly worrying that secrecy about allegations of unlawful discrimination is being traded for things that employers should be providing as a matter of course, such as references and remedial action to tackle discrimination.

“Some organisations now routinely settle employment disputes without the use of NDAs. We have put forward a range of measures to ensure more follow suit.”

Among its recommendations to better regulate the use of NDAs across the public and private sectors, the committee told government to ensure that NDAs cannot be used to cover up of allegations of unlawful discrimination and harassment in the workplace. As part of this, the MPs said government should consider whether employers should be required to investigate all discrimination and harassment complaints regardless of whether a settlement is reached.

There should also be a requirement for plain English confidentiality clauses where these are used in settlement agreements, while employers should be given a duty to appoint a named senior manager to oversee anti-discrimination and harassment policies and procedures, and another to oversee the use of NDAs in discrimination and harassment cases, they said.

Employment tribunals should be reformed to better incentivise cases being taken forward, rather than settled by a NDA, the committee said. This should include giving tribunals the ability to award punitive damages, while awards for the non-financial impact of discrimination should be significantly increased.

Tags HR Parliament Categories Government and politics About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Verdict on the May years: a hostile environment for civil servants

6 days 4 hours ago
Analysis

As Theresa May’s time as prime minister comes to an end, Richard Johnstone asks Whitehall watchers to reflect on a tumultuous three years for officials

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Theresa May's first and last speeches in Downing Street bookended a premiership defined by Brexit. Photos: PA

Theresa May entered Downing Street on 13 July 2016, just days after the UK had voted to leave the European Union. Even though the issue would quickly come to define her premiership, Brexit did not yet mean Brexit when the new occupant of Number 10 spoke outside the famous black door.

Indeed, the job of extracting Britain from the bloc merited only one mention as May set out a series of burning injustices that she would make it her priority to tackle.

“We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you,” she said. “As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world.”

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It was also not clear that Brexit would soon consume all of government’s energy as May set about reshaping Whitehall to meet her priorities. Not only was there the much-debated decision to set up the Department for Exiting the European Union to lead the negotiations, the Department for International Trade was founded to help find that global role, while a beefed-up business department was focused on developing the UK’s first industrial strategy.

This, FDA general secretary Dave Penman says, was a period of Brexit phoney war when “I don’t think people realised this is actually all-encompassing”.

“It was like in the Second World War, when we declared war but not a lot actually happened.”

Penman says that while there was always lot of talk about Brexit, things only started to “get real” after May’s January 2017 Lancaster House speech – which set out her Brexit strategy – and the general election a few months later, in which the Conservatives lost their majority.

One former minister says May’s popularity in those early months emboldened her and her team, and by extension the centre of Whitehall, to feel the government could do more than Brexit.

“There was a sense of momentum and the ability to change and shape things, and the referendum gave you licence to look fresh at things and offer a more direct policy answer,” the ex-minister, who asked not to be named, says. “That was part of it, but it was also certainly the case that people just didn’t realise how time-consuming Brexit would be.”

The scale of the job surprised government, Penman recalls. “I was speaking to a senior official in the DExEU team who explained that on top of all the formal infrastructure of the EU, dozens of institutions had grown out of the EU as new challenges emerged and countries recognised that cooperation across nation states was necessary. It made sense for these to be organised around the EU but no one had ever really scoped these out or registered just how complex detangling ourselves from them would be.”

Those in government began to recognise the scale of the task within three months, the ex-minister says, “and it became more clear every day” that any additional agenda for a May government would struggle.

Once the negotiations were properly under way, the task was made more difficult by the unprecedented attacks from Brexiteers on civil servants. Penman says there has never been a time when the civil service has been more under attack from the party of government – both from the despatch box, with then-Brexit minster Steve Baker casting doubt on government forecasts in January 2018, and from the backbenches. Witness Tory MP Mark Francois, who has accused officials of treason.

CSW understands that an early response to the attacks was coordinated between Number 10 and the Cabinet Office, but did not get signed off after it was decided that it would have made matters worse if government hit back. There was then no central response until the then-acting cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill criticised Brexiteer “sniping” at EU lead negotiator Olly Robbins in October 2018.

May’s “absolute silence” on these attacks will be her legacy, Penman says.

“May’s hesitancy to confront those issues really undermined the civil service and has encouraged that type of criticism,” adds Penman. “It has gone unchallenged, [and] that has been a big failing. That probably is her biggest legacy for the civil service.”

Other senior union figures agree.

Garry Graham, deputy general secretary at Prospect, says this was “the most striking thing” about May’s premiership.

“When those in her our own party have been unfairly critical of the civil service as part of Brexit, has she taken those people to task? No. The extreme example of that is Mark Francois, but there’s plenty of other examples where Conservative politicians have criticised officials and the prime minister has not come forward to defend them – public servants who can’t answer back – with the energy I would expect a prime minister to do.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka says the way sources close to Amber Rudd pointed the finger at Home Office officials over her briefings when she had to resign due to misleading parliament at the height of the Windrush crisis was part of the same issue.

“We’ve had unrelenting hostility from the Conservatives in government towards the civil service and towards civil service unions,” he adds. “We now have an unashamed blaming of civil servants for things that clearly lie at the door of politicians, because of the policies that politicians enact.”

Serwotka highlights that all this came at a time when civil service pay was being restrained by a 1.5% average limit, despite government’s pledge in September 2017 to remove the public sector pay cap.

“[Civil service] pay has clearly collapsed in comparison to the rest of the public sector. As prime minister she’s responsible for a large part of that.”

Graham agrees pay policy is “unsustainable, unfair and has to change”, and will for many civil servants be May’s legacy.

“That will be top of people’s reflections on her,” he said. “The civil service is working harder than ever before with Brexit, and find themselves the poor relations. They find that galling and hypocritical.”

Among the Brexit pressures, Penman can find one benefit. The prioritisation of leaving the EU by May and her ministers left departments “free to get on with things”, he says “without the [former Cabinet Office minister Francis] Maude-type interference” from the centre that marked David Cameron’s premiership.

“That has actually been quite helpful. It has created a stability around the civil service and what they’re doing, which seems unusual given everything else.

“It’s not that there has been no reform. One of the things departments have always said is that, ‘we reform because we have to – we’ve got punishing financial targets to meet, therefore we’re having to change things’. And not being told by the Cabinet Office minister to do things has allowed them to do that.”

This has “helped the civil service get its mojo back a little bit”, Penman says – both in terms of its own confidence under pressure and in (most) ministers understanding and recognising its value.

But, as with so much in May’s premiership, this was due to the one issue leading government, rather than the person at its head. “That was Brexit, that’s not May or anything she’s done; that’s the fact that Brexit happened,” he says.

“You sometimes feel that [former prime minister] Tony Blair’s legacy is Iraq and everything else is forgotten. With May the legacy is going to be Brexit, and there’s nothing else to forget.”

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Government to review civil service pension administration processes after repayment demands

6 days 6 hours ago
News

Examination comes after administrator MyCSP finds it has paid 12,000 pensioners too much or too little

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The Cabinet Office is planning to commission a government review of how civil service pensions are managed and administered, after it emerged that some 12,000 retired civil servants have been paid too much or too little, CSW has learned.

CSW reported last week that retired civil servants have received demands for hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of pounds after they were paid too much by the pensions administrator MyCSP.

Some 12,000 pensions have been revised, based on the results of an internal audit by MyCSP of around 300,000 cases that began in 2016. More than 90% of people affected will see their pensions increase, having been underpaid to date.

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The remaining people affected – up to 1,200 – are having their pensions cut and many are receiving demands to repay large sums of cash that they have erroneously received, some over several years. MyCSP has issued hundreds of letters demanding payment, and is expected to continue sending out letters until the end of June.

The Cabinet Office is now preparing to commission the Government Internal Audit Office to review the processes in place to ensure civil servants receive the correct amount in pension benefits after they retire.

The review will aim to determine whether existing processes are robust and will be fit for purpose in future. The Cabinet Office declined to comment further on the timeline or scope of the review.

Letters seen by CSW said the overpayments were identified after MyCSP received “further information” from pensioners’ former employers that showed a decrease in their pensionable earnings.

At the time of publication, neither the Cabinet Office nor MyCSP had been able to say what this new information was.

It is understood that the majority of affected pensions are being changed because of information that emerged after civil servants had retired, such as backdated pay awards that led to pensions rising in line with retrospective pay increase.

However, this does not explain why a person’s pension would be decreased after they had retired, and the Cabinet Office has confirmed the revaluations are seperate from the Guaranteed Minimum Pension miscalculation had led to overpayments worth £22m earlier this year.

None of the former civil servants CSW spoke to were able to identify how their overpayment had happened or how it been calculated. "My first thought was that my manager had done something wrong, because that was the impression that it gives," Lynne Gates, who is facing a repayment demand for more than £700, said.

Civil servants who have been underpaid to date are being paid the amount they are entitled to under the scheme rules. These rules have no provision for interest to be paid on the sum they have been underpaid, even if it dates back several years.

Since CSW's first revealed the repayments last week, several more pensioners have come forward, saying they have received demands to pay back up to £9,000 that they had been paid in error. They also detailed cuts to their future benefits of up to £1,000 a year.

Last week, civil service trade unions called on the Cabinet Office to write off the overpayments, as it did for the GMP errors.

Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said there was a “strong argument for these cases to be treated in the same way”.

"It is not good enough for the scheme administrators to just demand repayment when these overpayments were a result of their own error,” he said.

Are you affected by this issue? Have you received a letter with changes your pension? CSW wants to hear from you. Please email beckie.smith@dodsgroup.com

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags HR Categories Government and politics About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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MoD and DCMS perm secs among civil servants recognised in Queen’s birthday honours

6 days 8 hours ago
News

Read CSW's list of civil servants honoured

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Stephen Lovegrove photographed by CSW by Paul Heartfield

Ministry of Defence permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove is among the civil servants recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, along with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport's new perm sec and the heads of both MI5 and MI6.

Lovegrove has been knighted in recognition of his public service, as has Andrew Parker, the director general of the security service MI5. Alex Younger, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service MI6, has also received a knighthood.

In total, 1,073 people have received an award. Among the civil servants honoured, 12 have been named companions of the Order of Bath. Although this order confers no title, it allows recipients to use of the letters CB after their name and is the highest ranking order of chivalry whose membership comes on the advice of the government.

These include incoming DCMS perm sec Sarah Healey, who is recognised for her public service in her last role as director general of the Economic and Domestic Affairs secretariat in the Cabinet Office.

Glyn Williams, the director general of borders, immigration and citizenship system at the Home Office, who is recognised for public service. Williams hit the headlines when he appeared alongside then-home secretary Amber Rudd at the Home Affairs Select Committee when Rudd misled the MPs over the existence of targets for deportation of illegal immigrants.

Others given the award include Deborah Alder, director general of human resources in the Department for Work and Pensions; Graham Archer, director of improvement and learning for children’s social care in the Department for Education; Craig Eblett, the senior responsible officer for DWP's Health Transformation Programme, which aims to improve the administration of health assessments.

Christine Hewitt-Dyer, who recently left her post as human resources director at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to join the Church of England as its director of people, is recognised for her public service, as is former Infrastructure and Projects Authority chief executive and now Crossrail chair Tony Meggs.

Nicholas Joicey, DG for strategy, international and biosecurity at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is also named a companion of the Order of Bath for services to the environment, and Andrew McCully, the DG for the early years and schools group at the DfE, for services to education.

DWP legal director Frances Nash also receives the CB for public service, while Graham Parker, a fiscal expert at the Office for Budget Responsibility, receives the honour for services to the economy.

Kieran Donnelly, the auditor general at the Northern Ireland Audit Office, receives the honour for his work in the post.

Two chief scientific advisers at government departments are also recognised. Defra's chief scientific adviser Ian Boyd is knighted for services to science and economics on food and the environment, while Charlotte Watts, CSA at the Department for International Development, is awarded the companion of the order of St Michael and St George honour for her services to global health and international development.

There are damehoods for Sara Thornton, the first head of the National Police Chiefs' Council and the government’s new independent anti-slavery commissioner, and for Elan Closs Stephens, the cultural and broadcasting regulatory policy expert who sits on the Welsh Government's board.

CBEs

A number of civil servants are also named Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBEs). These include Graeme Biggar, most recently director at the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism at the Home Office, who was recently named director general of the National Crime Agency’s National Economic Crime Centre.

Valerie Cain, the people and change director at the Government Legal Department, received a CBE for public service, as did Treasury director Susan Catchpole, and Paul Dean, the head of operational support at the Home Office’s OSCT, and the UK’s permanent representative to World Trade Organisation Julian Braithwaite.

Rebecca Egan, who heads up the Home Office’s tackling exploitation and abuse unit, received a CBE for services to vulnerable people, while the same award went to both the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s director of business frameworks, Deborah Gillatt, for services to the economy and Defra deputy director Nigel Gooding for services to the marine environment.

Phinella Henderson, deputy director of the Treasury legal advisers at the GLD, receives a CBE for public service, while Lorraine Jackson, the Department of Health and Social Care's deputy director of data policy, is recognised for health policy.

Joanna Key, the director of legislation and constitution at the Department for Exiting the European Union, receives a CBE for public service, as does Caroline Low, who leads the Department for Transport’s Airport Expansion Directorate.

Michael Stewart of the Ministry of Defence receives the gong for services to defence, while Rachel Turner, the director of economic development at DfID is recognised for services to international development.

Richard Vince, the executive director of the long-term and high-security estate at the Ministry of Justice, is recognised for services to Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service, while Eric Wilson, executive director of corporate services at the Competition and Markets Authority, receives an honour for services to competition, while Dr Kathryn Wood, DHSC's director of science, research and evidence, receives her CBE for services to health research.

OBEs

Officers of the Order of the British Empire, known as OBEs, are awarded to:

  • Professor Timothy Atkins, senior technical fellow, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. (For public service.)
  • Brendan Bayley, head, policy analysis climate energy and agriculture branch, Treasury. (For public service.)
  • Christopher Brammer, deputy director, business change and implementation, Satellite Tracking Services, Immigration Enforcement, Home Office. (For public service.)
  • Peter Clarke, formerly assistant director, Border Force, Home Office. (For services to border security.)
  • Anne Cook, head, social housing services team, Better Homes Division, Scottish Government. (For services to social housing.)
  • Jane Edmondson, director, East and Central Africa, Department for International Development. (For services to international development.)
  • Barbara Farndell, policy expert, HM Revenue and Customs. (For services to taxpayers)
  • Katherine Fisher, deputy director, Treasury. (For public service.)
  • Kelly Fisher, Ministry of Defence. (For services to defence.)
  • Eithne Fitzmaurice, deputy director, Criminal and Financial Investigation, Immigration Enforcement, Home Office. (For public service)
  • Geoffrey Forder, Lately deputy head, QEC Support, Defence Equipment and Support, Ministry of Defence. (For services to naval logistic support)
  • Dr Mark John Fulop, programme leader, chemical biological and radiological division, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. (For public service.)
  • James Gerard, deputy director, Head of parliamentary team, Department for Exiting the EU. (For public service.)
  • Dr Delna Ghandhi, lately health adviser, Department for International Development. (For services to tackling tropical disease).
  • William Roy Gibaud, former first secretary, defence and security at the British High Commission in Canberra (For services to international trade)
  • Ian Ginsberg, deputy director, European Finances Team, Treasury. (For public service.)
  • Joanna Greenidge, deputy director, Government Legal Department. (For services to government law.)
  • Stuart Griffiths, deputy director, Department for Work and Pensions. (For public service.)
  • Barry Grossman, director trade and investment at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv (For services to UK/Israel commercial relations)
  • Sacha Hatteea, deputy director, Public and Parliamentary Delivery. Department for Transport. (For services to aviation.)
  • Dr Sharon Holmes, Ministry of Defence. (For services to defence)
  • Derek Hughes, lately deputy director, customer services, HM Revenue and Customs. (For services to customer service and inclusion.)
  • David Hutchinson, HM inspector, Health and Safety Executive. (For services to offshore diving safety.)
  • Barnaby Kistruck, lately grade 6, Ministry of Defence. (For public service.)
  • Timothy McDonnell, head, international and industrial strategy, Ministry of Defence. (For services to defence.)
  • Amanda McLoughlin, head, Department for International Development, Lebanon. (For services to humanitarian relief.)
  • Vickie Mottram, head of Apprenticeships, HM Revenue and Customs. (For services to apprentices.)
  • Robert Ormsby, special, National Crime Agency. (For services to law enforcement.)
  • Catherine Page, lately private secretary, Cabinet Office. (For public service.)
  • Manmeet Panesar, head of technical services, Office for Product Safety and Standards, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. (For services to product safety.)
  • Nicola Pittam, senior lawyer, statutory instrument hub, HM Treasury. (For public service.)
  • Rubeela Qayyum, Treasury Accountant and head of exchequer funds and accounts, Treasury. (For services to taxpayers, young people and social inclusion.)
  • Dr Sarah Redwood, deputy director, European programmes, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. (For services to science and innovation funding.)
  • Julie Reene, assistant director, specialist operations, Border Force, Home Office. (For services to Border Security.)
  • Mark Rodgers, area manager, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. (For public service.)
  • Linda Rose, accountability team leader, inspections and accountability quality team, Department for Education. (For services to education.)
  • Sarah Smith, deputy director, Office for Product Safety and Standards, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. (For services to business and consumers.)
  • David Wagstaff, deputy director, Euratom international negotiations, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. (For services to energy and climate change policy.)
  • Karl Young, senior lawyer, HM Revenue and Customs. (For services to taxpayers.)

MBEs

Members of the Order of the British Empire awards went to:

  • Marianne Ainsworth-Smith, bill manager, Department for Exiting the EU. (For public service.)
  • Clair Alleebux, human resources business partner, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (For charitable services)
  • Karen Ball, head, Midlands Engine Investment Hub, Department for International Trade. (For services to trade and investment.)
  • Daniel Bates, manager, research and development, National Crime Agency. (For services to law enforcement.)
  • Professor Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research, Met Office Hadley Centre and chair in climate impacts, University of Exeter. (For services to understanding climate change.)
  • Andrew Bryant, Ministry of Defence. (For services to defence.)
  • Elizabeth Buttigieg, executive officer, UK Statistics Authority. (For services to pensioners, veterans and the community in Newport, Wales.)
  • Jacqueline Clarke, executive assistant, Ministry of Defence. (For services to defence.)
  • Katharine Costelloe, assistant head, operations directorate, Ministry of Defence. (For services to defence.)
  • Colin Crowe, lately senior officer, Border Force, Home Office. (For services to border security.)
  • Kathryn Davies, assistant director, HM Revenue and Customs. (fFr services to the investigation of organised crime.)
  • Richard Davies, HM Cutter commander, Border Force. (For services to border security.)
  • Sonja Drew, deputy Head of senior staff, human resources, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. (For public and charitable services.)
  • Malcolm East, first aid trainer, Welsh Government. (For services to first aid and the community in Llandrindod Wells.)
  • Paul Farrell, assistant director, Border Force, Home Office. (For services to border security.)
  • David Fergusson, scientist, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. (For services to defence and to aviation safety.)
  • Joanna Fitch, senior policy adviser, Cabinet Office. (For public service.)
  • Rodney Grant, work coach, Department for Work and Pensions. (For services to young people in Haringey, North London)
  • Michael Hepple, senior delivery lead, Operational Excellence Digital Services – Automation, HM Revenue and Customs. (For services to taxpayers.)
  • Christopher Jones, Ministry of Defence. 9For services to defence.)
  • George Jones, operational delivery leader, Manchester, HM Revenue and Customs. (For services to customs.)
  • Janet Macgregor, team leader, HM Revenue and Customs. (For public and charitable services.)
  • Craig O’Kane, former Director of Investment for Australia and New Zealand at the British Consulate in Brisbane (For services to UK/Australia relations and international trade).
  • John Reid, area manager for legacy benefits, Department for Work and Pensions. (For services to vulnerable customers in Scotland and the community in Inverclyde.)
  • Ian Simpson, immigration officer, Home Office. (For public service.)
  • Jacalyn Southcombe, performance improvement and project lead, HM Revenue and Customs. For services to taxation, mental health support and charity.)
  • Gavin Stones, technical manager, National Measurement Office Certification Body, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. (For services to product safety.)
  • Katie Taylor, Ministry of Defence. (For services to defence.)
  • Bernadette Thomas, intercountry adoption team leader, Department for Education. (For services to young people.)
  • Lynn Tyler, executive assistant to director, air support, Defence Equipment and Support, Ministry of Defence. (For services to defence.)
  • Liane Weller, Ministry of Defence. (For services to defence.)

Any civil servants missing from our list? Please let us know in the comments below.

Tags Leadership & Management Categories Government and politics About the author

Alex Younger, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service MI6, has also received a knighthood in the list.

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Departments 'not transparent enough' about Brexit consultancy as spending tops £97m

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It took departments 119 days on average to publish details of contracts

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Government departments have failed to meet the standards of transparency expected of them when publishing details of contracts for consultancy services related to Brexit, the spending watchdog has said, in a report that found EU-exit consultancy spending topped £97m in a year.

Between April 2018 and April 2019, the Cabinet Office alone had spent or agreed to spend £65m on EU exit consultancy, according to a National Audit Office report.

Anticipating that departments would need to fill staffing and skills gaps in the run-up to Brexit, the Cabinet Office set up a framework in January 2018 for departments to access consultancy services more quickly and easily than they could through other procurement routes. Through this framework, departments submitted bids for the contracts to the Cabinet Office, which then assessed and approved the bids.

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Total expenditure across government is in fact likely to be higher than the total quoted in the report, the NAO said, as the watchdog did not audit all departments. Instead, it analysed data from the Crown Commercial Service, the Cabinet Office and a sample of four other departments.

And the figure is set to climb in the months to come, after departments signed contracts related to Brexit worth a further £160m in May.

But the NAO said departments had been too slow to publish details of the agreements, and that some had not been published as recommended.

Guidance published by the Crown Commercial Service in December 2017 said departments should publish basic information about contract awards within 90 calendar days, in an effort to increase transparency about their spending.

But it took 119 days on average to publish the basic details of the Brexit consultancy contracts, compared to 82 days for all types of consultancy contracts. The report also noted that some contracts that had been published had been “significantly redacted”.

However, the NAO found that it has taken on average 119 days for basic details of EU exit consultancy contracts to be published, compared to 82 days for all consultancy contracts. The NAO also found that in its review of contracts for EU exit consultancy that some had not been published as recommended, and all that had been published were significantly redacted.

Almost all of the spending that happened through the Cabinet Office framework – 96% – was with six companies, the NAO found. Deloitte took the biggest share, at 22%, followed by PA Consulting with 19%, PricewaterhouseCoopers with 18%, and Ernst & Young, with 15%. Bain & Company took 11% of the contracts and Boston Consulting Group 10%.

Most consultancy contracts ran for less than three months, but departments have regularly extended them, the report said.

Commenting on the report, Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier said her committee had become “all too familiar” with a lack of transparency around the government’s preparations to leave the EU.

“It is not good enough that some departments are failing to publish even basic information about their contracts and that the Cabinet Office does not know how much is being spent across government,” she said.

“The Cabinet Office must ensure that departments’ use of consultants, and the money spent, is fully open to public scrutiny.” The PAC will question civil service chief executive John Manzoni on the figures on Wednesday.

A government spokesperson said: “It is often more cost-efficient to draw upon the advice of external specialists for short-term projects requiring specialist skills.

“These include EU exit priorities, such as ensuring the uninterrupted supply of medical products and food to the UK.”

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Procurement & Commercial Transparency & Open Data Categories Government and politics About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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