The Very Civil Service

As civil servants book their holidays for the upcoming election, several government departments have been investing in ways to make life less stressful for the famously hard-working, clock-off-at-four profession. Signs have popped up urging people to not use exclusionary phrases like “that’s crazy”, gender-neutral toilet schemes are becoming very popular, and even ‘safe spaces’ are appearing.

In the Department for International Trade, civil servants can relax in the ‘Tranquility room’ where personal calls and meetings are banned. Negotiating those new trade deals can get very stressful…

In the Treasury, signs guide civil servants on how to avoid offence, with comical posters even suggesting replacing words like ‘crazy’ and ‘schizophrenic’ with ‘absurd’ and ‘erratic’. Four words that aptly describe their language-policing scheme

mdi-timer 30th October 2019 @ 11:00 am 30th Oct 2019 @ 11:00 am mdi-comment Comments
Civil Service: Brexit Doesn’t Mean Brexit

The Civil Service seemingly have a deeper aversion to ‘Brexit’ meaning Brexit than might have first appeared. Brexit-watchers will have noticed that official documentation never mentions the word, with officials instead being told to always use the phrase ‘EU Exit.’ One Civil Servant told Guido Brexit has been given the ‘Voldemort’ treatment…

Interestingly they aren’t the first people to avoid the word – Vote Leave also rigorously avoided using the word ‘Brexit’ because it was found to have less positive associations with voters than ‘Leave’. Whatever people want to call it, it doesn’t change the fact that Brexit means Brexit and Leave means Leave…

mdi-timer 4th April 2019 @ 1:27 pm 4th Apr 2019 @ 1:27 pm mdi-comment Comments
Rudd Case Shows Sedwill Wrong to Put Civil Servants Above Criticism

Amber Rudd levelled some remarkable accusations at her former civil servants in the Home Office this morning following the publication of a report into the events surrounding her resignation over the Windrush Scandal. Sir Alex Allan’s report, which was completed on May 23rd but not published until today after being leaked to The Times, pointed the finger of blame at civil servants for not providing Rudd with correct briefings which led her to misleading MPs about the existence of removals targets.

Rudd herself went further on Today, effectively accusing senior civil servants of politically-motivated leaks against her:

JW: You were leaked about at the time as well – do you have a sense that this was just incompetence or was there something political as well – was there an attempt to embarrass you?

AR: It certainly felt like the latter as well… yes, there were a series of leaks during the past year at quite a high level that were definitely intended to embarrass me.

The two civil servants singled out for criticism in Allan’s report, Director General for Immigration Hugh Ind and Permanent Secretary Patsy Wilkinson, have simply been moved to other high level jobs within the civil service. Ind is now Director General at the Cabinet Office while Wilkinson has moved into a national security role. Classic civil service promotion for failure.

The whole affair makes a mockery of Mark Sedwill’s protestations only two weeks ago that civil servants should not be subject to scrutiny from the press. It is a basic fact of politics that individual civil servants have agendas and leak to the press for political reasons. It is a basic fact of life that civil servants are not infallible and sometimes make mistakes when carrying out their jobs.

Yet the notion still persists in some quarters that civil servants should be immune to political criticism despite carrying out political attacks of their own, while politicians take the flak for officials’ mistakes even as the Whitehall gravy train ensures that the officials responsible still have a cushy job at the end of it all. Funny how many of those rushing to defend Robbins now want officials’ heads to roll over Rudd…

mdi-timer 2nd November 2018 @ 11:59 am 2nd Nov 2018 @ 11:59 am mdi-comment Comments
Civil Service Headcount Still Rising in London

The Civil Service is ripe for reducing numbers, digital automation and A.I. should bring a merciful demise to a lot of paper-pushers doing mundane jobs. Think about all the processes that have become digitised; driving licences and tax filing for example. Headcount for the civil service has gone down in most places since 2010. Yet in London it has been going up for the last 5 years…

The number of civil servants in London rose by a massive 5,000 last year, in fact civil service headcount has been rising overall and median pay rose at above inflation rates. The wage bill in London alone rose by hundreds of millions. The initial Osborne/Maude onslaught on the bureaucratic fat after 13 years of Labour lethargy saw over 100,000 pen pushers find jobs in the private sector under the coalition. Now with a mangerialist government the Treasury has lost the will to bear down on the headcount. Despite the massive opportunity to reduce paperwork and civil service numbers through digitalisation of services the headcount is steadily rising. What happened to the quangocides we were promised? The state and para-statal organisations seem to be ever expanding…

mdi-timer 14th August 2018 @ 2:32 pm 14th Aug 2018 @ 2:32 pm mdi-comment Comments
Robbins’ Private Sector Options

Rumours are doing the rounds in Whitehall that Theresa May’s Brexit adviser Olly Robbins is weighing up his options for a potential move to the private sector after October. The water cooler chat in several departments is that Robbins could bail out after the key EU summit and is considering a big pay day outside of government. He will not be short of offers on the continent…

mdi-timer 8th June 2018 @ 10:23 am 8th Jun 2018 @ 10:23 am mdi-comment Comments
Robbins Hits Back at Brussels Briefing

May’s chief civil service Brexit adviser Olly Robbins has joined Twitter with a passive aggressive dig at the Brussels official who briefed the press yesterday that the UK was “chasing fantasy”. The implication of Robbins’ tweet very much that Brussels has not been calm and professional. Robbins’ Twitter mentions when Leave.EU and co find his account will be quite something…

mdi-timer 25th May 2018 @ 8:20 am 25th May 2018 @ 8:20 am mdi-comment Comments
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