30 January 2013

A union survey of Britain’s senior civil servants suggests that more than 60% are so unhappy at work that they are contemplating resigning. Nearly 25% working in Whitehall, disgruntled with their pay falling behind the private sector and criticism from Ministers, say they want to leave immediately. The tensions between Ministers and their senior officials are described as a “cold war”.

Historically the FDA – formerly the First Division Association – has many interests in common with Ministers, regardless of the party in government. Half of the heads of Britain’s 3,500 agencies are FDA members. The tradition of respectful relationships is breaking down, each publishing harsh observations about the other.
The Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee, currently investigating the civil service, has questioned “…the wisdom of Ministers publicly criticising their civil servants because it undermines trust in their leadership…”

The FDA of course, is seeking to pressure the Senior Salaries Review Board that is to report within two months on the effect of the four year pay freeze, and the remuneration structure for senior civil servants that is seen as problematic. It has made a 90 page submission to the review board.

While the union suggests that there will be a mass exodus if the economy provides alternatives, the Cabinet Office has said that its 2012 culture survey of 300,000 civil servants shows that overall engagement (at 58%) is the same as in 2009, and across the civil service 89% find their work interesting. Ministers are reported to be confident that the civil service will not lose its most valuable staff when the economy improves.