Monday, 11 April 2016

What is left of the Civil Service

Here is more from the Independent archive, from the Letters page this time. Barry Reamsbottom, then general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union wrote in March 2001:

Civil service reform has been a political football for at least the last 20 years. As general secretary of the largest civil service trade union, I would like to remind your readers of some of the outcomes of these "reforms".

Bringing in people from the commercial world was very common in the 1980s and 1990s, especially in the field of new technology. As a result, the civil service lost a great deal of its own expertise in this area. We have seen failure after failure of large-scale civil service computer projects [...]

Other changes have included the fragmentation of a unified civil service into different executive agencies, which has entrenched competition for funds and status between departments.

This was written almost four years into a Labour administration which was to last until 2010. Far from restoring the professional standards in the public service, Labour continued the privatisation process, to the enrichment of Capita and Atos in particular. Apart from the replacement of Atos by Maximus, nothing much has changed under the Conservatives.

In terms of employment conditions, things went backward. By 1960, the civil service had embraced the principle of equal pay for equal work. Allowing agencies to set their own pay scales and working conditions has led to the gender pay gap opening again and widening, so much so that even a Tory government recognises that there is a problem.

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