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Civil Service

Introducing the Civil Service leaders' blog

Sir Jeremy talking on stageMany of you will be aware that Sir Bob Kerslake announced in July that he was stepping down as Head of the Civil Service.

From 1 September, in addition to my current responsibilities as Cabinet Secretary, I took on the title of Head of the Civil Service. Bob will carry on as the Permanent Secretary at DCLG until the end of February 2015 when he will retire from the Civil Service.

It has been a great pleasure and a great privilege for me to work alongside Bob since the start of 2012. Bob has had an outstanding career, spending over 35 years in the public sector. I know that his tenure as Head of the Civil Service will leave a positive, long-lasting legacy for the Civil Service.

We are now in the process of appointing the Civil Service’s first Chief Executive. When appointed, he or she will have responsibility for driving forward both the government’s efficiency and reform agenda and our continuing major programme of Civil Service transformation, building on the considerable progress made over the last few years.

We will shortly be publishing an update on the reform programme – Two Years On – and I would urge all of you to read it.

The Leaders’ Blog

As Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service I will chair a revamped Civil Service Board, on which the Chief Executive will also sit.

This Board will meet monthly:

  • to review the Civil Service’s progress in delivering the government’s objectives
  • to provide oversight of the Civil Service reform programme and identify areas for future reform
  • to provide the collective leadership of the Civil Service with a regular opportunity to review the lessons from successes and failures in Civil Service performance; and
  • ensure that our best ideas and innovations are shared across departments

The other members of the Civil Service Board are:

Each week, a different member of the Board will update you on some of the key issues affecting the Civil Service as we continue to implement the government’s programme and prepare for the General Election on 7th May 2015.

I hope you will find this a useful forum to learn more about our priorities, achievements and challenges. We also want your thoughts on what interests you, and what you think the Civil Service Board should be focusing on.

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  1. Comment by bekah posted on

    Well Jeremy, what a load of baloney. Blinding us with politeness, charm and long sentences. Please try to "get real". We are all in it together are we? I hope that isn't what you are going to tell us as quite frankly, it's laughable. I have to say working for the Civil Service has opened my eyes to the games people play, manipulation, narcissists ... I could go on forever *sigh*

  2. Comment by Tom posted on

    Maybe you can clarify how the answers in the Staff Survey will be interpreted. Sir Bob started his comment on PMR in his Blog with the statement that the Staff Survey responses from Departments where PMR was introduced two years ago, showed that staff thought it meant poor performance was better managed. Was there any evidence that PMR affected how poor performance was handled or could it have been other factors?

    The number of negative comments to his Blog on the issue, would appear to suggest that PMR is not popular and its affect on staff morale, as well as its time consuming nature, do not justify senior management's belief that it is a worthwhile system. Please explain what responses staff should put on the survey to fully convey their dissatisfaction with PMR?

  3. Comment by cad posted on

    It's all just pointless. Whatever arguements we present as a workforce will just be rejected with the same old answers about public funding etc They should just admit that the agenda is to drive as many people as possible out & then have a much smaller civil service made up of young people desperate for a job who'll take much worse t&cs. All this pretence about driving up standards, wanting to be a good modern employer drives me mad. For a strt, we'd be a lot more efficient if they stopped all of this and just let us concentrate on doing the job. Oh well, another happy Monday start to the week!

  4. Comment by Glen R posted on

    Bla, bla, bla, bla. That is all i hear when the people at the top introduce new fangled ways of doing things, sadly it will still be the same. we need proper pay and more staff. you get enormous pressure to do more with less. When you do and make a silly mistake you get "ripped a new one" with little or no support.

  5. Comment by NH posted on

    "following the international financial crisis of 2008/9, the Government has had to make some really tough choices in order to address the country’s huge budget deficit – unfortunately public sector pay restraint is one of these"

    So although not technically public servants, MP's are still funded out of public money, yet can not operate a 1% pay restraint themselves. Are we, or are we not, all in this together?

    • Replies to NH>

      Comment by John MacDonald posted on

      I would submit that although MPs are not technically public servants, in reality they are. IPSA say that they are underpaid by 9% so it will be up to them to set an example to us and not take this. I do not know what credentials IPSA have for setting pay compared with the independent pay review bodies.

  6. Comment by Bernard Woolley posted on

    I have to agree with Richard on this, We have consistently been told that the reason our pay is below that our equivalent in the private sector is because of our "benefits".
    We are now seeing "our benefits" being eroded at an seeming alarming rate.

    1) We now have to pay more for our pensions (to get less out in some cases)
    2) We will have to work longer before we will be able to retire
    3) Offices are constantly being threatened with closure
    (But where & when the axe will fall no-one knows)
    4) Year on year pay freezes (but the cost of living is always going up)
    5) Little or no succession planning for those who retire (leaving a huge gap in knowledge)

    The above are just some of the problems that lead to poor morale & with the small amount of time that we were allowed to attend a Christmas function being removed it is no wonder that staff morale is at an all time low.

  7. Comment by oppo posted on

    Couldnt we just cut and paste all the unanswered questions that were posted on Sir Bob's Blog to Sir Jeremy's blog. He can then fail to answer them, under a global heading of "Staff questions to be disregarded at source", all at the same time.

  8. Comment by Richard posted on

    Yet another head of Civil Service, thats three since I started 11 years ago. The last two clearly didn't give a damn about Civil Servants especially those lowest paid like me. I very much doubt if this one will. Every single piece of news and change that has come from the Valuation Office Agency (my employer) and wider Civil Service over the last 4 years or so has been for the worse.

    The VOA blatantly lied to me about pay progression, I was told I would get to the maximum of my grade within 6 years of service, I was kept at the very bottom for 5 years 11 months then at the last minute we were told it wasn't 'contractual'. Then to add insult to injury all the higher grades were put to their max because of a gender discrimination case!

    The 14 month late VOA 2013 pay offer actually resulted in (for the first time since 2010) a very small pay rise for me! But it moved me just into the higher tier for pension contributions so the whole lot was taken back again and I am no better off.

    The VOA restructure into 'units' in 2011 has been a complete disaster. The units are far too large, our unit's entire travel budget has been blown on massive train fares so managers can get to their meetings. Our unit is huge, grossly under staffed at support level and badly managed. In addition a couple of years previously the VOA wasted approximately £6million on a shiny new mapping system that they rejected at the last minute.

    The new voip phone system has also been a complete failure since its introduction in 2011. Our switchboard are still unable to pass calls directly to local offices. They have to send us the information so we (in the local offices) can call the taxpayer back. I believe this is very poor customer service and a lot of the time the info we get from the switchboard is gibberish.

    All the Council Tax property referencers in the VOA were downgraded to AO grade recently, even those who had progressed to EO before joining the VOA. I fail to see how going out and measuring people's dwellings could be considered as an administrative task?

    For the last few years we have been constantly reminded that our office may be closing under the Agency's change program. We still have no idea whether this will happen or not.

    And to top it all off it was announced today on the VOA intranet that time off to attend Christmas events has been withdrawn. Thanks a bunch SCROOGE 🙁

    • Replies to Richard>

      Comment by Janet Alexander (VOA) posted on

      Thanks for your comments.

      I'm sorry you feel let down by decisions taken, or being considered, on pay, pensions and office locations. I know these are difficult decisions to take and I'm well aware of the impact they have on people. Having said that we've needed to make these choices as part of the reforms to the way we work in the Civil Service and the financial constraints the we are currently living within.

      I want people to be happy to work for the Civil Service and to have opportunities to progress and develop. I believe the overall package that we can offer is still amongst the best for a modern employer.

      You raise a number of other things that are specific to the Valuation Office Agency on restructuring, mapping, telephone systems and regrading. I can't really respond in detail on these things other than to say that any major changes often have some problems when they are first implemented and before they bed down. I can only suggest you contact managers within the Agency if you have any ongoing concerns.

  9. Comment by Tom posted on

    Sir Jeremy says of Sir Bob, "I know that his tenure as Head of the Civil Service will leave a positive, long-lasting legacy for the Civil Service." Given the poor state of morale within the Civil Service, I would doubt many civil servants would think his tenture brought anything positive. In my own department, some staff are doing the work of staff at least one to two grades higher and being led by managers who have no knoweldge or experience of the work their staff do.

    As for long-lasting, I doubt it will last much beyond the new Chief Executive's appointment or the election of the next government in 2015.

  10. Comment by Poor and miserable posted on

    Sir Jeremy, I do hope you will take on board the utter misery caused by low paid civil servants receiving absolutely no pay increase for the second year running. M.P.s are getting 9% and I didn't even get awared the paltry 1% due to being on my Maxima. Talk about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer!

    Not sure who is deciding that those at the bottom do not deserve any pay rise whatsoever but they are damaging morale and trust with those at the top, not to mention causing financial hardships to those practically on minimum wage! Do you even realise we exist?

    • Replies to Poor and miserable>

      Comment by Jeremy Heywood posted on

      In my time in the Civil Service, I have time and time again witnessed the excellent work undertaken by Civil Servants in delivering essential public services and advising Ministers on policy. However, following the international financial crisis of 2008/9, the Government has had to make some really tough choices in order to address the country’s huge budget deficit - unfortunately public sector pay restraint is one of these. Tough choices on pay are helping to protect jobs. Despite the tight overall position, steps have been taken to protect the lowest paid – including guaranteed pay uplifts of at least £250 during the pay freeze. I understand that times are tough for many Civil Servants, however, it is important to remember that the overall package of benefits offered to Civil Servants is still a good and competitive offer and that employment terms remain among the best available. For example, only last week we were able to announce that the Civil Service will be an exemplar of the new entitlement to shared parental leave by paying eligible parents at the same occupational rate as maternity leave rather than the statutory minimum rate. With regards to MPs, their salaries are independently determined by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

      • Replies to Jeremy Heywood>

        Comment by Bob posted on

        Maybe it's time for Civil Servants to have their pay assessed independently as well then. If IPSA can agree an award of such magnitude to the MPs based on their performance thus far, then Civil Servants must surely be worth double that?

        Of course my tongue is firmly in cheek when I say this; no really...

        It is not (just) all about the money. It is about a lack of trust. It is about a lack of respect. It is about a lack of empowerment to make a difference. And this is not helped when the powers that be are not only awarded such a huge pay-rise - but then accept it!!

        A little more thought could have gone some way towards closing the void between the Government and its Servants. Actions such as these simply fuel the fire of contempt even more.

        • Replies to Bob>

          Comment by John MacDonald posted on

          Bob, some civil servants do have their pay set independently. The Senior Civil Sevice has its own independent pay review body. I do not know what expertise IPSA have in assessing pay compared to the longstanding pay review bodies, but they have only recommended 9% - it has not been implemented yet. I agree that all civil service pay should be set by a single pay review body.

      • Replies to Jeremy Heywood>

        Comment by Penny posted on

        So why did the £250 pay uplifts not actually happen, at least where I work?

        • Replies to Penny>

          Comment by John MacDonald posted on

          Penny, the £250 only applied to people paid less than £21,000 like myself for the first two years of this Government's incomes policy. Anyone above that got nowt as we say in sunny Blackpool.

    • Replies to Poor and miserable>

      Comment by John MacDonald posted on

      IPSA are recommending that MPs get 9% - it has not yet been agreed.

  11. Comment by John posted on

    Any comment on PMR Sir Jeremy...? Please see the hundreds of comments on your Predecessor's blog. It would nice if the SCS would at least have the courtesy to respond to some of the points raised, rather than just ignoring them....again.

    • Replies to John>

      Comment by Jeremy Heywood posted on

      As I mentioned in my blog post, I am keen to hear what interests colleagues, so thank you for your comments.

      I have a real and vested interest in the performance management system operating fairly and effectively across the Civil Service. It is a great achievement that for the first time we have an approach to performance management that is used by more than 90% of the Civil Service, which is improving how our performance is managed. Regular discussions are taking place and there is an equal focus on the ‘What‘ and the ‘How’. All of this will take time to embed and for many departments they have just completed their first year of operating the new approach.

      I recognise that the move to any new system will be challenging and often a big culture change for everyone involved. I have been considering the feedback from departments and will pay keen attention to the outcomes of the People Survey questions on this topic. I am pleased that departments are making real progress in enhancing our performance and supporting excellent performance, but I recognise there is still more for all of us to do.

      • Replies to Jeremy Heywood>

        Comment by John posted on

        Thank you for at least taking the time to put forward a reply regarding PMR, however basic.
        It restores my faith that someone does actually read the responses to your blog...
        Like you Sir Jeremy, I'm looking forward to the People Survey response regarding this issue.
        I really don't think you have any idea about how ordinary staff view this system, so it should be a real eye-opener.

  12. Comment by Terry posted on

    I can only hope that Sir Jeremy takes more notice of this blog and the dire criticisms of things in the civil service such as the medieval IT and appraisal systems than his predecessor.