Public service – two words that define the Civil Service. It offers a sense of fulfilment, and responsibility, that few other organisations can match. It is what attracts hundreds of people – including some of the country’s brightest graduates and apprentices – to join our ranks every year and it’s what motivates all of us to do the best job we can. Whether processing tax returns at Longbenton, issuing driving licences in Swansea, or working with young offenders in Lancaster, everything we do matters because we deliver the services that people rely on.
Over the past few years our country has faced massive challenges, particularly as a result of the economic downturn. But today, the deficit has been reduced by half, the UK is enjoying faster growth than any other major economy, and unemployment continues to fall. The Civil Service can take credit for helping the Government to deliver this improving outlook. But we can also be proud that we have grasped the opportunity to go further, by fully embracing the spirit of reform and committing ourselves to find new ways of working.
We have still got lots to do, but the Civil Service is stronger, more capable and more efficient than ever before. In doing this, we are demonstrating to the public that the Civil Service can innovate and adapt in order to deliver more and better services for less money.
On Wednesday the PCS union, which represents some civil servants, will go on strike.
While it is of course a matter for individual PCS members to decide whether or not to support this strike, I hope they will consider carefully the impact that not turning up to work has on the services they deliver, their colleagues and the overall reputation of the Civil Service. They should also consider the impact on neighbours, friends and communities, who must contend with the disruption that strikes can cause.
We all recognise of course that the pay restraint of the past few years has been tough, but with the economy 15% smaller on a permanent basis than was projected before the recession, action to reduce costs in the Civil Service was necessary. Without the difficult decisions to pay and pensions, headcount reductions would have had to have been far more severe. It’s also important to remember that the Civil Service as a whole still enjoys terms and conditions on a par with the best employers.
I think most people understand this, and I have no doubt that the vast majority of civil servants will be at work on Wednesday doing what they do best - delivering first class public services.