I was asked to write this blog under the headline above, but was also told that if I didn’t like the title I could change it. I considered other headings but decided I’d stick with this because I think it reflects the feeling of many officials when it comes to devolution.
The dictionary definition of worry is, “feel or cause to feel anxious or troubled about actual or potential problems,” and in the course of my role as the Devolution Lead in the Department for Transport I have been contacted by staff who are uncertain about the need to, or indeed the propriety of, making contact with their counterparts across the borders.
So, our first Devolution Learning Week session provided an opportunity to allay some of those fears and to give our staff the opportunity to both share their experiences and air their concerns.
The session focused on the content of our Devolution Engagement Plan. In developing the plan, we asked the Devolved Administrations (DAs) what they thought about working with us. The answer to this might have been a worry in itself, but the response we received was both encouraging and helpful. General themes emerged – an overall satisfaction with the relationship with DfT, but a desire for greater advanced warning of announcements; a regularly updated contact list; the opportunity to meet face-to-face and to share knowledge – all perfectly sensible and certainly nothing to worry about.
More in common
So, would knowing this help allay some of the fears?
To assist, and to bring engagement to life, the session also made use of colleagues from around the department whose roles brought them into contact with officials from the DAs. Policy leads from the rail and maritime worlds (including HS2) were on hand to offer insight on how they collaborate with, and sometimes diverge from, their opposite numbers, and how healthy dialogue is often the key to averting disaster.
Did knowing there were colleagues who regularly interacted with the DAs make the prospect less harrowing? In fact, officials working for the Scottish, Welsh and UK governments are all part of the same civil service organisation, often referred to as the 'unified civil service'. And, to that end, we have more in common than we have differences.
You're not alone
Well, the response from those who attended was positive and it drew out examples of other interactions across the department. All this led to a sense that you’re not alone and there are people you can turn to for advice and assistance should you need it.
Hopefully, the activities of this week will prompt colleagues to think about their work and the effect on the DAs and, more importantly, to pick up the phone or get on the train and meet some of their counterparts.
Who’s worried now?
You can find out more about the Civil Service learning campaign Devolution and You - and details of the devolution lead in your department - here.
Follow the UK Governance & Devolution Team on Twitter: @CSDevoTeam