Is there something wrong with the way our country is run if the annual turnover rates of staff in some parts of the civil service are at 25%-30%?
Jill Rutter, writing in the Institute for Government, points to other worrying areas. Only one member of the top team at the Communities and Local Government was there before the last general election. After a mass exodus just before Christmas, the permanent secretary position and three DG roles are being filled by personnel ‘acting up’. The Cabinet Office is on its third information officer since the election as well as having had no less than four deputy directors for its ‘open public services’ project. One Chair at a Public Chairs Forum meeting said that he’d had five ‘senior sponsors’ since the election.
Then there is the issue of the Departments of Health and DEFRA top level reorganisations involving the need in some cases for personnel to re-apply for their jobs.
According to the article the Cabinet Office and Treasury attract lower rates of pay than the Whitehall average. And it also refers to a recent FT staff survey, which indicated that 10% of staff were looking to leave the Treasury with 12% believing their pay was too low.
On top of this of course are the cuts that will get fewer people doing more work as well as the temptation to gap jobs for as long as possible to offset costs, even at the vicious cycle price of higher turnovers.
The Independent quotes one source as saying “There are persistent rumours of the tensions of working with this Government. Civil servants are told 'we've already made our minds up'. They have no input into the process.” The possible price maybe of what is indeed an economic crisis and the need for strong, swift government.
Many people, especially those who believe in smaller government will see this as a confirmation that government is too big. And that a culling would get the cost and size down to a more acceptable level.
But this process appears to be happening in an unplanned ad-hoc way. That way lies confusion, cost and risk.
Jill Rutter concludes with “Ministers have always complained about too much change in the civil service; with people not staying in post long enough to see policies through. The need to make unprecedented cuts in administrative budgets was bound to necessitate more churn than usual. But the government will only succeed in seeing its longer term change plans through if it manages to retain and motivate good people to weather the current turbulence and stick with it.”