Civil service reform debate must be genuine and include staff

2 January 2020

Prospect has said that the union welcomes a ‘genuine’ conversation about civil service reform in response to renewed speculation about a forthcoming government shake-up of Whitehall.

The rumours are that the government wants to focus on easing job-churn and promoting skills such as data literacy.

Prospect represents thousands of civil servants, mainly specialists in departments such as Defra and the MOD and agencies such as the Environment Agency and Highways England.  Prospect argued that any reforms would stand a better chance of success if they we planned in consultation with staff and called for a focus on issues such as pay and rewarding experience.

The union also argued that staff with STEM skills should be more highly valued than they have been in the past.

Prospect deputy general secretary Garry Graham said:

“Prospect members in the civil service are absolutely committed to serving the public and we welcome any genuine interest from government in making the state more effective in supporting citizens.

“Civil servants share the frustration of the public that the political inertia and confusion of the last few years has held back important policy work and focus on the urgent priorities facing the country such as healthcare and the environment.

“Some of the ideas mooted so far such as looking to reduce churn in job roles are clearly vital, however government needs to realise that churn is often the result of poor pay and reward and staff development structures and take steps to ensure people can develop and get a decent pay increase without needing to change jobs regularly.

“The government would be right in recognising the importance of skills and experience. Too often pay and reward systems have failed to recognise the importance of depth of experience, contemporary skill sets, and the stability and agility they provide.

“It should also be recognised that the civil service is not simply a collective of generalists in Whitehall, but encompasses specialists, scientists and others working across the country in roles that are too often undervalued by central government. Rectifying this imbalance should be a focus of any reform agenda, those with STEM skills need to be at the heart of policy development and delivery- not kept at bay on the periphery by those who regard themselves as talented generalists.

“Ultimately any civil service reform package stands the best chance of success if it is conceived together with civil servants, rather than issued by diktat from the centre and we look forward to engaging constructively with proposals in the coming months.”

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