Professionalism, not politicisation, is the key to good ministerial support

 Wednesday 10 July 2013
(For immediate release) 
Commenting on the Government’s plans for an extended ministerial office, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman said:

“Whilst we agree with the intention of strengthening the support for Ministers and accountability of civil servants, the reality is that the proposals outlined today could result in the politicisation of the key ministerial support function. Our concern is that the extended ministerial office will act as a firewall between impartial, evidence-based advice and the Minister.

“The danger is that ministerial offices staffed by personal appointees will ultimately be loyal to their Minister, not the taxpayer. Support in this context is likely to mean Ministers hear what they want to hear, but not what they need to hear. The destabilising effect of this approach should not be underestimated - the last thing anyone needs is further turmoil through the ranks of the civil service every time there is a reshuffle or election.

“Good Government involves permanent, politically impartial civil servants supporting current and future Ministers without fear or favour on either side. If this is not being delivered the solution is to strengthen the corporate leadership of the civil service, and meaningfully engage with the key public servants whose professionalism and competence already deliver high-quality public services and successful reform.”

Notes for editors

1. The FDA is the trade union for the UK's senior public servants and professionals. FDA membership includes more than 19,000 senior civil servants, government policy advisors, prosecutors, diplomats, tax professionals, economists, solicitors and other professionals working across Government and the NHS.
2. The FDA (formerly the First Division Association) should be referred to simply as "The FDA" and can be described as "the senior public servants’ union".

3. The FDA can be found on Twitter @FDA_union and at

4. The FDA’s alternative White Paper - ‘Delivering for the Nation: Securing a World-Class Civil Service – outlining our analysis of the challenges facing the civil service and our recommendations for change, can be read here.

5. For further information contact:

• Dave Penman, FDA General Secretary, tel: 020 7401 5555 or 07967 503827.
• Kay Hender, Communications Officer, tel: 020 7401 5589 or 07980 700747.
• Diana Ruthven, Communications Officer, tel: 020 7401 5588 or 07791 040394.