Proposed 20% cut to Senior Civil Service is 'irresponsible', says FDA

7 December 2009

For immediate release

The FDA described as "irresponsible" the Government's proposal for a cut of up to 20% in the size of the Senior Civil Service (SCS), which is contained in the Putting the Frontline First: Smarter Government white paper published today.

FDA general secretary Jonathan Baume said:

"It is irresponsible to propose cuts of up to 20% to the Senior Civil Service (SCS) only 22 weeks before the General Election. The new government in May needs first to explain how it intends to curtail the functions of central government. If it does so then staffing levels are likely to fall as a consequence. But this announcement looks more like crude electioneering than a sober assessment of the implications for central government of the fiscal crisis.

"The SCS has grown over the past decade because - since 1997 - Ministers have significantly extended the role of central government. It is likely that, in the first period of a new Parliament, Ministers will need all of the currently available resources to take forward manifesto commitments and likely reforms to public services in the coming decade, even if the SCS eventually contracts in size as these reforms bed down."

The FDA is also sceptical about proposals to relocate thousands of civil servants from south east England.

Baume said: "Most civil service employment in the South East consists of relatively junior staff in local office networks such as Jobcentre Plus, tax offices and the Courts Service. Moreover, any financial savings are very limited in the short term and significantly offset by the initial costs of the relocation and the disruption to effective delivery of services.

"If the Government genuinely intends to devolve power from Ministers and central government to local communities then not only will the civil service contract but more work and employment will be located away from London. However, a mechanistic exercise to move staff but still leave power with London-based Ministers is just sleight of hand.

"People are often extremely reluctant to uproot their families, including taking children out of schools, to move to other parts of the UK. The recent relocation of Office for National Statistics' London staff to South Wales has led to the loss of key skills from that department as government statisticians opted to stay in London where employment of statisticians across the wider economy tends to be focused.

"We will be considering in detail the wider issues raised in the white paper. Reducing the number of quangos, making those remaining more accountable, and streamlining their relationships with government departments is long overdue."

Ends

Notes for editors

1. The FDA is the trade union and professional body representing 18,000 of the UK's senior civil and public servants. Our members include policy advisors, senior managers, tax inspectors, economists, statisticians, accountants, special advisers, government lawyers, diplomats, crown prosecutors and NHS managers.

2. Members in HMRC are represented by the Association of Revenue and Customs (ARC), a section of the FDA.

3. 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".

4. For further information contact:

Jonathan Baume, FDA General Secretary, tel: 020 7401 5555 or 07976 951191.

Oliver Rowe, Communications Officer, tel: 020 7401 5588 or 07590 838696.