Relationship between ministers and civil servants at risk, says FDA

2 October 2012
For immediate release

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude's announcement that permanent secretaries have "blocked agreed government policy" risks opening up a rift between the civil service and politicians, the FDA said today.

Dave Penman, FDA General Secretary, said: "By making accusations against permanent secretaries who are unable to defend themselves publicly, Francis Maude risks a severe loss of trust between the most senior civil servants and ministers.

"If ministers have concerns about the actions of permanent secretaries, there are established ways of dealing with them. If civil servants have serious concerns about policy initiatives, they have a responsibility to raise those concerns with ministers - that is the role of an impartial civil service. Too often ministers seek to scapegoat senior civil servants for the failure of policy.

"By publicly berating permanent secretaries in this way, the Government risks damaging the key relationships between ministers and their most senior officials.

"No chief executive of a major private company would publicly criticise his most senior managers in this way and not expect morale to plummet.

"Civil servants are working to implement the Government's reform agenda and deficit reduction programme, while maintaining the standard of our public services. This is no way to motivate the most senior leaders to deliver this challenging agenda."

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:

  • Kay Hender, FDA Communications Officer, tel: 020 7401 5588 or 07980 700747.