Penman: “Oliver Letwin's attacks on civil servants show an ex-minister divorced from the reality of what they do”

In FDA General Secretary Dave Penman’s latest column for Civil Service World, he takes former Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin to task over his recent attacks on the civil service.

Giving evidence to an inquiry into the work of the civil service being carried out by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Letwin criticised civil servants for moving between departments over the course of their careers and accused them of disguising a lack of in-depth knowledge behind 'prolixity and jargon'.

Writing for Civil Service World, Penman said: “Now I don't doubt Ollie's sincerity, or that at times he felt frustrated and didn't receive what he was looking for from civil servants. But the problem with open-ended enquiries like this is you get random accounts that in no way enlighten the committee... I could, and have, criticised his comments. To me, they demonstrate a minister who was divorced from the reality of what the 90% of the civil service he never met was actually doing: delivering public services. He seems incapable of dissociating the actions of his government from the problems he encountered.

“His government slashed civil service numbers, resources and training budgets over a very short period, yet demanded more, not less. They froze pay, increased pension costs and tore away at almost every element of the package, fixated as they were on a perception of "fat cat" civil servants. The result is a system where civil servants have to move job or seek promotion to get any chance of a pay rise. Not by accident – this is design.”

Head over to Civil Service World to read the column in full.