Headlines: June 2nd, 2004

Bureaucrats who make up the ‘non-essential’ frontline want a better employment deal. They recognize that compared to a doctor or a teacher, the tax collector and benefit administrator is undervalued by the public. Nobody likes the taxman, but without efficient tax collection there would be less money for health and education.The ‘non-essential’ frontline is bearing the brunt of the drive towards efficiency. The three landmark reviews, Lyons, Gershon and O’Donnell represent the most widescale changes to the civil service for 150 years. Under the Lyon’s review 20,000 civil servants will be moved out of the South East with savings of 2 billion pounds over 15 years from cheaper accommodation and lower salary costs. The Gershon review recommended a move to smaller strategic centers, a focus on professional and technical skills and more emphasis on performance management. The result from adopting this approach could be staff cuts of 80,000. The Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise are being merged into a single department as a result of the O’Donnell review. Significant staff cuts are predicted.

In response to this seismic change the Public and Commercial Services union has collaborated with The Work Foundation to produce a pamphlet ‘Living on the frontline – A future for the civil service’. It argues that there is such a thing as ‘the good bureaucrat’ and it calls on the Government to work with the Trade Unions in rethinking the ’employment deal’. It wants a new focus on skills and career development.

Publication of the pamphlet follows a warning from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development about the importance in major changes of winning the hearts and minds of the remaining workforce. The ‘psychological contract’ between employers and employees is a vital consideration. Motivation of the remaining workforce depends to a large extent on a supportive attitude by the employer. In the public sector, where the pace of change is traditionally slower than in the private sector, this will need particular attention said a spokesman for the Institute.