Headlines: July 13th, 2004

Poor people management presents the greatest threat to downsizing Whitehall departments to meet Chancellor Gordon Brown’s pledge to reduce the civil service by over 100,000 jobs in the next three years. This includes 84,000 jobs in England and a further 20,000 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. An additional 20,000 jobs will be re-located from London to the regions.In the light of this scale of downsizing the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has called for the current approach to reform to be remoulded so that people management is put at the heart of the reform process by shifting from a command and control style of management to a high performance model based on autonomy and trust. The Institute argues for a reduction in the number of centralised targets and giving managers more discretion at local level over pay-setting.

Despite some welcome moves toward so-called ‘constrained discretion’, managers and workers at local level complain of too little discretion and too much constraint when it comes to how they go about meeting delivery targets set in Whitehall.

Research by the Institute shows that poor people management is a key cause of stress in the public sector with Central Government officials complaining about this aspect of their work in particular. It also shows that local leadership is capable of energising and enabling people and is the key to transformational change and performance improvements on the scale that is now planned.

On-line surveys by Kable, the IT research and publishing company found that 71% of civil servants believe that a 5% cut in staffing levels is achievable, but only 29% believed that the cuts would bring increased efficiency. The survey also revealed that 50% of respondents said that at least half the data they collect is duplicated by other departments.

PCS, the largest civil service trade union said it could not rule out industrial action after the Chancellor’s announcement. PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said “Job cuts on this scale spell carnage for public services. When this government was elected they imposed the windfall tax to pay for initiatives like the New Deal, now they are using their own workforce to pay for their policies. How are the government going to deliver their promises on tax credits, winter fuel payments, immigration and closing tax loopholes in the face of such devastating cuts?”