Discussion, not destruction, is the key to a responsive civil service says the FDA

15 January 2013
(For immediate release)

Relations between politicians and the civil service would be better if Ministers engaged with their staff, rather than complaining to the media when they find that their plans may not be quite as effective as they had thought.

Referring to the recent public discussion by politicians about the senior civil service, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman said:

"The fact that some politicians across all parties have decided to blame the civil service for perceived failings in their governments comes as no surprise to the FDA or civil servants. This happens as regularly as a footballer blames a referee for a harsh decision on a Saturday afternoon. The political neutrality, experience and professionalism of senior civil servants may annoy politicians, but that only serves to demonstrate its importance.

"If all Ministers seek is advice from people who agree with them, then the public will end up with a raw deal - no one can sensibly want hand-picked special advisers to be the only scrutiny of the Government's policy agenda. The portrayal of a civil servant identifying potential issues with a policy for a Minister as being a 'block', rather than a necessary part of developing workable policies, does not prove that the civil service is flawed.

"It is too easy for politicians to praise civil servants in private for hard work and professionalism, but blame them in public for policies that fail. This does not mean that it is right or fair for them to do so. If the Government wants to change its relationship with the civil service it should talk to civil servants, not journalists."

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:

  • Dave Penman, FDA General Secretary, tel: 020 7401 5555 or 07967 503827.
  • Kay Hender, Communications Officer, tel: 020 7401 5589 or 07980 700747.