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Thursday 05 March 2020

Civil servants deserve an independent complaints process

By Dave Penman
FDA members, and all civil servants, must have confidence that when they raise a complaint against some of the most powerful people in the country, it will be dealt with fairly, writes General Secretary Dave Penman.

Willy Barton / Shutterstock.com

The FDA has supported Sir Philip Rutnam following his unprecedented forced resignation from his post as Permanent Secretary at the Home Office and will continue to support him in his claim for constructive dismissal. As I said in my statement on Saturday, he had a choice to accept that his position was untenable and resign or go quietly with financial compensation. He has chosen to speak out against the often anonymous and cowardly attacks on public servants. We know many thousands of his colleagues will recognise the courage and integrity he is showing in doing so and will applaud his decision.

On Monday, the Government announced that the Cabinet Office has been tasked with investigating the allegations made against the Home Secretary Priti Patel. Whilst we will of course be working with the Cabinet Secretary as he undertakes his investigations, this falls far short of what the FDA has called for- an independent lawyer-led inquiry.

I know that many members will have taken note that at the same time as establishing the inquiry, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, stood at the despatch box pledging his confidence in the Home Secretary, a point made by our Assistant General Secretary Amy Leversidge when she appeared on Sky News. This is symptomatic of the broader concerns we have on the lack of an independent, transparent and fair process for investigating and determining complaints. 

Our members, and all civil servants, must have confidence that when they raise a complaint against some of the most powerful people in the country, it will be dealt with fairly. On Newsnight, I made the point that if a minister were to behave in a bullying manner in Parliament, there would be an independent investigation, but if you walk a hundred yards up Whitehall, the investigation will be led by the Prime Minister behind closed doors.

As we witnessed previously in the Parliamentary bullying scandal, when staff do not have trust in the system, they will simply refuse to take the risk associated with making their complaints public.

We hope the Cabinet Office will now work with us to establish the swift, effective and independent complaints process that our members so urgently need.

There is no place for bullying or ill-treatment of any member of staff, and the FDA is here to provide support to any member who feels isolated or overwhelmed by unreasonable demands or behaviours.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@fda.org.uk.

Dave Penman is the General Secretary of the FDA
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