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Wednesday 22 February 2017

FDA defends civil servants against Letwin attack

The FDA has defended civil servants following criticism from West Dorset MP Sir Oliver Letwin, arguing that the former No.10 policy chief should be a little more self-critical about his role in the government’s policy failures.

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”.

Speaking to The Times, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman said he was surprised that Letwin “fails to see any correlation between the actions of his government and the problems that he says he encountered”. Penman said he believed that most of the problems highlighted by Letwin have been caused by the government cuts imposed in recent years.

Penman explained: “Whilst staff numbers were slashed by 20% in the space of a few years, he bemoans the lack of depth in policy advice. Whilst his government froze civil service pay for three years, then restricted it to rises of less than 1%, he rails at civil servants for moving jobs to get promotion despite it being their only way to get a decent pay rise.

"But what is also clear is that his perspective is that of a Whitehall-bound minister, who fails to understand why leadership and management skills are valued and rewarded in an organisation of 350,000 staff delivering complex public services," Penman added. 

The FDA General Secretary also took Letwin to task in his latest column for Civil Service World, saying he believes the criticisms “demonstrate a minister who was divorced from the reality of what the 90% of the civil service he never met was actually doing”.  

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