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Thursday 27 August 2020

Penman accuses government of ‘scapegoating civil servants’ after Jonathan Slater stands down from DfE

Following the announcement that Jonathan Slater would be standing down as Permanent Secretary of the Department for Education, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman has condemned the government for throwing civil service leaders “under a bus without a moment’s hesitation to shield ministers from any kind of accountability”.

His full response read: “If it wasn’t clear before, then it certainly is now – this administration will throw civil service leaders under bus without a moment’s hesitation to shield ministers from any kind of accountability. Those who have dedicated their lives to public service are being discarded without hesitation to keep scrutiny from the government’s door. 

“Whilst the origins of the exams fiasco may be complex, the solutions for this government are simple: scapegoating civil servants. Ministerial accountability is dead and the message to civil servants is that they are expendable the moment life gets tough for a minister.

“After this government’s continuous anonymous briefings to the press, trust between ministers and civil servants is already at an all-time low and this will only damage it further. No private sector company would treat their leaders this way and still expect to succeed. At a time when the country needs the civil service like never before, the government is happy to tarnish its reputation and throw away years of experience and expertise.”

Appearing on BBC Newsnight (25 minutes, 55 seconds into the programme), Penman told Katie Razzall that “the government needs to find out what went wrong, not make a knee-jerk decision to abandon officials”.

Speaking to John Pienaar live on Times Radio, the General Secretary said he didn’t think he’d ever seen “a clearer example of scapegoating” than what we’ve seen over the last two weeks. He pleaded with the Prime Minister to “change tack” on BBC News, stating that his government will not be successful if it continues to “undermine the trust that’s required to run an effective civil service”.

Penman’s response was also reported by the FT, the Times, the Telegraph, the Mail and across national and regional publications.

Today, he has also written an opinion piece for Civil Service World, outlining that civil servants fearing they will be sacrificed, undermined and discarded is “no way to run a government”.

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