In our evidence to the SSRB in January, the FDA focused on the key priorities highlighted in our written submission:
- Affordability and funding
- Performance management
- Pay progression
- Excessive uncompensated hours/working hours
The SSRB report acknowledges the progress being made by the Cabinet Office but states:
“There is more to be done. In previous reports, we have highlighted the need for a coherent pay and workforce strategy to address what we consider to be serious issues affecting the productivity and effectiveness of the senior civil service (SCS).”
They identify 2 key issues which are interrelated
- High levels of uncontrolled job movement within the civil service (‘internal churn’).
- The absence of a pay progression system.
Further issues of concern include:
- The lack of a strategic vision for the future shape and size of the SCS in the light of changing demands and the skills it needs to deliver outcomes.
- Pay proposals overly focused on limiting annual pay increases but which may lead to costs considerably in excess of apparent savings.
- Low confidence in the performance management system, with too much emphasis placed on process rather than on quality.
- A tension between the centre of government wishing to control the pay system and the delegation of responsibility to departments. The government needs to be clear about what it wants to delegate, make certain this is properly articulated and put mechanisms in place to ensure adherence.
- The divergence in the vision for the SCS and the application of reward principles for SCS members across the different governments in the UK.
- Anecdotal evidence of reduced levels of morale in the feeder group. This may result in too many of the best people leaving the civil service and never entering the SCS.
In the evidence submitted to SSRB, the government reinforced its message about a long-term strategic vision and reiterated the need for an SCS that:
- Has leaders with stronger professional ‘anchors’ and specialist skills.
- Continues to grow world class capability and functional expertise internally while recruiting and retaining specialist skills externally.
- Provides greater reward for higher performers and those who develop capability by remaining in post for longer, enabling greater depth of experience, confidence and leadership skills.
The SSRB response is that whilst it is encouraging that progress has been made, it reiterates that it is crucial that the government acts with greater urgency to provide the funding and to set out the implementation plan and timetable to deliver these changes.
We agree that, again, there is more to be done and with the SSRB's focus on the need for concrete proposals. The frustration of the SSRB is echoed both by the FDA and our members. There is no legitimate reason for the lack of progress on a structural reform other than lack of political will from government. At a time when the country is relying on the Senior Civil Service like never before and pay levels are falling ever further behind the private and public sectors, the case for reform has been made and action is now needed.