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Civil Service Reform: The Year Ahead

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2013 was a challenging but successful year for the Civil Service – our people survey scores  show that nearly 90% of you are interested in your work, our record on learning and development is at its strongest since 2009 and more of you are being recognised for what you deliver, not how you deliver.

2014 will present its own challenges, as many of you will know if you are dealing with the flooding around the UK at the moment. There will no doubt be many more unpredictable challenges that we have to overcome, but we know we will continue to face spending challenges, there will be a vote on Scottish independence and we will begin to see the build-up to next year’s general election.

In amongst this, I am absolutely determined to ensure the Civil Service is stronger than it’s ever been by driving forward the implementation of Civil Service Reform.

More skilled

It is impossible to overstate the importance of ensuring that all civil servants have all the skills they need to carry out their job. There will be an even greater emphasis on learning and development in the year ahead, with a focus on the four priority areas of digital, commercial, project delivery and change leadership.

There are lots of opportunities to improve your skills on the Civil Service Learning website so have a look and start planning your training. Keep your eyes peeled for a refreshed self-assessment tool which will launch next month, and will form an important part of the end of year review process.

More unified

If the Civil Service is to be the best that it can be then it is crucial that civil servants are able to work together seamlessly.

Last year many of you were issued with a new pass which allows you to access many government buildings in Whitehall. Over the coming year this will be extended across the country, saving time and increasing flexibility. Meanwhile, the new security classifications will come into operation in April, making it easier to share information with each other.

More digital

In the year to come I am determined for us to make further progress towards becoming a truly ‘digital by default’ Civil Service. Civil servants should be able to tap into the digital resources available to us in our personal lives, and use them to make our working lives easier and deliver a better, more efficient, service to the public.

Social media is an important part of this, and I want to see civil servants have access to these tools where they need them. I’ve been using Twitter for nearly 2 years, and have found it to be a really useful way to engage with people across the world on the work I’m doing.

Next year

We will undoubtedly face many challenges, and be presented with many opportunities, over the next twelve months. However I am more confident than ever that we’re building a strong and modern Civil Service.

My new year’s resolution is to meet as many of you as possible over the coming year to hear from you directly about Civil Service Reform. I will keep you posted on how I’m getting on, but would welcome hearing about your resolutions in the comments section.

Stay in touch. Sign up now for email updates from this blog.


Update 16th January. Thank you for your comments below. Sir Bob has replied in a new post here.


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  1. Comment by Neil Sutherland posted on

    I rather hope you meant to write, "It is impossible to overstate the importance of ensuring that all civil servants have all the skills they need to carry out their job." It's all too easy to understate it!

    I might add, "It is impossible to overstate the importance of ensuring that all civil servants are properly remunerated for the vital work they do".

    • Replies to Neil Sutherland>

      Comment by Steven Smith posted on

      Our business is suffering daily through lack of full training of staff to carry out their work. Partially training staff from other business areas for short periods is having a damaging effect on being able to offer a reasonable service to our customers as this leads to the existing staff having to rework cases or being left with all of the complex work that can not be processed quickly. This results in regular expensive overtime work for the tax payer and a constant feeling of 'firefighting' by the staff. Support staff are given a system that cannot even link correspondance to files and an imported management that has no real concept of the work processes that they will be judging us on.

      • Replies to Steven Smith>

        Comment by Paul posted on

        Steve. Overtime? If only!

        • Replies to Paul>

          Comment by Steven Smith posted on

          Overtime... yes overtime and very regularly, as we do not have enough staff to do the job. I suppose you can only reply on the information that is being fed upwards..

    • Replies to Neil Sutherland>

      Comment by BIlly D posted on

      I agree with Neil. This sort of middle class talk is becoming grossly irritating. A casual assumption that job satisfaction somehow makes up for a decliing real wage. The normal spin of the well-remunerated and inversion of the Maslow triangle. Personally, I'm probably too young to quit and too old to hire but I would seriously recommend younger people find employment elsewhere. What planet are these senior managers on?

      • Replies to BIlly D>

        Comment by Lewis posted on

        I notice a lot of people have used this section to moan about how poorly we're paid, but my experience is that civil service remuneration (including pension) compares very well across all sectors. The harsh reality is, if you think you deserve more pay for what you do, you should go and do it somewhere else instead of perpetuating this myth that we're an oppressed mass fighting tooth and nail against the evil fat cats on the top floor.

        • Replies to Lewis>

          Comment by Chris posted on

          • Replies to Chris>

            Comment by Lewis posted on

            Assume you mean sectors. Well, in other parts of the public sector (NHS, Local Gov) and the 'not for profit' sector, pay is worse than civil service, in my experience. There may be higher wages advertised in the private sector, but generally with MUCH worse pension provision. This is just my experience, and is why I choose to stay put for the moment.

          • Replies to Chris>

            Comment by laird posted on

            well of course its because its actually paid for and costed

        • Replies to Lewis>

          Comment by John posted on

          Lewis- Reference your comment on wages - As a civil servant of 26 years I would like to just be paid enough to not have to claim benefits in addition to my "wage", to support my family! I must be one of the oppressed masses you refer to!

          • Replies to John>

            Comment by A Colquhoun posted on

            No one has actually knows what the reward for a Top Marking is. It might be academic to publish this prior to the PMR reporting year so that staff can decided if they think the REWARD IS WORTH THE EFFORT.

          • Replies to John>

            Comment by Kim posted on

            It is also wrong that staff working at the same grade in exactly the same job role are not being paid the same amount due to the frezze on increments. My counterpart earns £2,100.00 a year more than myself and I have been a civil servant for 38+ years.

        • Replies to Lewis>

          Comment by stuart posted on

          The average wage per week [as used for fine rectification is £400] I don’t earn £400 per week working for the courts.
          I have only worked for the courts for 10 years, the civil service even less, did not want to be a civil servant but had no choice, then had to sign up to a pay deal that gave smaller pay rises. Then no pay rises at all. Now we are about to sold/privatised, we were even told privatisation was good for our own development, condesending and utter rubbish, these people believe there own spin too much, and spend endless days taking and not doing, they get paid very well too- partly my own and probably your lost pay rises. The also have the real gold plated pensions too.
          I worked in the private sector for 28 years - 25 years for a blue chip company, who paid at least a third more, and have the skills that the civil service think are new such as LEAN and continues improvement processes - I was doing this in the 1980's. & 90's so how far in front do you think the private sector actually is? Light years...........

      • Replies to BIlly D>

        Comment by Guy posted on

        Once again Sir Bob makes absolutely no mention of the issues that affect the majority of civil servants.

        Billy D: What is this "job satisfaction" of which you speak? It sounds like an unobtainable ideal from some utopian dreamland, rather like that old chestnut "living wage"

    • Replies to Neil Sutherland>

      Comment by Alun Hodges posted on

      Sir Bob,

      I am a highly motivated individual within my workplace but in general the MOD saps my strength its appears to be all talk and no action, Cuts here and there and I beleive in some maybe many cases an uneven workload, some doing considerably more than others in the same grade. Those that can do and those that make do with no reward. A lack of understanding in writing Appraisals and the dumb idea we have at present for having someone write on use whom we only see maybe twice a year and someone who has little or no understanding of what we do. I would love to see a high level Civil Servant visit us,.to my knowledge has never occured in my time, In fact i am not even sure of the structure for the MOD Civil Service within my own unit. Happy 2014 (I hope)

    • Replies to Neil Sutherland>

      Comment by Ferne posted on

      Interesting to see that you want to make the service more digital - social survey interviewers have to use their own personal computers or a library computer to access the intranet and send any e-mails to respondents!. We cannot access our HQ systems with our laptops!

    • Replies to Neil Sutherland>

      Comment by Neil Sutherland posted on

      Thanks for making the correction. With that level of responsiveness I hope we can expect an early resolution of the second issue?

  2. Comment by Antoni Chmielowski posted on

    As a Civil Servant of 25 years service, I despair at the thought of even more reform.

    Have you ever considered that it might be appropriate for the Civil Service to allow the previous set of reforms to bed in and the staff get used to them than rather foist even more changes on us ? It seems to me that we are continually changing for someone elses benefit (and its certainly not for the benefit of the staff or the general public at large).

    Its true what they say though "The only constant thing in life is change".

    • Replies to Antoni Chmielowski>

      Comment by John Lindley posted on

      Totaly agree - I think the biggest problem to all our troubles is that Common Sense must have left on VERS........................

  3. Comment by Stuart Dyson posted on

    Your determination to make progress towards a digital Civil Service is noted. Are you aware that at the moment we are only allowed to respond to external e-mails from customers and agents via letter? Looks like we have a long way to go....

  4. Comment by Faith O'Sullivan MBE posted on

    Thank you
    Your comment at para 1 says " our people survey scores show that nearly 90% of you are interested in your work, our record on learning and development is at its strongest since 2009 and more of you are being recognised for what you deliver, not how you deliver."
    Since April 2013 Performance Management has changhed and now asks us all to consider, discuss and agree performance against both the ‘What’ (delivery of objectives) and the ‘How’ (demonstration of behaviours, competencies and values) with equal weighting.

    • Replies to Faith O'Sullivan MBE>

      Comment by PJ posted on

      Like faith I noted that Bob's "more of you are being recognised for what you deliver, not how you deliver." is in conflict with the new performance management system insistence on measuring how against a patronising set of Civil Service Behaviours. But hey its almost 12 months old, of course it is time to change again. The chief problem with civil servants it the never ending reforms and micro managment by politicians. How about a little trust that we actually care to do a good job and let us get on with it?

    • Replies to Faith O'Sullivan MBE>

      Comment by MarySusan Barry posted on

      Dear Sir Bob,
      I read with interest the comment the in your first paragraph 'more of you are being recognised for what you deliver, not how you deliver'.
      My contention is your text is misleading. I agree other civil servants who highlight it conflicts with PM Policy implemented since April 2013. Our department's PM draws attention to the equal weighting of ‘What’ and ‘How’.
      Yesterday myself and colleagues attended CS Learning training Managing Self: Getting a New Job session. One key action which all participants agreed they would take away was to focus on 'HOW' we portray our successfully completed tasks. The practical guidance applies equally to demonstrating competencies when completing an application or your performance appraisal.
      Has CS Learning not properly briefed the contracted external trainers? (who were excellent by the way)
      Are civil servants being to symantec with their reading of your statement?
      Would HMG finally learn from commerce/academia and allow reforms to embed before introducing another wave of reforms. If any PLC anywhere continued restructuring, it would never produce goods, services or a profit!

  5. Comment by Avril Norton posted on

    I understand that learning is an important part of our lives, and not just work related. I have heard about a project recently carried out as part of 'Shaping our Future' at Lawress Hall.They want to introduce bitesize learning for things like spreadsheets, powerpoint etc. This is a brilliant idea and I can't wait. My spare time is short and I would rather have short tailored sessions than have to do a whole course needlessly. I hope this project doesn't fall by the wayside as some seem to do.

  6. Comment by Rena Williams posted on

    It is important for all civil Servants to acheive all skills and understanding their job.

  7. Comment by Peter Bowden posted on

    I am curious to know what you mean by 'Social media is an important part of this, and I want to see civil servants have access to these tools where they need them.' Departmental filters are designed specifically to prevent access to most Social Media sites such that e.g. Fraud Staff have a circuitous route in place where they need to look at e.g. Facebook pages. Is your intention that the current blanket restriction on acess will be reviewed or softened?

  8. Comment by Malcolom Martin posted on

    Good Morning Sir
    Re the new ID cards
    The new green ones are no good for bailiffs and ceos as we have to show our ID to defendants the ones we have now have the name on the reverse side of the card
    We keep theses cards in a leather wallet with metal badge which means we have to take the card out each time we show it
    We need a card with our name and title on the front
    Kind Regards
    Malcolm Martin
    Cluster Bailiff Manager Hampshire Wiltshire & Isle of Wight

  9. Comment by N Mackenzie posted on

    Your first paragraph comments that "more of you are being recognised for what you deliver, not how you deliver." In HMRC, the emphasis under PMR is that both are equally important.
    Mixed messages?

  10. Comment by Rossana Roby posted on

    Hi Bob
    I agree that as the world changes so too should the civil service. I had an idea a few years ago that actuallty involved training staff to work at a higher grade or in another area (1 day a week or fortnight depending on the role) as part of their development. This would give them a feel for the job and also monitor their suitability. They could receive scores and if they were able they would go on a database so that if a promotion opportunity or a vacancy in another area came up, then those on the database would be offered the chance to take these positions. Of course they would have to maintian the standard required and this could mean that some people could be taken off the database if say their behaviours or scores dropped.
    This would be civil service wide and we would only need to advertise the positions if no-one on the database was suitable.
    I believe this would fulfill the need to multiskill, would encourage engagement and staff would feel more in control of what they need to do on a personal level to succeed in the role they want to do.

    • Replies to Rossana Roby>

      Comment by Steve posted on

      Not to mention that using this system would provide continuity and also mean that as in the past the new managers/ etc would know the job inside out and be able to answer staff queries/provide correct guidance as opposed to now when anyone can be promoted into a post for which they have no knowledge or the appriopriate skills.

      The sounbite getting "The right people in the right jobs at the right time" comes to mind !!!!

      • Replies to Steve>

        Comment by marcus Wheeler posted on

        I agree strongly with Rosanna Roby above, at least in principle. I do not think that the outside recruitment process is necessarily to onerous as some have suggested, but once inside the civil service, it is ridiculous. So is the PDR process. I work in operational delivery. Our work is often so frantic, thereis scant opportutnity to have meaningful, regualr PDR dialogue with staff. This is not for want of trying but the reality of a demand led control which is under resourced, and frankly, the least secure border we have seen in years.

        The PDR process has poisoned staff relationships, and will continue to do so as more people are placed in the bottom 10% for spurious reasons on the basis that someone has to be identified. In my opinion, staff performance has been excellent from 95% of staff very, very few are failing. The whole process proceeds from a false position. I have no problem placing identifying poor performers as such, the problem has been in th epast that the criteria in the process didnt allow me to do so. Now i am faced with the reverse position, that i must place people in the bottom 10% on th escantest evidence, even if i view their performance as good. If i am the target audience, in that i am prepared to identify poor performance, then the process is failing miserably because i feel the process is still failing.

        Furthermore, it seems increasingly apparent to me that the civil service, which was established under Gladstone as recruitment under open competition, promotion on merit, is regressing toward patronage. There is a general perception of rapid promotion in places like Marsham St and Croydon. Again, the perception is that the CCF process is all about "spin" and bears little relationship to an applicants real ability. often the CCF competencies themselves can be met as a result of "developmental" postings and TCA/HRA, which can be abused as patronage, and are available to those who dont rock the boat.

        Perhaps the most invidious aspect of the PDR is the "newspeak" in which no "critical" (i use the term in the positive sense of the word) comment can be made. I understood that it was a civil servant job to give the best advice. no matter how unpalatable it is. The determination amongst senior management to stamp out anything but positive comment contradicts a fundamental principle of the Civil Service, but gives licence to senior managers to avoid hearing what they dont want to hear. Why is it that despite all the visits which seem to take polace at the border, none are ever, unannounced or at the busiest times? When visits take place there are always plenty of staff and frequently limited activity - basically weekdays, office hours and not during holidays, especially the summer holiday period.

        In summary, i am quite contemptous of civil service reform, asi do not believe it really addresses the fundamental issues of working efficiently and productively and effectively either at teh border or elsewhere.

    • Replies to Rossana Roby>

      Comment by Sharon Hopkins posted on

      What an excellent idea Rossanna Roby has. To me, it makes complete sense compared to the current arrangements whereby staff who have been suitable for promotion for years are assessed by a half hour on -line test.

      • Replies to Sharon Hopkins>

        Comment by Lisa Gilbert posted on

        Ditto. I totally agree.

    • Replies to Rossana Roby>

      Comment by Marcia posted on

      Excellent idea. I'm betting nothing came of it?

      • Replies to Marcia>

        Comment by Steve Lewis posted on

        This is one of the best suggestions on the entire board so far... and isn't it actually nearer to what we used to do successfully in the dim and distant past? At last year's (2013) Civil Service Live, one of the things that Bernard Jenkin MP said during his presentation on the second day was that he wished that more people could be advanced in their existing job. A major benefit of this would be long-term continuity - rather than people having to hop from job to job and / or frequently change location in order to form a career.

      • Replies to Marcia>

        Comment by Rossana Roby posted on

        Yes Marcia
        I received an email saying it was a marvelous idea and it had been passed to someone in HR to look at, and that was the last I heard. Maybe this multi skilling idea that is coming forward now will be the start of a similar training package. 🙂

        • Replies to Rossana Roby>

          Comment by Marcia Lee posted on

          I've had a couple of letters like that too. Disheartening!

  11. Comment by Steve posted on

    Hear hear Neil although your comment and that of many many others on the same subject matter on previous blogs and hotseat questions will receive no air time where it should be addressed i.e. Whitehall..

    Now that I am in a position to escape, I can safely put my head above the parapet to say that Instead, all we will be faced with is :-

    1) More bullying of staff beginning at the very top.
    2) Further cuts in our hard earned terms and conditions.
    3) Biased and selective reporting of the few good things in the survey et all without any mention of the many negatives - (The HMRC survey shows the true feelings of staff).
    4) Real term cuts in our take home pay with the further pensions increase due to come into force.
    5) Widening pay differentials (1% on the top salaries means a much larger increase for the fat cats than it does for those of us actually doing the work on the front line for meagre salaries).
    6) The ridiculous and hated new reporting process with one aim in mind which is to get rid of staff without having to make redundancy payments.
    7) And finally, the joke that is Pacesetter (A previously discredited system tried and discarded by other organisations).

    Having provided examples I could go on, but what is the point because as with Neil's salary comment, none of these issues will be addressed to our advantage.

    As an aside, why is our name and E.Mail address required if not to simply feed back any negative comments for reporting purposes under "behaviours".

    • Replies to Steve>

      Comment by Steve Lewis posted on

      Steve 10.1.14: As a fellow HMRC employee I agree with your comments (and the seven-point list of shame) entirely.

    • Replies to Steve>

      Comment by Karl posted on

      Cheers Steve (10.1.14) for the "parting shot" statement. All points very valid. Thanks for airing them on our behalf. In Sir Bob's defence I can only assume he's being shielded by departmental heads given the wholesale naivity displayed in this blog. To be fair is aspirational - its just not based in reality.

  12. Comment by Mark Simpson posted on

    Yet again, a smaller Civil Service is urged to achieve more, with less, whilst suffering a degradation of terms and conditions.

  13. Comment by Nick Trodd posted on

    Sir, In your first paragraph you say that ".....more of you are being recognised for what you deliver, not how you deliver." This is not the message being delivered in HMRC where the What and How are given equal weighting. The HMRC increased emphasis on "How" is to highlight the importance of positive behaviours. The risk is that your sentence will inadvertently distract from the HMRC message. I'm not sure if you want to publish this comment - it is meant as feedback.

  14. Comment by Andy posted on

    A bit puzzled by the comment re reward for what and not how you deliver. The PMR process fousses on the "how" and in HMRC at least, a huge emphasis has been placed on the "how".

  15. Comment by Graeme Elliott posted on

    The notion of "digital by default" is laughable if, like us in HMRC, are operating with software that cannot run modern websites, with computers that need re-booting at least twice per week, with so few printers that we spend much of the day waiting for print jobs when they are not out of action, with one scanner for over 100 people. It all adds up to frustration, inefficiency and low morale.

    • Replies to Graeme Elliott>

      Comment by Marcia posted on

      Rebooting twice a week? My PIP team have to reboot at least twice a day! What I fail to understand is how, as an organisation, we can measure performance in any meaningful way when the systems we are saddled with create such waste of resources.
      PIP was a brand new benefit, with software created specifically for it, but we're still faced with screen freezes/blackouts, operating systems that won't load, loss of input information, slow running and crashing every single day.
      Becoming digitally *competent* would be a good start!

  16. Comment by JSamson posted on

    Very difficult to see where the opportunities for skills improvement will be coming from when we continue to block promotion paths by having a multitude of (understandably) self-interested contractors, earning anything between 500 and 1200 pounds a day, work in our organisations year in year out, for anything up to 10 years at a stretch.

    • Replies to JSamson>

      Comment by another_chris posted on

      @JSamson: "Very difficult to see where the opportunities for skills improvement will be coming from when we continue to block promotion paths by having a multitude of (understandably) self-interested contractors...,"

      In my area (IT), the reason we have lots of contractors is because many in-house staff are simply not able to offer the same skills or expertise as contractors. This is not just due to lack of investment in training and skills acquisition by our employers, but also due to the failure of individuals to invest their own time and effort in building their skills. IT professionals have to do this constantly in the private sector, but too many civil servants coast along passively, waiting to be fed and watered like vegetables, instead of pushing themselves to do better. If you want to replace a contractor, become better at what he or she does, because you'll certainly be cheaper than they are, and you'll also know more about your department's business than they do. Why would your employer want to pay a contractor if you can do the same job for half the money?

      Incidentally, the daily rates you quote sound more like the daily rate paid to the big consultancy companies, which is usually at least 50% higher than the rate to the individual freelance contractor, and at least twice what an employee of the consultancy would receive. Still better than the daily rate for many civil servants, of course, so if anybody thinks they can do the same job, they could always choose to go contracting themselves.

  17. Comment by Jacquie Mates posted on

    We would all like to be able to provide a fast accurate service to our customers but we are hampered by antiquated systems which cannot cope with the volume of work and printers which are new but jam constantly due to the recycled cheap paper we use which aren't really cheap as engineers keep having to attend to fix them.
    Give us the tools to do our job and we will perform even better. We could probably double our productivity if our IT worked properly.

    • Replies to Jacquie Mates>

      Comment by Marcia posted on

      Couldn't agree with you more (see above)

  18. Comment by PAUL LUNT posted on

    The underlying message once again is that the civil service will be doing more with less and no proper increase in wages to reflect this.You and all senior managers are hypocritical to the limit.You say you want a great civil service respected worldwide, then lets at least have an adult approach to it and sit down with the unions to discuss the proper way forward.You say you want to compare us to the private sector yet you cherry pick parts of it and enforce changes upon us.What little respect I have for seeing real improvements has well been evaporated over the last 12 months and I can guarentee this will continue over the next 12 months no matter what rhetoric we are presented with.

  19. Comment by Martin Zuerner posted on

    I read with interest your comments:
    "..In the year to come I am determined for us to make further progress towards becoming a truly ‘digital by default’ Civil Service. Civil servants should be able to tap into the digital resources available to us in our personal lives, and use them to make our working lives easier and deliver a better, more efficient, service to the public." what plans have you to bring us into the 21st century by having the latest operating systems on our computers and not having to work with software that is outdated as it is installed on our systems?
    I like the comments by Neil Sutherland hope you mean what you say and carry them out
    and look forward to "tapping into the digital resources we will have on offer.

  20. Comment by Tak posted on

    "Social media is an important part of this, and I want to see civil servants have access to these tools where they need them."

    What about the large number of those who work with, or in the vicinity of IT systems classed at Restricted or even higher?

    At least where I am working, not only are all forms of social networking (including personal Email) banned, but you are not even allowed to have your own personal device near the workstations. Since the MoD are mostly using the same IT infrastructure (DII), I would imagine this applies to the majority of those with office jobs who would benefit most from access.

    • Replies to Tak>

      Comment by Ben A posted on

      Hi Tak

      The new Classification Policy which is going live in April this year, has been designed to support the way that Civil Servants work today. At the OFFICIAL level it will remove some of the black and white security rules that make it difficult for us to use the internet and modern technology and instead place far greater emphasis on staff to use their own judgement and common sense.

      More detail can be found here:


  21. Comment by Declan Trant posted on

    As an HMPS Instructional Officer living and working in Sussex, I have, over the years, held a strong wish to visit Whitehall and West Minster and see first hand the historic, architectural and political wonder of these premises. Will the "new pass" you refer to help me to achieve my ambition or will it only allow core business access? Any such visit would be carried out in my own time.

  22. Comment by Stewart posted on

    It is obvious that for the coming year, there will be no change, it will be the same as last, less staff, heavier workload, poor leadership and less pay, I am so looking forward to it !!

  23. Comment by Gareth Dyer posted on

    With regard to becoming "more digital", the most frustrating thing I have encountered over recent years is explaining to customers that although it would be useful to correspond by email as most people and businesses do in the outside world, I am not allowed to for security reasons.

    • Replies to Gareth Dyer>

      Comment by Ben A posted on

      Hi Gareth

      The new Classification Policy has been designed so that whenever organisations choose to use controls to protect themselves from security risks, then the impact of these controls on staff and how they work is also carefully considered. Used correctly, security should support and not restrict the way that we all need to work.


  24. Comment by Colin Thomson posted on

    I re-iterate the comment (Neil Sutherland) "It is impossible to overstate the importance of ensuring that all civil servants are properly remunerated for the vital work they do".

    Civil Service Reform, but not for all! terms and conditions(T&C) changes being implemented on the 3rd Feb 2014 - annual leave, mobility and London working hours will not apply to senior civil servants. Another metaphoric kicking. Sir Bob are we all in this together?

    You talk about future careers, T&C reforms mean that promotion, advancement and progression will result in a cut in conditions. Ah, but only below senior civil service. Another metaphoric kicking. Sir Bob is this prudent to encourage career growth within?

    Civil Service Live, It covers England geographically. You did mention amongst others the potential pending challenge ahead of independance vote on Scotland. Sir Bob as Hd of Civil Service have you already given up on civil servants north of Newcastle?

    • Replies to Colin Thomson>

      Comment by Darren Wood posted on

      That's the one thing that has puzzled me for a while now - Civil Service seems to be ignoring Scotland. Any Civil Service Live events are all based in England and Civil Service Local stops at the border...
      Have those at the top no faith in their colleagues in Scotland?

      • Replies to Darren Wood>

        Comment by Andrew Nicholson posted on

        Don't forget Wales and Northern Ireland

  25. Comment by Paul posted on

    We have been repeatedly told that all staff must be aware that performance is now assessed on 'how' we achieve results and demonstrate the behaviours and values as much as 'what' we achieve. Indeed in my area we have been informed that 'doing the job' and just delivering agreed results is not good enough and is the way to a 'Must Improve' marking.
    I was therefore a tad confused that in your opening paragraph you made a point of stressing that it was positive that people were now "being recognised for what you deliver, not how you deliver". I appreciate that the balance is important but this seems to be rather contradictory and given that people's pay is impacted on interpretation of all this, not helpful.

    • Replies to Paul>

      Comment by Ken Hill posted on

      Sir Bob - To quote "becoming a truly ‘digital by default’ Civil Service" is not the experience of most civil servants from my 25+ years in the service. The primary driver for any department is cost and the primary driver for any IT provider is profit. We are continually told that we need to "deliver more for less" but the IT services and equpiement provided continues to be poor so IT provoder makes a profit and department go for the cheapest option ignoring any notion of level or quality of service. This leads to poorer infrastructure for civil servants and lower levels of service for the public.

    • Replies to Paul>

      Comment by Colin posted on

      I agree with Pauls comment of 10/1/14 but would expand on them slightly. I am currently going through the 48 Programme which has as one of its fundamental tenets that how you deliver is equally as important as what you deliver. Indeed, this ethos extends into the Performance Management system. If we are distancing ourselves from this already, as Sir Bob's comments seem to imply, has the 48 Programme been a very expensive waste of time?

    • Replies to Paul>

      Comment by Marcia posted on

      Paul - check out the recently issued AA-AO Performance Standards, particularly the bullet points listed in Behaviours under the 'Must Improve' heading.
      One of the behaviours required is
      • Get involved, join up and spend time on things other than the day job
      My question is why? We are only paid for doing the day job, and so long as we do it well and meet performance benchmarks in all areas consistently, what is wrong with that? I work in a Contact Centre, where for the majority of AOs, their time is fully occupied BY the day job. However, under 'Must Improve' you will find :
      • Communicated and implemented change as directed.
      • Has not looked beyond direct responsibilities.
      • Happy in own work area and has not actively identified and engaged with wider team/ colleagues.

      What you've been told is correct.

  26. Comment by Debra English posted on

    Since joining the Civil Service in 1986 I have taken every opportunity to develop and progress through the grades with the result that I now work in a HR Shared Services environment. I and many of my colleagues have worked and continue to work many hours over and above our standard 37 with no remuneration to make the organisation a success. We have now been told that we are being considered for privatisation. So much for keeping committed, professional staff within the Civil Service who value their customers and provide value for money!

    • Replies to Debra English>

      Comment by keith posted on


      Yes this is typical. It does astound me however that people can be so nieve to think that they will be treated with more respect as a result of working harder. The old saying " the more you do the less they think of you " did not come about for nothing.
      Instead of trying to do more we should all be trying to do what we are paid for and if we are not paid for doing it then dont do it !!
      Bob's idea is great about all staff having five days training a year, I would suggest that that starts at the very top and the subject "listening" is top priority !!

  27. Comment by Rodger Whitefield posted on

    Coming into the Civil Service from Private Sector has really highlighted how under-resourced we are in many areas, and certainly how under-remunerated we are by comparison. For many front line staff dealing with angry customers all day every day, to not even earn national average wage is simply wrong. The job is enjoyable, but the constant worry over achieving a reasonable amount of salary and the need for many civil servants (myself included) to have a second job is totally unacceptable. Remove the pay freezes on the rest of the civil servants, pay freeze some of the MPs for a while and you will have an entirely different workforce and stronger Civil Service straight away. This then gives the staff the fortitude to deal with the other daily issues over IT, comms etc etc.

    • Replies to Rodger Whitefield>

      Comment by Neil Sutherland posted on

      I also came to the civil service from the private sector, and it worries me that colleagues fall for the line that the Civil Service is a good employer. In my experience private sector employers know that happy staff make happy customers and are willing to pay for results.

  28. Comment by patrick posted on

    you say 90% of staff are satisfied with there jobs,you fail to say what percentage of staff took part in the survey I would suggest it was far lower than 90%.
    This is the trouble with the organisation it is far from telling the full picture (privatisation of enforcement for instance).

    • Replies to patrick>

      Comment by AS Garton posted on

      Unfortunately, in Statisitcal Analysis, the actual numbers repying are immaterial. If only 30% respond, this will be considered representative sample, and if 90% of 30% are satisfied, the readover is 90% of all are. Additionally, those whose scores lay in the 'outliers bracket' will be discounted, so that the figure is 90% of less than 30%.
      The fact that many do not respond (say 70% of this example) because they are thoroughly dissatisified is not considered in any way. The only way for true feelings to be demonstrated is for everyone to respond with how they really feel. Then you would see 90% are dissastisfied!

  29. Comment by David Hague posted on

    Betraying new promotees on pay and the arbitrary abandonment by HMRC to progress individuals to the pay scale advertised on the job adverts issued at the time really does limit my
    engagement. I suspect that you are not even on a payscale Mr Kerslake?

  30. Comment by Steve Sarsby posted on

    Sir Bob,

    Rather than invite the Civil Service down the Yellow Brick Road to the mythical land to seamless working and digital by default, how about starting at ground level. Land Registry's performance in the 2013 People Survey was absolutely appalling-for several reasons, not least of which are sitting here waiting for job cuts and the fact that, despite assurance to the contrary from out of touch senior managers, we are not resourced to cope with our intake.

    If a first class Civil Service is required and desired, here's a novel idea:how about a first class job package for ALL Civil Servants, not just the ones at the very top.

    • Replies to Steve Sarsby>

      Comment by Caroline posted on

      I love the comment of Steve Sarsby couldn't have put it better myself.
      With the greatest of respect Sir Bob you can't pull the wool over our eyes any longer.
      I think all the mushrooms have taken VERS.
      The IT systems in the Civil Service are outdated and Digital Service don't make me laugh. The Civil Service probably won't even exist in 5-10 years time. Morale is low, we are always being bombarded with extra paperwork to justify our jobs or even justify our very existence in the Civil Service. I thank god I only have 4 years to do and I am currently looking down another Career path to escape.
      You will not recruit younger people in to this outdated service as they will laugh when they see the pay package.

  31. Comment by Sarah Lane de Courtin posted on

    Your positive words should be received as encouragement. However, view it rather negatively working in the real world and believe nothing positive will come of it, There is no training personnel to go to that I am aware of who will advise me, when I ask I am given vague answers, there is no time allowed to go on the Civil Servant website and train, no encouragement of training - still awaiting feedback about a course I showed interest a year ago from my line Manager. Meanwhile, I am 'hot desked from task to task not even on a weekly basis and even when I am, pulled off due to resources so there is no chance of becoming expert or gain sound knowledge of a particular task. I am all for cross-training but realistically this can only be achieved if a person spends a reasonable amount of time - say 3mths - before being moved to another process. Seems to me, all that is important right now is clear desks, no bins (?) and an average of 100 personnel or more attending a morning meeting of 1/2 hr to clarify stats figures as this is what we are measured on and seems to be the key priority. What a complete waste of the resources when we are all struggling with huge backlogs in various areas due to lack of staff. I could continue, but then it is just my view and a very disheartened one at that.

  32. Comment by David Layton posted on

    "Digital by default" is a great idea in principle as, whether we like it or not, we do live in a digital age. However, we need IT systems that are fit for purpose and we should not abandon the non-digital systems that work efficiently simply for the sake of change. As an example, I would cite the problems with unofficial websites and system failures encountered by customers attempting to lodge British passport applications online compared with the speed and efficiency of the application process when they apply through the Post Office or by post. Change, it seems, is not always for the better.

  33. Comment by James Morrison posted on

    Great blog, I agree Twitter is a great means of communication and there are some great twitter sites out there including @cmoptions A confidential and impartial information and support service for people needing help with child maintenance.

  34. Comment by Mick M posted on

    I speak for several colleagues who have been in DWP and it's predecessors for over 30 years. We all used to be proud of being Civil Servants, however in recent years we have seen misguided attempts at streamlining and modernising the Service. In trying to mirror some practices in the private sector, whilst working with other outdated practices (and computers, premises etc) we have become a laughing stock - well actually our team have to laugh at the latest ridiculous ideas from upper management, otherwise we'd cry. It makes "Yes Prime Minister" look quite tame.

  35. Comment by Mulu49 posted on

    I have enjoyed being a full time civil servant of almost 30 years until the last year or so. I always knew I was serving the public in some fashion and that felt good. Unfortunately all I see now is targets, performance measures and the need to look elsewhere for a more fulfilling life or to quote a Buddhist boot camp mantra "Working part-time so that I can live full-time may be the best decision ever made. I don't feel like I have sacrificed a life of luxury; I've simply exchanged material goods and the illusion of abundance for actual true bliss."

  36. Comment by Mark Simpson posted on

    'I will keep you posted on how I’m getting on, but would welcome hearing about your resolutions in the comments section.'

    Not many resolutions in the comments section, Sir Bob, but plenty of honest feedback to mull over.

  37. Comment by Steve Brittain posted on

    A unified Civil Service is all very good in principle, but with departments having different terms and conditions, and people having to revert to "day one" terms and conditions on transfer between departments, doesn't seem to encourage movement.

  38. Comment by Paul posted on

    Cheapest is rarely the best.!

  39. Comment by Stuart Beale (Highways Agency) posted on

    I am sorry, but there is a lack of joined up thinking here. If you start charging graduates #27k to get their degree, they want higher paid jobs to re-coup that outlay. Private industry have responded to this, particularly the engineering sector, by offering higher wages and some quite high 3 or 4 year loyallty bonuses. The Civil service has responded by cutting the renumeration package with a promise to continue to do so. That is why we don't have the skills coming in. You can't have yor cake and eat it I am afraid.

    While graduates are not everything and there are some non-graduates with highly desirable skills, we do need good engineers and scientists within the Civil Service if we are to deliver intiatives such as "digital by default".

  40. Comment by Rob Davies posted on

    I work for the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratory Agency (AHVLA). I find myself in despair when Sir Bob says that "Civil servants should be able to tap into the digital resources available to us in our personal lives, and use them to make our working lives easier and deliver a better, more efficient, service to the public." Of course they should. But the IT system which has been introduced into our organisation has been beset with problems from the outset, and is currently performing at an all time low in terms of job processing speed, as well as having numerous glitches. And no sooner is one glitch fixed than another, equally annoying one, takes its place. Does anybody measure the lost productivity due to poor IT? Does anybody measure the collapse in morale due to poor IT? Does anybody consider the deleterious effects on health due to poor IT? Does the taxpayer and customer get a better service due to poor IT? Sorry, Sir Bob, the answer to all of those questions is a resounding NO! Why not send some of your senior people into our organisation to see for themselves what's going on at ground level - or is that too much to expect?

    • Replies to Rob Davies>

      Comment by Ian Trenholm posted on

      Thank you for your comment. I am Ian Trenholm, Defra’s Digital Leader. Please be assured that these technical problems are being considered at the highest level within AHVLA. Urgent work is taking place with AHVLA’s contracted partner to identify the root cause of these performance issues. However, details of problems are only being received in an anecdotal and collective way, which does not help in identifying where the problem actually resides within the application. You can personally help by taking responsibility to provide your Service Desk with specific details as soon as they happen. Please also look at the AHVLA Intranet for updates on actions and progress; site visits are being arranged to see first-hand what people are experiencing. The AHVLA are making sure that this issue is receiving urgent attention and they will keep you informed of progress and findings as they reach a solution.

      • Replies to Ian Trenholm>

        Comment by keith posted on

        Sorry Ian

        But just read your comments and they seem typical of what everyone is moaning about. Good speech though but you actually missed the main point they were asking- get it sorted !!!
        Everyone keeps bleating on about " being more like the private sector " but the private sector would have sorted it YESTERDAY !!.

  41. Comment by V O Reason posted on

    The Digital by Default agenda is a truly positive aspiration, which the entire Civil Service should be behind, if not asking ourselves the question "why did we wait until now?"

    And maybe if we can get rid of the bloody GDS we might make it a reality before long.

  42. Comment by patrick posted on

    I am mystified by the constant postive spin on all that takes place in the MOJ, where i work this is far from being the situation moral is at an all time low.
    Staff are expected to perform more and more tasks as staff that are leaving are not being replaced and the constant feeling of being bullied by senior management so as to try and keep the organisation running to some level of satisfaction.

  43. Comment by Chris B posted on

    "There are lots of opportunities to improve your skills on the Civil Service Learning website so have a look and start planning your training. Keep your eyes peeled for a refreshed self-assessment tool which will launch next month, and will form an important part of the end of year review process."

    Whilst there are certainly lots of reading material available on the CSL website, I wouldn't necessarily consider this to be an improvement of skills. It offers the veneer of a learning experience in the sense that it may well be interesting to read, but If I enrol and complete said courses I wont be able to transfer this knowledge to any job applications I make on Civil Service Jobs. It would make more sense (in my opinion) to abolish CSL, and provide discounts to people to external courses (distance learning, part time learning).

  44. Comment by ABA posted on

    hear, hear to the comments above, if we want to see an efficient, effective civil service where staff take pride in their work and the service, something ought to be done about renumerations to match the great work we do. With little opportunity for promotion, pay not reflective of the work one does etc, etc....and no recognition for long service...morale will continue to dip.
    (just found out recently, that there is no recognition for long service in my department, so after remaining faithful to the CS for 25 years (deciding to stay rather than move to the private sector), what does one get?....zilch!!!!

    • Replies to ABA>

      Comment by CP posted on

      ABA - The new terms and conditions in my department have built-in recognition for long service: currently up to HEO receive 25 days leave, increasing to 30 days after five years' service, whilst SEO and above started on 30 days. ALL new starts from this month will have 25 days leave, progressing to 30 after five years, which the new policy states "rewards employees who have demonstrated their commitment to remain in the organisation". Whoop-de-doo. It used to be that pay progression and advancement met that challenge.

      Meanwhile it's not just pay and conditions in-service which are being eroded. Put aside for a moment the indignity of the real-term paycuts imposed by an extended pay freeze, followed by a 1% "cost of living" increase which is significantly below the real rise in the cost of living, and exacerbated by the ever-increasing pension contributions. Think now of the vast pension differentials being created by the commitment to pension increases in line with inflation. We now have the ridiculous situation where someone retiring from a department a year after a colleague, on the same pension scheme and pay scale, and with the same length of service, immediately receives a pension which is LESS than that being received by the earlier retiree. The following year's retirees will be in an even worse position. So not only are we increasingly suffering financially whilst in employment, we get a double kicking when we retire.

      And don't even get me started on the changes to the performance management system!

      It seems from his blog that Sir Bob doesn't really understand the organisation he heads up, and is somewhat behind on the policies and practices employed across the civil service - particularly on performance management! I will be interested to see whether he does respond to any of the very real concerns raised.

  45. Comment by Gail posted on

    May I ask what percentage of colleagues made up the result indicating that 90% are intersted in our work?
    Steve nails it on the head, unlike him I hope to make an exit ASAP

  46. Comment by Helen Powell posted on

    It is indeed important that we have the skills to do our jobs. In my competencies and terms of reference I need to do a qualification in Health and Safety. Funding has been denied.

  47. Comment by Dave Roberts posted on

    Sir Bob - will you respond openly and frankly to all the replies above?

  48. Comment by Susan Smith posted on

    As usual, comments from senior management don't seem to equate with the reality of those of us at the lowest end of the Civil Service. PMR has resulted in even good managers becoming frustrated and using behaviour some might call bullying in order to meet the new requirements. Statistics rule, and diversity and equality put on a back burner. HMRC is a corporate bully.

  49. Comment by Syl posted on

    A very selective comment on the staff survey result which if you ignore the spin and look at the overall performance, the SCS across Whitehall are not fit for purpose. The only response appears to be the spin around the perceived good elements and nothing about SCS putting right what they are getting wrong. Following the survey, yet again, our SCS continue to flog a dead horse and tend to blame the staff for what they are getting wrong and continuous pressure for staff to put right what SCS are getting wrong. I for one won't bother filling in another survey and in the future when I am asked to comment on the results I will respond that I didn't complete the survey so am unable to comment. Our SCS put a lot of pressure on staff to complete the survey even commenting on the number of responses outstanding! If often felt like real harrassment which isn't as far as I am aware one of the behaviours expected under the new reforms. SCS need to remember that if they ask the question they may not like the answer!

    • Replies to Syl>

      Comment by Syl posted on

      why is this comment awaiting moderation?????

  50. Comment by simeon posted on

    Glad to see the civil service is being 'shaken up' to emulate the private sector more - there are definately some cobwebs that need sweeping away. It is a pity that the reforms only mirror the 'efficiencies' in industry and not the rewards or career prospects.

  51. Comment by Fiona Renton posted on

    Our IT system is a joke!!! How many passwords do you need in a day? I have at least 5 to use to carry out my daily work. 1 should be sufficient. We spend more on engineers to fix problems than upgrading the whole system. False economies = no money = no wage rises = disgruntled staff.

  52. Comment by Sean Kelly posted on

    Curious; Is it right that we can have 14 positions availiable at a C1 level & have a temporary B3 applying for this role as well as several B3's who will no doubt remain in there temp positions on the higher grade!!! I feel this is very wrong & not fair on the temporary staff, some of which have been employed here as long as me. Something is rotten in Denmark !!!!!

  53. Comment by Jill Underwood posted on

    Thanks for the thank you, but I would rather see a thank you in my pay, and for my pension scheme to be left alone and be able to get it at 60, because if changes keep coming in at the pace they are now, my brain will be too fried to deal with any much over the age of 50 never mind 60. As for digital by default, Universal Jobmatch has worked once for me in the last fortnight, and I am not alone, so when you start increasing "measures" for ASE etc bear that in mind as the tool you have given us in DWP to deal with that is already not fit for purpose.

  54. Comment by Graham Allport posted on

    Well meaning soundbites from an out of touch leadership!
    I won't go over all of the points already covered, but it does beg the question at what grades the "We're not happy!!!" message gets lost on its way up the chain? Sir Bob, are you really sat there thinking all is rosy in the garden? Or is this just more spin? I actually hope it's the latter of the two!

    After 25 years service, I look back and think of all the change we've been through. Has it really all been for the better? Definitely not!

    Every step taken in the last few years has meant deskilling, demotivating and alienating your workforce. You and your predecessors have taken away almost all of the positive aspects of civil service life. You've allowed us to be demonised in the press. You've taken away the pride that we used to feel.

    We have to deal with a disjointed department in HMRC, where no one from any directorate can get anything done in another directorate. We've got no common path to common goals because everyone in the upper echelons of management is looking after their own little empires. We're faced with having to deliver a much reduced service with a much reduced workforce (spot the correlation there?) We've performed badly in answering the calls of our customers. We're about to close all of the enquiry centres.

    All of these things have happened on the back of previous "reforms".....a word that actually means make things better!

    So don't talk about reforms, spell it out like it is. Cuts, reductions, privatisation....these are not reforms.

    As for digital by default, we're still working on Internet Explorer 6 for crying out loud! We're not allowed to email because it's not secure apparently.

    Invest, Recruit, TRAIN PROPERLY.....that's the only way to reform the Civil Service.

    If those viewing it think this is "negative behaviour"....which is more negative, facing up to and talking about the problems we face? Or pretending everything is just peachy.....

    • Replies to Graham Allport>

      Comment by Penny posted on

      I totally agree with this comment. I have been a manager in HMRC for the past 22 years and until March last year could honestly say I enjoyed it. I loved working with my staff helping the public (I am an Enquiry Centre (EC) manager) and there were many challenges, all of which were rewarding. The announcement last year took us by surpirse. While we were all expecting some reform, to totally close the EC's was unexpected. It is a credit to the majority of the EC staff that even now they are still more concerend about how the customers, especially those with special needs, will be able to obtain the help they need, some of them on a regular basis. How it will affect them is taking a back seat
      Many customers are extremely upset or frustrated which can come across as aggressive. When they call the contact centres in this highly emotional state they are often cut off because the advisers there won't deal with them. Who will help them in the future if when they phone for the "enhanced help" the call is just terminated - I know this is happening!
      I worked in one of the best business streams in HMRC as most of the staff were all doing a job they loved and wanted to be there. We all feel very betrayed by senior management. Change for change sake - I think so! But will it be good? I think not!!!

  55. Comment by Lynn posted on

    As an engineer I agree with Jacquie Mates the recycled printer paper is a false economy as it is like blotting paper to the touch and as it passes through a printer it generates fluff and particles that block up everything. I work at Abbeywood, yes that place famous for overcrowding, poor car parking space and lousy public transport services. In this last year I have seen moral fall into minus figures and stress rise so that even folks in their early twenties have talked to me about the fact that they cannot sleep properly due to the workload. Here it is not just the civil servants that are overworked but the entire supporting facilities such as toilets, water, lifts, stairs (yes you can wear out stairs my building's stairs have been refurbished). Sir get a grip! "Improve" rather than "change" in other words now is the time to think through changes before any form of introduction of them because the system can collaspe.
    When it comes to "social media" why aren't you using "Microsoft Office Communicator" which is available on the DIIF? It is a lot quicker than email and you can see if the other person is availble at their IT which is even better than the phone. Even at your level it seems to me that there is a high chance that the IT provided in the office is not really understood.

  56. Comment by Reg posted on

    Sir Bob,

    I smiled at your comment 'Digital by default'. If only. We cannot get the tools we need to do our jobs properly now. My colleagues and I remotely manage our teams, working mostly from home via laptops. We do not have printers provided to go with the laptops. Should we need to print any information we have to travel to our base office to so. My journey is 17 miles each way, others have to travel even further. This has to be done in our own time and at our own cost. What makes the situation even better is that having recently upgraded our peoples IT systems HMRC recalled the old mobile printers that our people had been using ,presumably for scrapping.
    I and other managers that I work with asked for use of these printers but our requests were declined and they had to go back. What a waste when good use could have been made of them and how frustrating for us when a major problem for us could have been solved so easily. It's the seemingly little things that could make a real difference to efficiency , cost effectiveness and staff morale.

    We managers asked for the use of the printers but were told we couldn't have them. We had to send them all back. Ridiculous but true.


    • Replies to Reg>

      Comment by Steve Lewis posted on

      Ironicallly, my experience when visiting Civil Service Live over the past few years has been that most of the exhibitors - and many of the presentations - were centred around IT. I was quite often asked to look at some wonderful modern system or gadget - Cloud, tablet device etc. etc. - and hear how fantastic the products and systems were. Then I went back into my office at HMRC the following day, to return to the "real world" of slow, unreliable and vastly outdated IT equipment. Who's fooling who, I wonder?

    • Replies to Reg>

      Comment by Val posted on

      I'm with the department on this - would you believe I have a round trip of 36 miles a day and still manage to turn up at my home base and have done for approaching 38 years. The trip is quite rightly at my own expense. I am remotely managed and unbelievably my manager has a 70 mile round trip every day to her home base and she also manages to turn up and again has done for 40 plus years.
      Perhaps I'm too old school but I fail to see what the gripe is here.

  57. Comment by Helen posted on

    You state that it your resolution to meet as many of us possible over the coming year. i work in Compliance and i think you should come and listen to everyone and listen and take on board our challenges that we face every day. We are the workers at the end of the day that have to deal with all the changes and public backlash and sometimes feel that the higher up do not have a clue what we actually have to deal with day in day out. so please come and spend time at offices with actual workers and see what we do.

    • Replies to Helen>

      Comment by keith posted on


      Visits to see meet "real people" are a waste of time. They are usually so short or staged managed that there is not time to discus the real issues. Its either that or people are too afraid to say anything because of the bullying culture. I know if I were to say anything then my job would be on the line and I wouldnt give them the satisfaction !

  58. Comment by Anthony Drozdowski posted on

    Sir Bob,

    I too share your vision of the digital age. Sadly HMRC are way behind with poor IT solutions and sloppy IT sub contractors that cost a fortune and struggle to solve simple, elementary IT problems.

    Did you know we introducted MGD (Machine Gaming Duty) in 2013? This replaced the old paper based licensing system for amusement machines. What did we replace it with? A return system of which there is an option to make paper based returns which are pouring in by the thousands. Add to that it's simply not a system fit for purpose in the 21st century.

    Had we invested properly in IT we could have had a state of the art electronic system similar to that used in Australia which is cast iron, efficient and practically fraud proof. Plus, once in place it would cost very little to run and save the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds per year and enable HMRC to save a huge amount on resource.

  59. Comment by Ian Tarrant posted on

    It has always frustrated me that there is an assumption that civil servants are somehow imune to falling living standards and increased costs. I would love to know how many staff actually received a pay increase last year. There has been noticable silence on the low scores in the people survey for renumeration. Anyone can like the work they do and find it interesting. However they can be unhappy in their job due to poor renumeration making them feel undervalued. Let the Chancellor, his advisors and all the Perm Secs all suffer the wage levels ordinary civil servants have to contend with, then lets see if he still feels 'we are all in this together' with no pay increase followed by 1% rise (but not to everyone).

    • Replies to Ian Tarrant>

      Comment by billy d posted on

      This is exactly my argument. Very well put.

  60. Comment by J Routledge posted on

    Couple of points:
    1)The government appear to consistently see Civil Servants as pariahs;
    2) I've been a CS since 1981, and where there was breathing space and solid 1-2-1 training, this has been eaten away by headcount reductions, and e-learning (a blanket approach to learning, which doesn't take into account individual learning styles);
    3) CSA computer systems (CS2) are causing major problems for staff, as they seem to be gradually slowing down to a point where they will stop working at all (tools for the job?);
    4) Targets never seem to be consulted and set by Frontline staff, who have the strongest understanding of the practicalities of completing under the procedures set at the higher levels.
    There needs to be less of a 'top-down' approach, less of the Head Office decision making, and more of an involvement of the Frontline staff in the decision making for policies, procedures and anticipating and sorting problems.

  61. Comment by Jagtar Singh posted on

    i have been in Civil Services for 27 years I think some of the changes are happening too quick and staff are required to do more than it is expected i.e recently we have been moved on to CRC and before we moved to it we were told that we will be doing JSA Changes then we were sent on JSA training but just after a week we were told we will also be dealing with IS Changes. WE did not finish our JSA consolidation yet and were sent on IS training which has happened too quick. A lot of the things are told us at the last minute.

  62. Comment by John Davies posted on

    Some time ago I added the following to my wish list as a learning target:
    "Finance Skills for All is a series of easy-to-use e-learning modules, developed by Government to improve the finance skills of all civil servants – not just those who work in finance roles.
    In a letter to all staff, Head of the Civil Service, Sir Bob Kerslake, said: “Finance Skills for All is for everyone, no matter what your role is.
    “Better financial awareness will help us make better decisions and therefore has benefits for us, the organisation and the taxpayer.”
    The package consists of 11 modules, each taking around an hour to complete, and includes an assessment to help learners test their understanding."

    Despite your recommendation that this course would be beneficial for everyone, 'no matter what their role', I was told that this would not be appropriate for myself in HMRC.
    Someone isn't listening!

  63. Comment by Ian posted on

    There will be no Civil Servants left once the reforms that are being imposed are fully implemented. They will all be outsourced under the banner of "reducing costs" to the public purse. When in reality all that outsourcing achieves is an inferior service to the public at a highly inflated cost.

    • Replies to Ian>

      Comment by Debra English posted on

      Absolutely! Look at the rail debacle.

  64. Comment by Gareth Jones posted on

    It's a nonsense to say that 2013 was a successful year because surveys show 90% of us are interested in our jobs. The work we do is inherently interesting, but that doesn't make for success. I'll tell you what I want for 2014, Bob - less spin from senior management; more decisions made on the basis of objective evidence rather than what the Daily Mail wants; and long-term planning rather than short-term expediency. Frankly, I think the Senior Civil Service will fail us on all three.

  65. Comment by Jason posted on

    Seen a few comments about the 90% figure, that publication does show that the response rate was 59%, and of those 89% were interested in their work, so more accurate to state that:
    our people survey scores show that only around half of you (52.5%) said you are interested in your work.

    Can't even say that the results would suggest that 90% of us are interested in our work as the 41% who didn't respond are more likely to see the whole staff survey as pointless and have more negative views.

    I think I would take certain more accurate statements such as:
    Less that 15% (25% of the 59% who responded) of the civil service indicated that they felt their pay was reasonable compared to people doing a similar job in other organisations
    as being matters to be addressed, but see no comment on that.

    Perhaps that's one of the reasons why only 25% of the civil service (43% of the 59% who responded) said they believed that senior managers will take action on the results from this survey

  66. Comment by Paul Kemp ABIPP posted on

    I sit here typing on a soon to be removed windows computer running Microsoft Office 2003, I am doing this because the Dii laptop sitting next to this workstation has been waiting for direct cable connection for over a year now and as I am situated in a metal portacabin at the end of an airfield, my connection speed is just 460Kbs if I stand on one leg with the laptop jammed against the window and point it towards the 3G mast some miles away, however its not all bad news as I look over my shoulder a reasonable air gap away is a digital imaging suite made by Apple and running amongst other software Adobe Creative suite and Microsoft Office for Mac 2011, this all works extremely well. I am not allowed to plug this in to the local area network or the wider MOD Dii network and I am not allowed to connect this to the internet, this rather restricts how my day to day work is distributed digitally to internal and external clients. In today’s digital world all solutions and training are online and immediate however I cannot access them officially, I can access this resource if I move over 10 feet away from the desktop computer, the Dii laptop and the digital imaging suite, turn on my personal iPhone and access the internet via 3g using my own data allowance which strangely has a data speed of 2.3Mbs 5 times faster than the Dii 3G dongle.

    How does the private sector do this? They connect their digital imaging workstation to the internet using high speed broadband use up to date virus software and firewalls and just get on with being creative, Oh and email direct from the workstation without minute data size limits to the client....... so why can’t I.

    Digital by Default, just trips off the tongue doesn’t it

  67. Comment by mary posted on

    Can you advise if there are any learning and network events being held in Scotland please as there are non listed

  68. Comment by Geraldine Nwobilo posted on

    I am a front line telephony agent in the civil service, dealing with customers who receive state pension and pension credit. I am motivated to provide excellent customer service and to develop within the civil service.
    I am glad to see reforms taking place within the civil service and this year the idea of sharing skills and services within departments and across organisations, further traning and learning will benefit a lot of people who are looking at a career within the civil service.
    As mentioned in your letter the plans for learning and developing within the civil service and the skills sharing and services will have a positive impact in the department.
    I am only disappointed that the learning and networking events organised has no venue for people who live in scotland. It would have been great if a venue was organised in scotland so civil servants from scotland could attend. As a mum of two it would be difficult to travel to England to attend one of these events. as the cost of travel would be very expensive. As there is no event in Scotland will there be any help with travel and accomodation cost as i would love to attend one of these events as i see my long term career within the civil service.

  69. Comment by patrick posted on

    Be interesting to see if sir Bob replies to any of these comments.

  70. Comment by Andy Powlson posted on

    I too have worked in the Civil Service for 30 years and have seen countless changes with successive governments and a will to transform the Civil Service. Never before have I seen such a prolonged assault on the terms and conditions of my employment nor the systematic dismantling of the morale of the workforce than I have in the last 3 years. The sheer good will expected of staff to continue to do more for less has driven many young colleagues to get out and seek a better career for themselves. Good luck to them! Why are we allowing young talent, the very future of a successful service to leave. Ensure we keep that talent by adequately remunerating them and I am not talking about graduates here but just hard working young people.

  71. Comment by phil posted on

    You say 90% are interested in their job, this must be across the civil service because the returns for the prison service showed a much lower figure and coupled with a low response makes it even worse.

  72. Comment by Darren posted on

    Sir Bob,
    Instead of the civil service being used as a political punchbag, I would like to see senior civil servants come out on record in the media supporting their staff and the work they do. Its hard to stay positive when not only terms and conditions are under attack but the work we do is denigrated and devalued when compared with the private sector. The comparison between the civil service and the private sector seems to me like comparing apples and pears. The private sector is motivated by profit, the public sector is not - it's there to provide a service to the public and that is a fundamental difference.

  73. Comment by Liz posted on

    I take it most of the people commenting weren't the ones that took part in the survey? I am also interested to see that Sir Bob hasn't responded to any of these comments. Does anyone think he actually cares?

    • Replies to Liz>

      Comment by Stewart posted on

      I think you will find that going from the responses to Sir Bob remarks, mirror the results from the survey, very negative and reflecting the real feeling of the frontline staff, not those in the ivory towers of Whithall

    • Replies to Liz>

      Comment by Mike R posted on

      Actually Liz, I think you'll find that the people responding today did complete the survey but are angry at being ignored an the constant spin and propaganda comming from senior 'managers' - obviously I use the word 'manager' is the loosest posible sense. As far has your other comment is concerned - no he clearly doesn't care.

    • Replies to Liz>

      Comment by Neil Sutherland posted on

      To be fair, Sir Bob is in a difficult position. Just suppose he were to agree fully with the comments on his blog; what consequences would befall him if he were to say so? One thing he has done for us is to provide a platform for the ordinary Civil Servant, and I for one am grateful for that.

  74. Comment by Nicola posted on

    i work in the contact centre directorate, there are a huge number of people suffering from stress in my office to varying degrees, the reasons for this although varied include, antiqated IT systems resulting in abuse from customers because of the time it takes to answer a simple query and the abuse we take from JSA customers when we advise them they need to make their claim online. the IVR message on the phone line they call is very confusing and gives the customer the impression we will take a new claim to jsa over the phone and we are being advised this will not be changed due to cost. we do not get paid enough to take this abuse and nothing is being done about it. "digital by default" is just nonsense.
    as far as the survey results, in our we were advised by managers that if our results didnt improve our jobs could be at risk so how many of the 90% felt they had to lie to keep themselves in a job.

  75. Comment by Mike O'Neill posted on

    I agree with so much of the above - and what an outpouring!

    There are many of us who had many substantial career years in the private sector (not that all bits of it are comparable but...) before we became civil servants. The CS has a wealth of diverse talent as a result. What I cannot understand is how this resource (and so many other resources) is not made more effective use of. And our spending power could be used to help drive economic revival if it was husbanded ethically and imaginitvely. Instead we take the line of cutting off our arms and legs to show the taxpayer we have lost weight, even though we become less than effective as a consequence. We indulge in floggings of our staff to show we are 'doing something' (how Orwellian is the new decimation that calls itsef moderation). We talk also of 'high level' decisions when really it is local intitiatives that could better inform us how to move forward. We fail to consider that most people work to live and not vice versa. We could and should make our assets work better for us and for the taxpayer, and not just shed them to show we've lost weight. By doing the latter we may achieve no more than displacing the problem whilst causing unmeasurable but significant confusion, cost and disengagement in the process. We need judicious investment, we need a happy, settled and focused workforce, we need senior civil servants to earn their salaries by taking the personal risk concommitant with their earnings by standing up and being counted on this (and some are I suspect clearly vexed, as evidenced perhaps by the high turnover and resignations at senior level). It is a moot point I think whether quantitave easing might have been better directed (inter alia) towards retaining experience and skills in the civil service instead of being directed as it has been.

    I work with some impressively talented and dedicated people here - real results people - but I fear lest most of them wish they were elsewhere. Let's make the civil service an impressive business, with the pragmatism of the best of private sector employers, and the commitment to the public service ethic and to the taxpayer (which includes us!).

    I'm near retirement, or else in this work climate I might have opted to only think what I've chosen instead to put down in words here. It's the numbers who may no longer bother to reply to a staff survey that you have to worry about, not the 90% of those who do and who are 'on board'. I know this, because I was a private sector marketeer....once!

    • Replies to Mike O'Neill>

      Comment by Neil Sutherland posted on

      As a former private sector market researcher I can only say, "Hear, Hear"!

  76. Comment by Stewart posted on

    The most positive outcome from the last 2 blogs put forward by Sir Bob, is the response from the workers in the Civil Service, ie those who have to deal with the public on a daily basis, and how entertaining it has been to read honest opinion, not tarnished by the gloss management try to put on everything, we will all have to bear in mind however, that nothing will be done in response to any comments, 5 years of survey results show this.

  77. Comment by danny posted on

    I am a young motivated individual who use's the defence learning portal (DLP) or the civil service learning (CSL) website to better further my skill and understanding. I aspirer to work my way up the managment chain, when they become available. but would really like trainning before I go into that position as I will have the tools and knowledge.I came across Accredited Qualification Pathway on the CSL which I was really intrested in doing. But because it is a work based qualification. Unfortunately I was unable to enroll, if higher management are serious about trainning staff. Then surley it would make sence to help or have something where people of any grade can enroll. I have a very supportive manager who is willing to allow me to have the trainning. But only if the funding or a strong enough business case is brought forward to justify the trainning. Yet again that fact that I am willing to better my self is justification in its self. Yes i do understand that if its not job related then there isnt a requirement which makes sense. There doesnt seem to be any investment in people that are not of that grade already. As we are all aware we are short staffed which does not allow time for staff/ managers to get the appropriate trainning that is so badly needed within the M.O.D.
    we have such a problem with skill fade. Which is having a impact on health and safety, disciplinary procedures, personal development report (PDR), appraisal, the list goes on something or investment needs to happen to improve this.

  78. Comment by gareth posted on

    i think if there is an overhaul of the civil service it needs to be top down and the new and improved targets should be customer led currently we see so many targets to achieve results pointless pilot schemes which suit one section not another , the DWP currently works in different ways and coordination is not apparant and as for the digital agenda this is more likely to be costly and isolate some of the people using the services , also we need proper training not just e learning which is costly and only involves reading not proper testing and certification i have spent most of my life in private sector and the public sector is falling behind despite positive spin based on surveys which are generic and not always applicable to all sections of civil service thus gives a warped result whilst id like a pay rise i know we wont get one the lower ranks of the civil service work hard enough but with little reward but senior civil servants should be fighting to keep skills and knowledge not let it leave to private industry

  79. Comment by Andy posted on

    Digital by default sounds good but we don't seem to be able to get even the simplest of IT systems right. As an HMRC employee I've just had 1.5 days of my P&P converted to Annual Leave and yet the ERP system we use isn't able to show or record that. I, and everyone else affected in HMRC, have to keep paper records of that 1.5 days and we moved away from manual annual leave sheets 10 years ago. What makes it more annoying is that the ERP system was been "upgraded" to make it "easier to use" at around the time these changes were announced.

    It doesn't instill any confidence in a "digital future"

  80. Comment by Pete posted on

    Thansk for the opportunity to comment. As regards 'digital', working in HMCTS I now spend an hour a day printing out a tidal wave of non-urgent documents served by email (particularly from solicitors and local authorities) all of which used to arrive in the post. I'm effectively doing their printing for them. A 'joined up' digital strategy has still not been fully considered let alone implemented, it seems to evolve in an ad hoc way.

  81. Comment by chris posted on

    I would love to take part in all of this E Learning that is available but never get any spare time at work.
    I read about civil servants being allowed 5 days for Learning but whenever i ask if there is chance of time off for learning i am told it is not available.
    It seems it is only available for long courses.

  82. Comment by Ruth posted on

    Having been given the opportunity I've looked at outside work - it's paid less, the conditions are poorer and the job seciruty is usually worse in terms of fixed term contracts and temporary positions. We need to remember that none of us are forced to work here - we can leave at any time. I, probably like a lot of others, have worked here for 25 years and I enjoy flexi, special leave, high annual leave as well as bank holidays and time off for the Queen's birthday (which my father-in-law thinks is hilarious!). If we don't like it we should go - but I guess when we weigh up the security levels of pay and the comfort zones we're in we stay as it's a better choice - otherwise why would we? Senior managers are in the same comfort zone as the rest of us, but seem happier to blinker themselves to the truth to enable them to get up each morning and go to the office and deliver the usual drivel. There's never anything new or that we don't expect, so why are we surprised?

    • Replies to Ruth>

      Comment by billy d posted on

      Of course, you are right. Ruth there are non-monetary benefits to working in the CS but these mean nothing to me and should not be the only dividend as they generally apply to a particular range of people - those with children or 2nd income CS. They are a device to distract attention away from the fact that real wages are declining. If one good has come from the last 3 years it is the intense motivation it has given me to get out. It is not just the lower terms and conditions but the constant corporate spin that annoys me. Senior managers who live in a completely different universe to everybody else. Yesterday, I was reminded of this fallacy when a senior manager bemoaned the fact that he couldn't improve remuneration but said we can create engaging jobs. I'm afraid that self-actualisation is pointless (even if true) when many CS people are struggling to make ends meet. My guess is that most of these people making the positive survey comments are doing alright, probably fast trackers or upper echelons. Most Cs

  83. Comment by Bryan posted on

    OK, so this is not a forum to moan about salary and terms & conditions, however it has to be said, Once again it is January and there is no sign of any pay deal, or even sight of negotiations commencing with the Union.

    Firstly, (whether or not this is contractual) the pay "year" ends on the 31st of August, so shouldn't pay negotiations be finished well in advance? Year after year, pay awards come later and later and it baffles me, why the process isn't started earlier in order to meet this deadline?

    After 2 years of a pay freeze, followed by 1% caps of "non-consolidated" pay awards, we're still waiting for an offer to be made and when(if) it finally is, is likely to mean that contractual milestones will be met, but those of us already on the maximum for our band are likely to receive nothing. It's at this point, that I would like to remind you that;

    Like many of my Civil Service colleagues, I have not had an increase in salary since August 2008. Since then, (in "real life") - VAT has gone up, the price of eggs etc, utility bills and general living costs - I could go on, but you get the picture...

    Yes, my salary was fair in 2008, but apart from not having a pay increase in over 5 years I am now paying extra into my pension (which costs me approximately an extra £100 per month), effectively reducing my income in real terms. This is set to increase AGAIN, this coming April. On top of that, my pension is now worth less and I will have to work longer to get it.

    There is now no monetary value to achieving an "exceeded" marking. As a consistently high achiever, this is also "lost" money and there is less incentive to perform well.

    Terms and conditions are constantly under threat.

    Union rights have been slashed - Losing facility time and not being allowed to use the departmental e-mail system is harsh, but the attempt to try to stop Union subscription deductions seems petty and was a direct attack seemingly to further undermine the Unions power.

    Directly affecting me, the Department I work in is expected to cease to exist in April 2015 and I therefore do not know if I have a future at all in the Civil Service. If I am to be made redundant, any severance payment I receive will be much less than if I had left 10 years ago, following the slashes to voluntary and compulsory redundancy terms.

    I have been a loyal Civil Servant for 24 years and enjoy my job, however whilst I am sufficiently challenged in my current role and indeed fully supported by my direct Line Management, as a middle-aged father of 3, with a wife to support, a mortgage etc, I find it increasingly difficult to maintain my drive and commitment to an organisation that seems to spend most of it's time seeking ways to make me poorer. I am sure that I represent the majority of staff in similar positions at my grade.

    I wrote a similar mail to Sir Bob Kerslake last January, after he asked for people to write directly to him, following the results of the last staff survey. I did not receive a response, or even acknowledgement. THAT's how valued we really are!

  84. Comment by Adrienne posted on

    I find it highly ironic - unbelievable infact ! that scrolling down from 'Sir Bob Kerslake's New Year Message- Read the Priorities for 2014', is a section entitled 'Is One of Your New Years Resolutions Completing Your Five Learning Days- Use Your Five a Day' ............... No actually it isnt .... why not.... because i dont have time. No -one at our court does. The prospect is completely inconceivable as too is the chance of achieving any distinctive skills progression. We are merely running to stand still.

    More ironic however that after the civil service ‘changing the goal posts’ for pay rises, that the chances of ‘getting a kick at the ball’ are virtually nil too. Unbelievable the person who suggested people leave the service if the pay isn’t good enough. It was tolerable with a promised yearly increase and hence inappropriate given that it has been whisked from under our feet.

  85. Comment by Pete posted on

    I remember on Question Time a few years ago a civil servant in the audience bemoaning the pay and who was aggrieved at the budget cuts 'after a lifetime of service' etc - I thought this was looking at it the wrong way around. I feel lucky to work for the HMCTS, and at the end of the day no-one owes me a living, certainly not the taxpayer. As has been commented elsewhere, pay and conditions are good. And as for job security - it would be nice to feel more secure but very few, particularly in the private sector, have that anymore, but that's the reality.

    • Replies to Pete>

      Comment by David posted on

      Pete, thanks for doing your best to cheer us up, and it does sound to me that the civil servant you refer to was a naive individual, as perhaps most of us are, in truth. Some of us are happy if our pay just about covers our bills, and in the past it was accepted that civil service pay was lower because we had a good pension, the governments of the day acknowledged this. But the events of the last few years have brought home to civil servants that they never actually had a contract of employment with cast iron terms and conditions (vis a viz the pension arrangements) and it is partly that dawning reality which is quite hurtful to them after all these years.

      I imagine there are thousands of people who have made an enduring commitment to a civil service career partly on the basis of it having a good pension at the end of it, who now find that this pension has been taken away at the very point when it may be too late to change careers. You can understand how galling that might be, especally if those individuals now regret the outside opportunities they previously declined or spurned.

      Seeing how the UK Govt. has recently been allowed legally to change civil service pension arrangements after the fashion it has chosen, and given the societal, industrial and economic outlook of this country, I and other colleagues have expressed doubts amongst ourselves as to what kind of civil service pension, if any, will exist when we come to 'retirement age'. It's some consolation to those with families and mortgages to look after, that their spouses earn more than they do, albeit with less job security - but sometimes earning more with less responsibility.

      • Replies to David>

        Comment by Bryan posted on

        David makes the point perfectly here. I chose to join the Civil Service 24 years ago, fully understanding that my pay would be less than that available in the private sector, but that I would be looked after in my old age. My salary now is worth much less (in real terms) than it was in 2008 when I had my last salary increase and I now pay well over £100 per month more for a pension worth less than I expected, and one that I will have to work longer to get.

        Had I known this 24 years ago, I probably would have chosen a different career path.

        And to those who say "if you don't like it, get out", seeking employment and a new career is much more difficult now than it would have been at the age of 18!

      • Replies to David>

        Comment by John posted on

        David -thank you - You hit the nail on the head and have just described exactly how I feel better than I ever could have expressed it.
        Also Sir Bob- Thank you for the opportunity to lower our blood pressure levels-even though I, like many others commenting on this blog, believe it will not make the slightest difference to the blinkered SCS outlook.

      • Replies to David>

        Comment by CP posted on

        Well said, David. I'm one of the many who have put up with non-competitive pay rates for over 30 years as a trade off against security and a half decent pension. If I were to leave now it would be too late to make up for the losses imposed on me over the last couple of years. If my partner and I hadn't managed to claw a few promotions each, we would be struggling financially now. Instead we get by. But for the work we do, and the grades we are at, we should be doing more than getting by. I really worry for people my age in lower grades.

  86. Comment by Madeleine HEATH posted on

    We have just been flooded
    The ceilings leak even on the ground floor -water drips from the light sockets
    the building is undergoing major lighting replacement at long last..
    last 'winter' throgh the bitter cold spell we had a major heating replacement (still doesn't work)
    The plumbing is dreadful
    The carpets are wrinkled and worn and now water stained.
    The lifts are slow and frequently break down.
    All departments are under staffed including security so we feel unsafe.
    I work in a court!
    I enjoy my actual job -very low grade (f) but it relys on my life experience of dealing with people in difficult situations. I have been doing it nearly twelve years and am looking to retire in about 5, I am not looking for promotion just to do my own job well... I am not a ludite I have embraced all the technology Xhibit, video links etc that has come my way. Why then am I being bombarded with an avalanche of acronims CI ,MAT SE etc. I am expected to be happy clappy when staff moral is at an all time low. I am supposed to shadow other grades who are also despondant. Staff will engage when our working conditions pay and management improve.

  87. Comment by Alan Hurst posted on

    My lasting impression after decades in the civil service is of relentless and ever-increasing change for it's own sake, and a corresponding downward trend in morale.

    Real progress requires, in my view, a) evolution instead of revolution - a sense of building on something, rather than just the constant, wearying replacement of one way of doing things by another which is markedly different but rarely any better; b) much better people management, identifying and putting in place 'people persons', who can lead, organise, motivate and inspire us to perform, as opposed to the ice-cold, analytical 'work managers' our current selection systems seem to favour and whose skills often seem to go little further than ticking boxes, analysing spreadsheets, and preparing themselves for their next competence-based job interview, and c) much more emphasis on the end product of our work rather than the process by which we get to it: simplifying and streamlining instructions as much as possible and keeping the bureaucracy required to achieve the objective to an absolute minimum.

    As examples Bob, how about an achievement award for whoever who can devise a the quickest, most effective, positive and accepted staff reporting scheme which uses little more than a sheet or two of A4 and a one-hour meeting with one's line manager every six months (as opposed to the piles of instructions, forms and moderation meeting / appeal and grievance procedure protocols the service is currently creaking under, and which are achieving very little other than keeping an army of HR staff in employment and alienating most of those it affects)?

    And if you want to know who the real leaders are Bob, 360-degree reporting is an idea who's time simply HAS to come - you could implement a very quick and simple, marks-out-of-ten, 'how far does my line manager organise and motivate me to do my job effectively' system very quickly if you wanted to. THAT would be a quick win......

  88. Comment by Martin Mather posted on

    Much more video link, fewer court trips, with immediate effect nationally, it's working well in the south west & saves our service a fortune reducing budgets & protecting jobs in the public sector. More court co-operation, more judiciary co-operation, an enforcement on using video link for most cases & hearings at both Crown and Magistrates courts so far as is possible.

  89. Comment by Gary posted on

    Laudible sentintinents from Sir Bob, but everyone knows the stark reality is that things will only continue from bad to abysmal, morale will continue to plummet as we watch our SCS grades collect their well deserved £10k bonuses for their committment and hard work, whilst us mortal plebs collect our "generous" 22p per day pay rise.
    I remember a time when EO's were the equivalent of plolice sargeants, and earned like pay. Nowadays EO's earn something less than the cleaners at the police stations!

  90. Comment by Jacky posted on

    Sir Bob
    There is indeed a question in the staff survey that says "I am interested in my work", to which 89% of people have answered yes. But it's misleading to use that as the opening highlight of the blog. Whoever wrote this blog for you has cherry-picked this one response from a sea of negative results, and by doing that they have done damage to future communications - if we see anything positive we'll think "I wonder what the REAL story is". Please have a word with them about not making unrepresentative statements in high profile communications.

    • Replies to Jacky>

      Comment by ed posted on

      I attended the launch of civil service reform and go to events. The implementation is missing some of the principles. Also in practice things set out clearly in plan are obstructed in practice mis alignments. Would tend to think first step would be to reform Whitehall lack of appite to take difficult tasks on.

  91. Comment by Brian Bailey posted on

    It's interesting that Sir Bob recognises staff for what we do. I work in the Prison Service (36 years) and currently work at HMP Askham Grange, the best performing prison in the country at the moment. We are being closed down next year!

    What I'm waiting for are the cuts, pay, numbers etc to MP's and those who work with and for them paid out of their expences and allowances. They are the only public servants not to be cut at all but granted an 11% pay rise.

  92. Comment by Lynn posted on

    Whether Sir Bob replies will be interesting, I have speed read his other blogs and he hasn't replied to anyone, but here it has only been 2 days and now that comments are in 3 digits ...............
    Reading with interest the Your Said Survey results for MoD
    13.9k (53%) people are "proud of MoD" and
    23.1k (88%) are "interested in my work" (yet)
    8.9k (34%) (only) would recommend MoD as a place to work.
    Is it me or did some of us "not read the exam question"? If I still had staff I would be concerned.

  93. Comment by Sally posted on

    Well said Pete and Ruth - if you are that unhappy as a Civil Servant you do have a choice to work elsewhere. I have been in HMRC for 24 years - It's been a good employer, paid me on time every month(ok I forgive them for forgetting to pay me when i returned from maternity leave - it was 20 years ago!), given me flexi and ample leave. Given the choice I would probably stay with HMRC until I retire - BUT I NO LONGER have that choice along with approx 1600 others who have been offered Voluntary Exit - we can sit it out for another 12 months but have been told there is no longer a jjob for us after 2015- so please be grateful that you still have a position to moan about and do something about it, or leave so that one of those 1600 people can be redeployed into it. Thanks

    • Replies to Sally>

      Comment by David posted on

      Sally, all the best. My wife has been a redeployee with another employer and thankfully she's landed on her feet with another role in the company, albeit less challenging. I do hope it all works out for you in 2014/5.

  94. Comment by Richard Heaton posted on

    Fully support Sir Bob Kerslake's ambition to create a 'digital by default' DWP. For nearly three years I have being pressing for medical certificates to be e-mailed direct from surgeries to Benefit Centres. There are huge savings in money,resources,time,'phone calls and Jobcentre appointments to be made here. The health secretary is also signed up to working towards a paperless NHS by 2017/2018.
    Of course this a big project but we modernised our payment system- giro payments are now history. We can do this. It only requires drive and impetus from the centre.

    • Replies to Richard Heaton>

      Comment by Kevin Cunnington (DWP Director General – Digital Transformation) posted on

      Richard – thanks for your comments. I can tell you that DWP are currently looking at the feasibility and cost benefits of utilising Secure File Transfer within its business, which may include the electronic transfer of medical certificates. We have identified that, in order for GP's to be able to send medical evidence directly to our offices, there will be a range of issues to resolve including patient consent and the compatibility of the IT within individual Surgeries.
      In the meantime, we have been working to improve the processes involved in the handling of medical evidence. A pilot has been run which allows Jobcentre staff to input details of the medical evidence as soon as it is handed over by the customer and for payments to be made, if necessary, on the same day. We are presently assessing the outcome of the pilot with a view to national rollout.

  95. Comment by Adrienne posted on

    It seems to me that the people who are criticising those unhappy with their pay have been in their positions for perhaps 24 years and may may be on the maximum salary/ about to retire anyway. Those who were employed under false pretences, i.e, those affected by a back track on pay scales, have every right to feel dis-gruntled. I'm alright Jack.

    • Replies to Adrienne>

      Comment by Sally posted on

      Adrienne - 5 years in the same grade and still on the minimum scale and still have 17 years until I can retire. I shall be leaving HMRC frustrated in the amout of moaning and talking and not enough actions - at all grades top to bottom.

      • Replies to Sally>

        Comment by Lewis posted on

        I criticise those who've chosen to work in the civil service all their life and are still whinging about how much they earn. I only joined in April, so perhaps I haven't earnt the right to comment yet?

        • Replies to Lewis>

          Comment by John posted on

          Please see David's comment of 10/1/14 above. It explains exactly why many long serving staff are extremely upset.
          I also respect your right to comment however long you have been in the civil service.......!

  96. Comment by Jim Gardner posted on

    The aim to work more efficiently via digital resources is of course very sensible. However, the current security arrangements for DfE issue laptops/technology fall far short of this. We cannot use Skype to conference call. Why on earth not? We have only just been provided with dongles for 3G access so we can actually get emials outside the office (previuously impossible due to Aventail).
    The technology is there (and has been for some time ) but the restrictions/beaurocracy currently in place acts as a sertious inhibitor. Shame.

  97. Comment by Robert Meek posted on

    To be honest is it even worth saying your piece here? Does Sir Bob Kerslake read your comments and is he going to act upon them? I doubt it very much. I was going to cherry-pick some of the more pertinent statements I have read here but there are far too many to list. As observed by many of my colleagues across the Civil Service senior management live in a different world. I perceive that many managers are self serving sycophants more interested in what they can do for themselves rather than the business. Our business has been under constant barrage for years now with change, regulation, cuts in funding and reductions in standards continuously chipping away such that morale cannot get much lower.

  98. Comment by Jimbo posted on

    What is the point of "digital by default" when you are not allowed to communicate with "customers" by Email?

  99. Comment by Barry Bentham posted on

    Bob, my lad nags me every day about his first adult passport. As the Post Office was shut I told him about digital by default and have regretted it ever since! We eventually found the right webpage and filled the online form in. I made a note of the reference number, hoping I could track the progress of my order online later, but no such luck. The seven working days are up today so I hope the thing arrives in the post on Monday at the latest or another round of nagging will await me. Why can't the online form be available for download, printing, signing, scanning and resending on the night to avoid all the nagging and delay?
    Success with New Year's resolutions though. I gave this nonsense up as a kid as I never could quit what I wasn't supposed to be doing but as Jools Holland counted in the new one I decided I would eat more cheese this year - and it is going very well.

  100. Comment by Jerry Arnott- Director Civil Service Learning posted on

    As Director of Civil Service Learning, I am always interested to hear your feedback on the learning offer for Civil Servants - thank you for your views so far. Civil Service Learning offers a range of learning opportunities, and the learning which you can do through our portal is all based on knowledge and skills which are transferable across the entire Civil Service and beyond. Our products are linked to the Competency Framework and are based on regular reviews of the learning needs of the Civil Service.

    We aim to ensure that different learning styles and needs are met through our offer. We offer a wide range of e-learning products (nearly 200 in total), but there is also a comprehensive selection of more traditional face to face courses on offer (over 140, plus over 360 Professions-related courses). We also give guidance on learning in the workplace, and offer services such as coaching and mentoring. There are thousands of online resources available through the portal, including guidance materials, toolkits, pocket books and reference documents. They provide practical suggestions, examples and case studies. They complement the more formal learning available, but are also very useful as stand alone products which can be referred to as needed. All the resources and all e-learning are free for civil servants, and you can log in to the portal from any computer, tablet or smartphone – you don’t have to use your work PC.

    Avril mentioned bitesize training, which is very helpful when staff need to fit their learning with their busy day jobs. Nearly 100 e-learning courses on the portal are an hour or under, and cover a wide range of subjects. Our online resources are short and sharp, or designed so that you can dip in and out of them. We are exploring how we can expand our offer of bitesize learning in the future.

    A couple of you have mentioned the availability of face to face courses in Scotland. I recently met with the Learning and Development leads for departments based in Scotland, to talk about how we can improve the learning offer for civil servants in Scotland. As a result, a learning and development network group has been set up to take this forward. Your department’s Learning and Development lead will be able to give you more information.

    Thank you again for your comments; keep them coming!

    • Replies to Jerry Arnott- Director Civil Service Learning>

      Comment by Danny Doran posted on

      c/o Jerry Arnott- Director Civil Service Learning

      Wondering if you could help push things along a little with the Project Management Course's that were formally delivered by College Management and Technology at Shrivenham. My position is that I await the final workshop/exam dates, however I'm informed by DEFAC-CMT staff that they await CS Learning to now formally implement (in 3-6 months) the new training delivery via CS Learning that would enable me to attain my certification. My own situation is that completed the modules mid Oct 2012 and with no dates currently available for the final workshop/exam a significant amount of refreshment is necessary the longer this goes on. I'm clearly not alone on this one, however the expectation was for myself to have attained this licence within a 12 month window in accoradnce with my roles terms of reference. I'm positive that you are the bets placed person to address my comment.

    • Replies to Jerry Arnott- Director Civil Service Learning>

      Comment by ed posted on

      I also live in scotland.

      I have found that a lot of things down south or around london, the best events i have gone to is civil service live in london.

      I do not have children as previous poster, so I have gone twice to this paying the high transport costs and using my own leave.

      When i went in 2009 I found lost of workshops and interesting things to consider. Could have spent the full 3 days doing workshops although there was other things. In 2009 i always went to the newcastle civil service live it was good gordan brown had been there but it was much smaller than london.

      Personally i my view would think the main events would be better further north in some where more accessable and cheaper. Even whitehall why in expensive capital center when could be ran from a buiness park in lutton or somewhere.

      In respect to learning generally personally i think would be better if much more was outsourced. As get lots of on line moduels ran by proffesional universities in global market this could be cheaper,. indian universities etc cost can be quite compeititive far cheaper.

      I find the civil service learning superifical and even the programs ran, when attend faststream or something get impression people the interviews are not fully up to speed with current thinking.

      The standard in civil service would be better using proffesional reconsgised accedited qualifications by proffesional people.

      If we procure a computor we would not try and make it our self so tend to think much of thise could apply to general learning.

      Although being government would be best use uk univesities as wider benefits.

  101. Comment by John posted on

    On Learning and Development - there is a lot of learning and very little development! On Pay - the Civil Service is still very hierarchical; satisfaction will depend on where you sit in the hierarchy and length of service, but pay below HEO level is poor, and outside London far too low. On IT - always bound to be a Catch-22, but a higher level of investment coupled with longer-term planning would help build resilience. Better IT should not automatically lead to a slashing of posts as a cost-cutting measure - far better to engage staff in the evolution of IT through interactive learning and the development of new tertiary-level problem-solving solutions both internally and when reaching out to the public.

  102. Comment by Ursula Brennan posted on

    Thank you for all these comments - Bob does read them and so do other senior managers. There's lots here but I will just comment in two things:
    1. People Survey - the survey tells us lots of things and being proud of some scores doesn't mean we're complacent about others. In my department (MoJ) we know we have a lot to do to improve. Many offices in MoJ have "you said, we did" programmes and we'll be running them again this year. We know that staff feel under pressure and we're working on ways to do business more efficiently. One of those ways is through technology...
    2. Digital by Default - I understand the frustration of hearing about new technologies that don't seem to be available where you work. For MoJ staff, we are now making real progress, for example on plans for digital courts, and we're starting to trial Twitter and Yammer. The work on developing a digital Lasting Power of Attorney is now being followed up with further digital solutions, for example in NOMS Things won't change overnight, but we're on the case.

    • Replies to Ursula Brennan>

      Comment by Tak posted on

      The frustration is less to do with limited access to new technologies and more to do with limited access to current technologies. Working with software that is over a decade outdated, in many cases without access to basic things such as Email. This is the reality of organisations that rely on government-run IT infrastructure. While the office next door, due to their different line of work, mostly use their own devices and software solutions. The difference in quality of service, job satisfaction and productivity is staggering.

    • Replies to Ursula Brennan>

      Comment by Paul posted on

      On the day Sir Bob's blog came out, the 03000 telephone system was down so no calls could be made in or out all day (and that lasted into this week for some offices), Outlook and Word were playing up again, and the internet was plagued with bugs. It is what we have that does not work. Lets get that right before we start tweeting and facebooking the world!

  103. Comment by Philip Rutnam posted on

    Hello I'm the Permanent Secretary at DfT, and I just wanted to say to the many people who have said 'do our comments get read' and 'is anyone listening', yes senior managers like me do read what you say, and yes we do care deeply - very deeply - about the Civil Service and what it means to our country. I know that it is a tough time to be in public service for lots of reasons people have mentioned - whether it's pay, pensions, or being expected to do more with less. But I also think Bob is right - we can and must keep our values, ethos and sense of public service, but we also can and must take good, practical steps to get smarter in the way we work.

    • Replies to Philip Rutnam>

      Comment by Tartan d'Artagnan posted on

      @Philip Rutnam

      We'd all of us like to work smarter, but how can we possibly do so when every new IT system foisted upon us in the name of efficiency turns out to be totally unfit for purpose? If we dare to speak up and feed back to managers that things aren't quite as rosy in the garden as they would like to think we are immediately marked down as "negative" and "trouble-causers". Seems to be it's "heads you win and tails we lose every time".

    • Replies to Philip Rutnam>

      Comment by Gareth Jones posted on

      You talk of doing more with less - a common refrain, and has been so for several years now. I am shortly to go into a meeting between staff and SCS, where we will be told that we will have to cover for staff leaving on early release, maternity lave and long term sick leave, in addition to our existing duties. The answer from us all will be no. We will offer management areas of work that we think can be dispensed with, or at least hived off to a more appropriate group, but management must prioritise.

      For many years we did do more with less. But our goodwill was abused; the more we gave, the more management took as easy pickings when cuts came. We got nothing in return, and in the last few years we've been kicked in the teeth over pay and pensions. No more. Management is going to have to get used to doing less with less; and prioritise accordingly.

    • Replies to Philip Rutnam>

      Comment by Gareth Jones posted on

      I keep hearing this refrain about getting smarter in the way we work; but there's never any substance to it. What, exactly, is the problem with the way we work, other than the fact that someone wants to make cuts yet still get the same output? Perhaps you would care to explain where we aren't being smart enough?

  104. Comment by Dave posted on

    Bob, Philip and any senior HR people reading this. I think what we would appreciate is a little honesty and respect. We now have a new appraisal system where quotas are employed for box markings (and these are applied rigorously through "moderation", not treated as "guides") and we have been told that only box ones will merit a pay rise and that you can still expect a box three if you achieve all your objectives, but do not perform well enough in "how" those objectives were perceived. Poor performers should be identified through the year and taken out of the appraisal system.Apart from being contrary to Bob's comments above, it has not been set out what happens should an individual receive back to back box threes. As there is no incentive to get a box two, staff here have deduced that this must result in a disincentive, perhaps providing a way to instigate an exit strategy for those individuals. As aluded to in an earlier comment, this would facilitate a reduction in workforce without expensive redundancy. If this is not the case, please be aware that the deafening silence on this is giving rise to such demoralising speculation and if it is the case, be honest and spit it out.

  105. Comment by Bob Kerslake posted on

    Dear all,

    Thank you for your messages, I’m really pleased that so many of you are using the blog as a place to share your views. I wish it were possible to respond to each and every comment, and I am keen to use the time I have on my visits across the country to speak to you directly.

    However I want to quickly address the concerns that some of you have raised about the line on performance management in the first paragraph. Specifically, that more of you “are being recognised for what you deliver, not how you deliver.”

    My aim was to make a very particular point here which is that, in the delivery of your priorities, the focus should be on tangible outcomes and not process. However where performance management is concerned, I am absolutely clear that evaluation should made with equal measure against both the delivery of objectives (the 'what') and the demonstration of behaviours, competencies and Civil Service values (the 'how’).

    I hope this adds some clarity.


  106. Comment by Seun Abayomi posted on

    We, Civil Servants are pawns in an expansive game of politics. A percentage of us (remember which grades can be honest with their publicly stated opinions) can try and be positive and pragmatic alongside the possibly more realistic, if at times understandably negative slant from our colleagues. We must try to remember we are all expendable digits on the balance sheet. Individuals with a disparity of views that can't all be sated but equally make us relatively easy targets for necessary division. There may be some degree of sincerity in our direction of travel from the higher and indeed highest echelons but many of us see and feel the reality of the day, the lack of communicative behaviour and compromise, which is only partly driven by the agenda of austerity and all it brings. It is a GAME that has few actual winners and my advice to anyone would be suck up what you can, take what you can but don't believe too many of the sound bites, however enticing they may sound. The many issues are broad and very complex. Those past the 25 year mark are left with few options but perversely the best long term outcomes. Other categories of workers, in terms of years in service must consider their futures against the constraints of now and look forward at their hopes and aspirations. As employees we serve and we have limited means to withdraw our labour or reject the many changes and now, the unjustified and relentless attack on our terms and conditions. The unwillingness to look at the collective trends of discontent in the Civil Service show an arrogance of Senior Management and an unwillingness to see the damaging effects to staff morale. I suppose it is what it is but for our own self worth we should still do the best we can, remembering to stand firm where the sheer iniquity of system demands it.

  107. Comment by Mary posted on


    With all due respect, I think you'll find that many people leave comments here, myself included, because it is one of the few outlets left in order to vent some of the frustration and despair that so many of us are feeling right now.

    With regards to PMR, again I think you will find that most of our concerns centre on the 10% quota that has been imposed as a cheap method of getting rid of staff, rather than quibbles about the 'whats' and 'hows'.

    Happy New Year to you. For many of us on the frontline, it won't be.



    • Replies to Mary>

      Comment by Barry White posted on

      I agree with Mary about leaving messages to release the anger and frustrations i left a message about 2 weeks ago and when i reurned to this i found mine had been DELETED, SURELY THIS IS NOT CORRECT. It was about the UNDERPAYMENT of Trade Group Managers (TG1's) being classed as being paid as CLERKS I am not underminding clerks as they do a good job. I am being PAID nearly £4000 than the people i am in charge of, as i have worked my way up from a Fitter General, Charge Hand to MANAGER since August 08. This has been highlighted to the Unions(thats a joke) i have now left them and other agencies but as usual fobbed off. This will probably be my last moan before i retire as this has also effected my Pension roll on September. Thank God for that.

  108. Comment by Sue Harvey posted on

    "More Digital"
    As a 'Border Force' Officer of some 15 years who has been receiving countless emails telling me to 'be the best border force in the world' can someone please tell me when I am going to get a passport scanner that can actually scan passports effectively and efficiently? I spent the first 3 days of the New Year at the juxtaposed control in Paris with the usual heavy traffic; this was added to by the bad weather conditions in the US causing cancellations of flights from the European mainland resulting in an influx of extra passengers going to London to fly from there on different routes. The queues were heavy anyway, as they always are but the appalling times the scanners take to register the input of a passport, let alone scan and open the chip meant that people were held up, often for 3 to 5 minutes while the scanner decided whether or not there was a document present and if it could read it. People understandably got cross as they could see their train conection leaving, the officers got stressed at having to apologise continually for the slowness of the checks while being berated by passengers and train station staff. Until we have a decent system for efficiently checking passports, quickly and not the cheapest system with the cheapest chips that some company is off-loading we are not going to be the best at anything. We seem to be able to afford to change our uniform on a seemingly annual basis (I've had 4 changes in 6 years now) could we not save the money and get a decent scanning system, maybe from a company that actually knows what they're doing rather than a cheap and cheerful one in which some insider has a vested interest. It will make no difference how willing or well trained the officers are if some hapless traveller misses the last flight home because the Border officer MUST scan EVERY passport (irrespective of who it belongs to or the logic of so doing) on some cheap and cheerful machine (ours won't work if the sun shines on them or the light is too bright!) that takes 5 minutes to work out if it's going to work; and it's the poor Officer who gets the blame.

    • Replies to Sue Harvey>

      Comment by paul posted on

      Over a decade ago I worked for BT. One day a load of technicians arrived in my department to change all the microchips in the computers - it was very disruptive to staff and very expensive for BT. When I asked what the purpose of the change was the technicians explained that the new chips would help the telephone operators answer each call half a second faster. Clearly, BT understood that all those half seconds - hundreds of thousands of them per day - added up to a big saving, so it was worth them investing in the best kit - even if on an individual basis the benefit of the investment seemed small.

      Sir Bob, on a slightly different point, I am quite alarmed by the number of commenters on here saying that they have been told that if they say anything negative they will be identified as trouble-makers. If people are scared into silence then how will you know where the reforms need to be made? Does this concern you?

  109. Comment by James posted on

    Cherry Picking results from staff surveys to make them look favourable - themselves the results of methodlogical nuances - isn't being honest; in fact quite the opposite.

  110. Comment by Barry Bentham posted on

    'I am absolutely clear that evaluation should made with equal measure against both the delivery of objectives (the 'what') and the demonstration of behaviours, competencies and Civil Service values (the 'how’).'
    If you were absolutely clear why the need for further clarity with this effort? Why do people say 'I am absolutely clear' when this is for the recipient of the information imparted to decide? It's like 'To be honest' - why wouldn't one be honest in the first place?

  111. Comment by B. WHITE posted on

    Hope you are going to look into the PAY for TG1's (Trade Group MANAGERS) as we have been under paid since August 08 when they reduced the top line for E1's (CLERKS) as i have and need engineering Qualifications for my post I am NOT a Clerk, i am not undermining the Clerks, but it seems we(TG1's) are being undermined. I have been fighting this for over 5 years and as normal this has been forgotten about i have highlighted this on many Blogs but NOBODY seems to give a dam but WE(TG1's). As the work force are earning £3000 and £2000 more than me but i am still required to put time in on the shopfloor. HOPE THIS WILL PUT SOMEBODY TO ACTION ASAP AS THE UNION I WAS WITH HAVE STILL NOT GOT THIS SORTED AND I RETIRE SHORTLY AS THIS WILL EFFECT MY PENSION, AS I HAVE ALREDY LOST OVER £20000 SO FAR AND I AM GLAD I AM RETIRING IN SEPTEMBER THIS YEAR, BUT I SUPPOSE I WILL NOT SEE A PENNY OF THE RISES IF SORTED AFTER SEPTEMBER

  112. Comment by Sue posted on

    I am motivated in my role within the Civil Service and on the whole happy with my terms and conditions. However i am disappointed with the lack of progression within my grade. i understand that with limited funds to spend on pay increases it has been necessary to have a 1% across the board increase for the past two years but i really think the time has come to address the issue of progression.

    i was under the impression, rightly or wrongly, that a previous pay agreement had promised that we would see progression from the minimum to maximum in a pay band within 5 years - if i am correct what happened to that pledge

  113. Comment by Mike O'Neill posted on

    Thank you to Philip Rutnam, PS at DfT, for writing.

    I’m sure senior civil servants do read what is said, and that they ‘care very deeply about the Civil Service and what it means to the country’.

    It might be tempting to dismiss the comments posted here as predictable, but I hope that senior civil servants and others won’t do that. It would be a mistake to discount complaints from those on the frontline, on an ordinary wage that continues to fall behind inflation, who have to live with performance ‘moderation’ and unforgiving attendance management policies, and who are nonetheless expected to deal with huge change, questionable IT performance, inflexible targets and falling numbers of experienced staff.

    I know that the alternatives in the job market are – for most of us - not that great at present, and that we need to be mindful of that. But we should still be concerned to support the principles of dignified work, diversity and not lightly contributing to a ‘race to the bottom’.

    The effectiveness of the civil service depends on the quality (and morale) of its frontline people and on the tools and processes they have to work with. Linked to this I see a management responsibility to make (and feed back up the line in order to seek support for) realistic assessments of what can be achieved with the resources available.

    The effectiveness and performance of our IT systems, and the extent to which they are effectively joined up, still appear to fall substantially short of that required to meet the vision of the civil service reform. And whatever our ambition for IT based services delivery, let’s not ever write down the importance and the value of people in service delivery, especially in customer facing roles. In marrying the two, I wish that my department had modern communications tools like intranet forums where people doing similar work in different locations could share knowledge and discuss common problems (I don’t use social media generally, but I do find special interest forums incredibly useful). I’d like also to see more use being made of video-conferencing, as this would save on travel cost and staff downtime. We have the facilities, but I don’t see enough carrot and stick incentive to promote the habit of using them. Interesting to think that (as some already believe) that with enough of this, the investment in HS2 really might not be needed, and the money could be (better) used elsewhere.

    I would hate to see a diminishing of the public service ethos. What for example is the evidence that a small number of ‘preferred suppliers’ from the private sector have delivered better value to all taxpayers (as opposed to just shareholders) than a properly managed public service organisation.

    From my experience in this department at least, I think we could do more to improve the value of the civil service to the economy whilst preserving, where possible, headcounts (and related skills) and locations (regional ones especially please).

    And, from my personal experience, we should not overlook the value of the civil service as a recruiter with a good track record for getting people back into work. I went through a couple of redundancies as a manager in the private sector aged 50. I struggled to find work on my own initiative until the dedicated advisor I was given under the New Deal 50+ helped identify a civil service job opportunity. I started here as an AA, in a completely new career, and I’ve been promoted from there. But I was able to put my life back on track and to provide once again for my family. I’m now doing productive and rewarding work, and the civil service is making good use of my diverse skills and experience. I'll bet there's many like me now doing very effective work in the civil service.

    With all this, I think the displacement cost of shedding jobs in the civil service is worth reflecting on. I came across this in a government department paper:

    Why does displacement matter?
    ....Following the HM Treasury Green Book definition, displacement represents a loss of economic output or employment which should be set against the gain in output or employment generated by an intervention. On the assumption that the aim of policy is to increase employment (or output) at the national level, displacement has to be subtracted from the gross impact to arrive at the net gain and thus the net benefit of the intervention.

    I think we could have a whole discussion around that one!

    • Replies to Mike O'Neill>

      Comment by Philip Rutnam posted on

      Mike (O'Neill), thanks for your comments. I agree with a lot of what you say - especially about how the Civil Service creates a huge amount of value not just through what it delivers to society but through developing its employees' skills and helping to make them really productive individuals. It is certainly the Civil Service that has made me what I am today - professionally I mean, in terms of skills, standards and behaviours. One of the many challenges we have is to help more people inside and outside the CS feel similarly positive.

      By the way (surprise, surprise perhaps!) I don't agree about IT and the case for HS2 - actually the last 10 years when the IT revolution has been happening (smartphones, wireless data, laptops etc) is exactly the period in which demand for rail travel has been growing fastest! Philip

      • Replies to Philip Rutnam>

        Comment by Mike O'Neill posted on

        In reply to Philip Rutnam 16/01/2014

        Apologies for the interval between your reply and this post Philip, I'm kept busy busy busy with my core duties!

        In reply to the thoughts you express on HS2 in para.2 I have to say I've heard it all before. I worked in civil engineering (in particular roads and bridges construction) when it went through a terrible time in the early ‘90s after the then government cancelled the roads programme. The ‘reason of convenience’ given then was that road expansion would never match demand as traffic volumes simply expanded to fill the highway capacity available and that for environmental (and direct cost!) reasons we had to call a halt and apply some back pressure. Sure enough, the underinvested railways quickly became overloaded. I think we could be looking at a repeating of history with our current thinking on expanding rail capacity in the UK. But we now have technologies that mean we can manage a pretty good facsimile of a physical meeting, but without travelling. Yes some will drone on that it is not the same as meeting in person, and indeed it isn’t but when needs must, a 3rd class carriage will get you there much as a 1st class one does.

        As I look around at the current debate on communities, I see a relentless tide moving us away from centralisation and towards regionalism and even localism. Concomitant with this, I think we should be at least contemplating a future where communications with the centre may be little more virtual and a little less in person.

        I accidentally found myself dining with (unknown to me until I learned later who they were) a very senior public sector official who regularly commutes to and fro from London along the proposed line. They made the point that the current journey time was long enough to allow them to do some useful work (using the aforementioned new technologies) but not so long as to make it inconvenient. HS2 would hardly give them time to use the journey time usefully.

        And we need to be building a sustainable, low CO2 economy. Notions of economic growth have to be reconsidered in the light of the environment as well as reducing resources.

        So I believe we could usefully apply a bit of back pressure at this point. It is interesting to reflect on what the money proposed for HS2 might achieve if it was used in less spectacular (but perhaps more imaginative) ways to pump new life into the struggling regional economies, to support farming, to protect against disruption from flooding, and so forth. It is perhaps goods we need to be making and moving more of, not people!

        Footnote: At the time the road programme was cancelled in 1992, my organisation attempted to make the case for keeping skilled construction labour in employment by redirecting effort to something that we believed would in time prove to be a good investment: coastal and flood protection. Prior to that, in 1984, we had run one of the first conferences showcasing proposed rapid transport systems for the UK, hardly any of which then existed (they all do now). We piloted a training by video-conference idea c1995 that DTI could not be persuaded to fund. And we ran the 1st conference on the national cycle network. So, backwards thinking we were not!

  114. Comment by Jim posted on

    Speaking from my department VOA (VALUATION OFFICE AGENCY) we have seen the same issues with pay and IT. We have been told recently that the appeals process on our regrading is being held back again due to talks with TUS. Talks that were not held with TUS before the department decided to regrade us using the flawed JEGS process. This was badly mishandled they didnt even interview enough people in the right grades and now are back pedaling with excuses even re reviewing AA and AO posts!

    The truth of the matter is the whole reform program has been mis managed from the start trying to fix the IT now whilst the systems are in use is a flawed strategy. The department will be switching to windows 7 this year (hopefully!). But getting this will not fix the years of damage done by mis managing. Buying equipment not fit for purpose. Sticking with suppliers with golden handcuff deals that would cost us more to stop than continue. Even the process of customers contacting us has become harder not easier. Before we had a system when a member of the public could speak to a local office to someone with local knowledge and get the information they need. Now thanks to us buying a cheap VOIP phone system that could not cope with the move to business streams and crashed. We are still running a 'temporary' system of calling back customers once they have made initial contact with our main call centres. Who cannot answer the call fully as they only have 30 secs to answer and clear the call! This temporary situation has been ongoing for almost 2 years now. A customer contact application has been created to monitor this situation which has no sign of ending anytime soon! How is that serving the public trust Sir Bob? It is not its taken something that was fit for purpose and making it unfit for purpose, which seems to be something that the civil service and government seem to be doing quite well in these past few years!

  115. Comment by David posted on

    I too have an issue with progression. I have been at my present grade for close to 9 years now (in various Department incarnations) and yet am nowhere near the top of my scale. After the last pay award I was amazed to find that one of my colleagues - of the same grade, but with only 3 to 4 years in post - is on a higher basic payscale than I am. Confused.

  116. Comment by Jen posted on

    Whilst I appreciate all the good things about working for the CS (truly I do), I am so incredibly frustrated about the unfairness of pay progresion - or lack thereof. I was promoted to my grade 8 years and 10 months' ago, and my pay is only 2.1% above the minimum. Surely this can't be fair in anyone's book? Surely my 9 years' experience should count for more. This is what truly causes disengagement for so many people in similar situations across different grades. Can someone in SCS please tell us how this is fair, or how it will be addressed? I'm staggered that this situation is allowed to exist at all.

  117. Comment by Emma posted on

    Bringing us into the digital age....whilst i've been told i can't email agents or clients to arrange meetings if they are small businesses. The backward steps the department is making in this area is so very frustrating and adds to the delays in resolving cases. Some common sense decisions need making, and those in charge could do with being a little braver in those decisions...for the good of us all!

  118. Comment by Robert Manning posted on

    Hats off to Sir Bob and other senior managers for stepping up and acknowledging that the comments being made here are visible to them. I would have otherwise envisaged someone simply reporting up that the blog is "proving to be very popular sir", because that is how it feels that things work these days. I do occasionally feel sorry for our senior managers, for there is much that happens to us that they can do little about; pay for example. However, when they allow overheads like the new PMR process to be introduced then they are failing to do their job. Of course we need a performance management system, but what we've got is unnecessarily complex and takes up far too much time. Whilst you can do little about our pay, it has always been within your power to address some of the other issues that are being brought to your attention in this blog, and yet those problems remain.

  119. Comment by Chris Last, Head of Civil Service HR posted on

    Lewis makes some interesting points above about pay and pensions, though it’s worth repeating that the great variety of work across the Civil Service makes it more difficult than you would think to make direct comparisons with the private sector. It’s important to remember that the overall package of benefits remains a good offer. Our pension is a significant and valuable part of what is a competitive total reward package for most civil servants.

    Chris Last, Head of Civil Service HR

  120. Comment by Paul Grayham posted on

    Sir Bob Kerslake
    "More digital
    In the year to come I am determined for us to make further progress towards becoming a truly ‘digital by default’ Civil Service. Civil servants should be able to tap into the digital resources available to us in our personal lives, and use them to make our working lives easier and deliver a better, more efficient, service to the public."

    HMRC Hotseat Question
    "Please can you provide an update on whether staff will soon be eligible for Microsoft's Home Use Programme, that allows staff to purchase MS Office for £8.95. Thank you.

    Paul Hathaway-Smith, Corporate Communications"

    Thank you for your question Paul.
    I’m sorry but we’re unable to give you an answer yet. This question is currently subject to consultation with the Cabinet Office. We are expecting some news about it soon. Once we hear, we will respond as soon as we can.
    Answer update (28 November 2013)
    Following ExCom’s review of Microsoft Home Use Programme, we will not be able to distribute the Microsoft code for getting cheaper version of Office 2013 to staff after all.
    I realise this may not be the answer you were hoping for, particularly as other government departments and public sector bodies have adopted HUP for their employees.
    However, because our role and the work we do, we must be careful to avoid anything that might lead to our relationship with any taxpayer, business or media to be misinterpreted or our impartiality called into question.
    Terri Clements, Programme Director, CDIO Infrastructure Programme

    The words suggest digital support, the actions suggest something totally different.

    Where is the joined up thinking and how well do we manage change again?

  121. Comment by Tony posted on

    It's the great variety of work across the Civil Service that's kept me happy with my pay an pension package despite the cuts. I've done so many different jobs over the last 14 years and I've always valued the way the Civil Service allows you to move about, way more than I've valued the gold-plated pension over the silver-plated one we have now. I mean, you can't buy job satisfaction, however much you get paid.

  122. Comment by Donna posted on

    Re: "and more of you are being recognised for what you deliver, not how you deliver."

    That doesn't apply to the DfT. Our latest Competencies are geared to measuring HOW you deliver, not WHAT you deliver.

  123. Comment by Robin Weston posted on

    Sir Bob,

    I find your blog interesting to read and it’s always helpful to see the way in which you see all things civil service moving. However, yet again there seems to be a big disconnect between how you see things and how us at the front line see things.

    I’ll focus on the “more digital” part of your blog as the other issues have been fairly well covered by my colleagues across the service, and also it’s an area of personal as well as professional interest to me. Let me begin by saying that your comments make perfect sense and I wholeheartedly agree that this is the direction that we need to be headed in. But HMRC (my employer) seems to fall short in either the will, the funding, or both to even begin to make progress towards your ambition.

    At home I have a PC that runs Windows 8, and has two monitors, which is absolutely invaluable for working on more than one document at a time. At work I am still using Windows XP, with a single screen. From a press article (The Register) yesterday I understand that HMRC will not now succeed in replacing XP before its end of life in April. Microsoft has made no bones about the cost of support after this date, and it’s deliberately expensive, $200 per PC for the first year, doubling each year thereafter. I hope that the department doesn't need to make use of this contingency.
    I fully understand all the arguments about legacy systems requiring IE6 which in turn meant the department couldn’t easily or cheaply move on from XP. But this has not been a surprise, indeed anyone with any IT nous could have very confidently predicted this problem over seven years ago when IE7 launched, and foreseen it as a possible problem even before then. So either there was a failure to grasp the importance of the issue, or a failure to push for sufficient funding to address it in good time.

    At home I still use Office 2003, which I have stuck with in the belief that HMRC would in due course offer me the chance to upgrade to the most recent version via the home use programme. I now find out after considerable delay that it has decided that we won’t be offered this within HMRC, “…because our role and the work we do, we must be careful to avoid anything that might lead to our relationship with any taxpayer, business or media to be misinterpreted or our impartiality called into question “. The home use programme is part of a standard Microsoft contract arrangement. It would take a wilful, and easily explained, misunderstanding of the facts to present it as any sort of impediment to impartiality. Anyway, at home I’m now exploring open source alternatives which seem to meet my needs and offer more than a ten year old Microsoft product. So, the department loses out on me getting up to speed on Office 2013 much quicker, and I lose out as I can’t apply lessons learnt at home to work and vice versa. This doesn’t just impact on my work productivity as I often provide informal support to colleagues who are stumped on how to do something, increasingly I won’t have my experience outside the office to draw on. Additionally it did nothing for staff engagement the way the whole home use issue was handled, for months the issue was been under consideration, and the updates suggest that it was given the nod at cabinet office level before the recent veto within the department.

  124. Comment by Linda Nixon posted on

    Sir Bob

    I have ready through some quite harsh criticism to your blog and feel somehwat disheartened. I have been a civil servant for 30 years and I actually love my job- I get a great deal of job satisfaction despite all of the changes-some good, some bad, going on around me. I do this by accepting I cannot fix every problem that occurs and just try to do my best at whatever I am doing. Yes, I may like more pay and bigger pension but we are not the only people in society suffering and sometimes you have to make the most of what you have now rather than dwelling on what you thik you should have- after all people are not forced to be civil servants and can work elsewhere if they wish. Times are difficult all over the world and we canot just rely on our employer to motivate us it has to come from within- yes obstacles may be put in your way but that's just life. Due to recent futureproofing and Business design changes in my area I have spent 4 months not knowing what I will be doing or where but still strive to work at things to the best of my ability as I don't know how to be any other way and it is less exhausting than trying to swim against the tide constantly.

    That being said I do understand every persons gripe with how things are going but we are such a large organisation that change is never easy but then I didn't really expect it to be.

    I think our biggest failing is actually on communication or lack of. I truly believe that you mean everything you said but I also kow that you will not be aware of what actually goes on at lower levels as you are only told what they want you to hear when they want to tell it and that makes your job impossible- I do think despite this you do feel genuine about positive change within the civil service but are left with an impossible task where you cannot please all of the people all of the time but at least you try and I thank you for that.

  125. Comment by John posted on

    What utter balderdash, Sir Bob needs to wake up and smell the coffee, I earn £1600 p.a,( HMCTS ) no wage rise for Ex-amount of years, pension increases, staff freeze no prospects of promotion..... Yes everything is GREAT, if your a top level Civil Servant or band C and above.

  126. Comment by Martin Donnelly posted on

    There are a lot of comments here about our IT and outdated working practices. All too often people are delivering high quality services against a background of outdated IT, poorly designed workplaces and inflexible working practices. Over the past few months I have been chairing a group investigating the way we work. We found many examples where civil service reform is making a difference, driving the introduction of new IT designed with users' needs uppermost, transformed working spaces and flexible working arrangements. Find out more in our guide to The Way We Work, published soon.

  127. Comment by Steve B posted on

    Blimey! I thought it was just HMRC staff who have no confidence or trust in their senior management. However, from the previous comments it seem to be Civil Service wide.

    I suppose the Civil Service is the same as any private sector company. The directors at the top taking all the benefits for themselves leaving those at the lower end to feed off scraps. This so-called generous package is only for the few, not the many and that includes pensions.

    HMRC talks a good game on staff engagement but unfortunatly that's all it is - words. They even produced an independent report and since it's publication all we've had is yet more imposition of unpopular changes such as PMR. A recent poll suggested 83% of staff we opposed to this scheme which imposes quotas on success or failure. All we got in reply to questions raised following this was a typical polititian's non-answer and ducking of the concerns.

  128. Comment by William Hague, CPO, HMRC posted on

    I’ve followed the various strands of this blog with interest and, like others, am pleased that it is being used as a chance to voice views that might not otherwise be heard. There are a number of specific contributions from HMRC staff and I want to take the opportunity to comment on these.

    Despite the economic pressures we face, the public expects more from us than ever before and so we must continually strive for better performance. The aim of the new performance management system is to provide a framework through which staff can have regular discussions about their work with managers, including feedback about behaviour both when dealing with customers and other colleagues. It is important that we are all appreciated for what we deliver day in day out, as well as establishing where there is room for improvement. In HMRC we are keen to make sure everyone knows what is expected of them as they carry out their roles. The aim of performance management is to support our staff in their personal development whilst delivering the best possible service to the Public.

    While I appreciate the financial pressures that accompany a pay freeze, HMRC’s pay arrangements reflect the realities of the wider economic picture. Despite this, our pay remains amongst the best in the public sector.

    Finally, I want to say a big thank you to all our staff for the hard work they have put in through this period of change. This has not gone unnoticed.

    • Replies to William Hague, CPO, HMRC>

      Comment by Gareth Jones posted on

      I don't work in HMRC, but your entry is a classic example of what's wrong with the attitudes of senior Civil Service management today.

      You rightly say that the blog is being used to voice views that might not otherwise be heard - but you don't stop to think WHY those voices aren't being heard. Two reasons (there are others) are (a) workplace repercussions, and perhaps even harrasssment, when controversial views are aired, and (b) suppression of bad news by poor managers who don't want bad news filtering up or out.

      "the public expects more the public expects more from us than ever before and so we must continually strive for better performance." Sounds like another round of "do more with less". Well, the logical conclusion of continually doing more with less is that we end up doing everything with nothing. It's a nonsense, and senior management needs to realise that. Here's the reality: the fat is long gone and we cashed in most of the productivity gains in the IT waves of the past couple of decades. Now, if we have less then we do less.

      "Finally, I want to say a big thank you to all our staff for the hard work they have put in through this period of change. This has not gone unnoticed." But, as for so many of us, it probably has gone unrewarded. And will continue to do so.

  129. Comment by James Taylor posted on

    Thank you for all of your comments. Please note Sir Bob has written a new blog post in answer to some of your questions above.

    "Hearing your concerns":

    James (moderator)

    • Replies to James Taylor>

      Comment by Steve B posted on

      My comment showed as under moderation for 2 days then removed. I would like to know why.

    • Replies to James Taylor>

      Comment by Steve B posted on

      I would still like to know what happened to my comment posted over 2 weeks ago! It was showing as under moderation for 2 days then suddenly disappeared without trace or explanation. Is this what the Civil Service classes as communication?

  130. Comment by Stuart posted on

    To James Taylor. I previously left a comment on the blog around 16th January 2014. The message I got said my comments were going for moderation. I note that they have not appeared anywhere on the Blog. Is this because what I said was not very "pc"? There is little point in having a Blog which is supposed to allow people to make comments if the posts are going to be censored. I don't think my comments were any worse than some of the others I've seen so I would be interested to know why they are not on the Blog.

  131. Comment by Lindsay Sedge posted on

    I have been a civil servant for 8/9 years, change for change sake is wholly unnecessary, unwanted and it's us coal face staff who suffer. We continue to suffer with lack of management of any kind and are now being expected to work in an office that should be manned by 8 people when we only have 3 permanement members of staff and 1 temp. Staff moral is disgustingly low and lack of leadership is rife.

  132. Comment by Martyn Main posted on

    When will the Cabinet Office et al admit that the recently introduced PAR system doesn't work and is just wasting everyone's time? When will the powers-that-be actually let line managers manage their teams rather than reducing them (us) to a group of frustrated box-tickers. There is an unbelievable arrogance in the upper echelons of the Civil Service (and the Cabinet Office) that they actually think that they know how to do our jobs effectively and that we don't. Well, here's the challenge, you want Civil Service improvement? then free us from the shackles of unworkable systems and give us, the management and workforce, the chance to show you what CAN be done. If you've got the guts to do it I'm sure that you'll be agreeably surprised.

  133. Comment by Jonathan Dunning-Davies posted on

    I have worked as a civil servant since 2006. In principal, I am proud to work in the defence of the Realm, protecting the border from immigration, customs and other crime. However, we are bound by the necessity to meet statistical targets; queue times and PR are more important to politicians than detecting heroin importations; and hands are tied by red tape and a lack of consistency between the various law enforcement agencies. And so, the defence of the border is very very limited. Politicians recently spoke about border permeability. The border is not permeable - there is a gaping chasm that is unprotected.

    And yet, we hear reforms are to be made in terms of technology, digital systems and image. The agenda is all wrong.

    We need reform - without a shadow of a doubt. However, we need it in fields that affect our ability to do our jobs, morale and a sense of achievement:

    * Work relevant IT needs overhauling.
    * Powers of warranted officers need clarifying and the grey areas erasing.
    * Money needs to stop being wasted in areas such as the vehicle fleet, constant brand name changes, signage and uniform changes.
    * The public need to know who we are and what we do.
    * The system for promotion needs a massive overhaul and for it to be based on experience, skill and knowledge (including reference to PDRs) rather than someone's ability to score points in an irrelevant competency question.

    With morale boosted and staff (the minions - the lower grades - the operational, front-line workers) feeling valued will come a vastly improved service to the country, to the Crown and to the public.

  134. Comment by Steve Reece posted on

    The system of rewarding Civil Servants for their skills/knowledge, falls down when someone is a 'D' grade (EO) teaching engineering skills, or any other skill, to do a job, that when the student passes, can be paid as much, if not more, than the person teaching/instructing, whom has to have a minimum of 5 years in trade, then has to have teaching qualifications to do the job.
    Is this why it is difficult to recruit instructors and having to go to contractors?
    Do private Industries work like that, NO THEY DON'T, I have worked in the private sector, and instructors are paid more than the shopfloor, due to their skill, years of experiance and level of training required.

    The Public perception does not match the reality of the Civil Service, and it is the Ministers that are giving the public the incorrect information of the Civil Service, that we are over paid, underworked and receive a Wonderful pension (I will receive more from my Private Industry pension, which has been frozen for 14 years)
    It is the higher grades that have all the wonderful benifits, NOT the Ground floor Civil Servants!
    Is this right and Just?

  135. Comment by Nahida posted on

    I have invested a vast amount of time in understanding the Civil Service Reform and although I am impressed with what I read and hope it is actioned, I am not very optimistic. Reality shows things as very different. This is true in many cases mentioned in the reform. The quote above "being recognised for what you deliver, not how you deliver" could not be further from the truth. I am praised highly for my proactive approach to self development, customer service, quality of work and commitment to my work, by all my senior managers including our Chief Executive. However, that is where it ends. There is no recognition in the form of progession. I am passionate about my department and want to be involved in creating a better agency but there are no opportunities for me to advance my career. I have been referred to as a "Leader of the Future" but at 43 years of age, my future does not look so successful. I have worked hard to get the reputation that I currently have, fighting cultural and ethnical differences as well as caring for a seriously ill child suffering Leukaemia. This and many other areas of the Reform do not seem to make it down to the frontline. I feel disappointment and frustration to the point that I am seriously considering leaving the Civil Service and going somewhere that I will be truly challenged and appreciated and be able to further my career.

  136. Comment by marina posted on

    Dear Sir Bob,
    We would love to be able to be developed into new roles, but with the compentency based interviews, management are able to pick and choose who they want to take these roles, even though they might not neccesarily be the right person for the job, it means theres always something you can be marked up or marked down for. These interviews are not fair and open competition but all about who you know... Is there going to be a fairer way of doing these interviews? if these dont change then we hinder some of the most experienced staff from progressing, all because your face dont fit...
    the idea by Rossana Roby — 10/01/2014 is a briliant idea that maybe can be looked into??