DE&S finally wins pay freedoms

Written by Joshua Chambers on 16 April 2014 in News

The Ministry of Defence’s Defence, Equipment and Support (DE&S) division was this month turned into an arm’s-length body and given an exemption from Treasury salary controls and civil service-wide promotion criteria.

“We have broad freedom to make our own decisions on pay, rules for promotion and grading structures so that we can recruit and retain more of the people we need,” wrote Bernard Gray, chief of defence materiel, DE&S in-house magazine DESider.

Michael Bradley, finance director of DE&S, wrote that the public sector pay freeze had “prevented us getting people with the right skills through the door to join us.”
The change to DE&S’s structure comes after the Ministry of Defence failed to realise Gray’s initial plan: outsourcing the DE&S as a government-owned, contractor-operated organisation (GoCo). The plan collapsed after all but one of the bidders for the tender pulled out.

The new body still intends to bring in more private sector providers. Gray wrote that he is using contractors to “rebuild the HR function and improve project delivery”. DE&S will also boost its internal investment, he said: “We’re going to invest more in our training skills, to improve our experience of work in all areas.”

Gray favoured a GoCo approach over a more autonomous DE&S because of the potential for ministers to unpick reforms over time. “The question is: how enduring will those changes be?” he told CSW last year.

“If they were just there at a ministerial whim” – if they could be withdrawn at any moment – then “how do you get the people in that organisation to act with confidence?”, he asked.

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