FDA slams ‘cowardice’ of briefing against perm secs as Lowcock's DfID departure confirmed

Written by Richard Johnstone on 15 May 2017 in News

Union calls on ministers to clamp down on “unwarranted, vicious attacks” on public servants in the press

Mark Lowcock photographed for CSW by Paul Heartfield

The FDA trade union has urged ministers to tackle unattributed briefing against civil servants after media criticism of Department for International Development's permanent secretary Sir Mark Lowcock following his move to a top post at the United Nations.

Following reports on Friday, DFID has confirmed that Lowcock would make the move to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the UN, replacing former government minister Stephen O'Brien as under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs.

The FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, highlighted that Lowcock had faced negative press briefing following reports that he was to take the post and leave the civil service, which included being branded ‘Sir Waste-A-Lot’ in both the Daily Mail and the Sun newspaper websites.

General secretary Dave Penman said that the “unedifying spectacle of committed public servants being undermined and attacked through 'anonymous' sources close to ministers” must be tackled.

"All too often this particular brand of political cowardice rears its ugly head as ministers feel the pressure to look for a convenient scapegoat,” he said.

"Instead of preaching about leadership it's time some politicians demonstrated it and publicly defended their staff from these unwarranted, vicious attacks."


Confirming his move, Lowcock said it has been “an enormous privilege” to lead DfID since 2011 and he was looking forward to building on O’Brien’s legacy in “ensuring OCHA does the best it possibly can to relieve the suffering of people whose lives continue to be devastated by humanitarian crises across the world”.

Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood said he was delighted that Lowcock has been appointed to the UN post. “Mark has been an outstanding permanent secretary of DFID and a great colleague,” he said. “With humanitarian crises right now affecting so many parts of the world, Mark will bring long-standing practical expertise and British know-how to this important international position.”

International development secretary Priti Patel said she “wished Mark Lowcock every success in the future in his role as under-secretary-general for OCHA. I would like to thank him for his long standing service to the civil service and his work to deliver DFID’s commitments to the poorest people in the world.”

Arrangements for appointing Lowcock’s successor at DFID will be announced shortly, the department said.

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