Heywood and Manzoni respond after Spending Review blog met with fury by civil servants

Written by Matt Foster on 9 December 2015 in News
News

Furious online reaction to Spending Review blog prompts response by cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood and civil service chief executive John Manzoni – with the pair emphasising areas where civil service is more flexible than the private sector

Civil service leaders Jeremy Heywood and John Manzoni have responded to a barrage of online criticism from officials over pay and terms.

November's government-wide Spending Review promised that ministers would look again at several aspects of public sector pay and terms, with the accompanying document saying the Treasury would consult on "further cross-public sector action on exit payment terms" and pledging "targeted reforms in areas where the public sector still has far more generous rights than the private sector".

It had already been announced that the 1% cap on public sector payrises – which followed a two-year pay freeze – would remain in force until the end of the decade, a move the Office for Budget Responsibility says has helped to reduce the need for job losses.


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On the day of the Spending Review, Heywood – the Cabinet secretary and head of the civil service – posted a blog written with civil service chief executive Manzoni and Treasury permanent secretary Nicholas Macpherson explaining what the latest departmental settlements would mean for civil servants.

In it, the three leaders paid tribute to the civil service as "a precious national asset", and said the organisation's "biggest asset remains its people". But while it again stressed that there was "no planned target for reductions in the numbers of civil servants" as a result of the latest spending cuts, the three leaders sought to explain the government's position on pay and terms.

The post on the GOV.UK website prompted an overwhelmingly negative reaction from officials, however. Of the 199 comments posted as of December 9, more than 90% expressed a negative sentiment (180 comments), while just two comments could be interpreted as positive and just under 9% (17 comments) were either neutral or posing questions.

One commenter, Paul G, said the Spending Review was the "worst day of the year for the civil service", accusing the government of seeking to "punish their employees", while another, Deborah said she had spent "most of my life providing a professional and caring service but now feel that no one really cares how these changes are affecting staff".

Stuart W added: "We reduce the workforce by 20%, put forward 22,000 [...] ideas to reduce waste, move towards a far greater digitised service, come in on many target areas and yet we are rewarded with a 1% pay increase for the next 4 years. Whilst I understand that we have to do our bit to put the country back into a better fiscal position, I find that this article is somewhat misguided in its approach."

"Fairly and sensitively managed"

In an update posted today, Heywood and Manzoni (pictured) acknowledged the scale of the criticism, but sought to emphasise other areas in which the civil service remains ahead of the private sector.

"Many of the comments you have posted focus on the review’s implications for Civil Service jobs, pay, terms and conditions," they wrote. "We recognise many of the concerns you have raised and would like to address some of them here, while restating why we believe the civil service continues to be a rewarding and exciting place to work."

The pair said that the "ongoing fiscal challenge" means that the civil service "will continue to get smaller". But they say they expect the reductions to "slow down" over the Spending Review period.

"There is no 'right size' for the Civil Service – it is driven by the needs of the government, to continue delivering high-quality public services within the budgets that are available," they added.

"Each department is taking responsibility, through its Single Departmental Plan, for assessing its own priorities and the workforce needed to deliver them. If headcount reductions are necessary, they will be fairly and sensitively managed, and achieved, as far as possible, on a voluntary basis and through natural wastage." 

They also responded to a number of comments highlighting the disparity between the 10% payrise recently awarded to MPs and the ongoing 1% cap on payrises implemented across the civil service.

Manzoni and Heywood wrote: "Some comments have compared this settlement with the pay award to MPs. That was determined by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) in a completely unrelated process, independent of parliament or the Government - though it should be noted that, in future, MPs’ earnings will be linked to public sector pay."

On terms and conditions, the pair emphasised the civil service's focus on flexible working, job-sharing and "generous annual leave" which they say "often sets us apart from other industries".

They added: "While we have some distance to travel before we are fully representative of the people we serve, our increasing diversity compares favourably with much of the private sector. And our family-friendly policies, including the opportunities to work flexibly or use flexi-time to achieve a work-life balance or meet caring commitments, are a valued part of working here.

"For example, the maternity leave entitlement far exceeds the statutory minimum. HMRC, to take just one department, has introduced other family-friendly practices. They have developed and implemented adoption, surrogacy and foster-care policies, and around 34% of its people work part-time, while many more have informal flexible working arrangements. We know that staff really value this kind of flexibility and many have told us that they would not have been able to continue with their careers without it."

The Whitehall chiefs also stress the annual time available to civil servants for learning and development, and say they are still aiming for the civil service to be an "employer of choice".

"Responding to the challenge of the Spending Review, and building on what we’ve achieved during the last five years, we are determined that the civil service must remain an attractive employer for those who want to serve the public and the government they have elected," they said. 

Since the Spending Review, it has been reported that the Treasury is considering reducing the maximum payment for voluntary redundancy across the public sector workforce to 15 months' salary, down from the current 21 months. Ministers have already announced plans to cap redundancy payouts to £95,000, in a move unions have argued will hit long-serving staff on modest salaries.

The OBR predicted last month that 100,000 public sector jobs were likely to go by the end of the decade, although it cautioned that its estimate had been conducted "in the absence of specific workforce plans"​.

About the author

Matt Foster is online editor of Civil Service World. He tweets as @CSWDepEd

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Comments

MoD Civil Servant (not verified)

Submitted on 9 December, 2015 - 16:16
Firstly, I agree that we still have fairly good TACOS and that under some of the previous governments the Civil Service grew too large. BUT - there is a limit on how far behind our pay can fall before having an exciting place to work and good TACOS can go. Let me quote Sir Leigh Lewis (former permanent secretary of the Department of Work and Pensions) in an interview with the CSW, dated 29 September 2015. “It’s partly to do with pay. In the Civil Servant we will never – and nor should we – pay some of the levels typically paid in the private sector. But we do have to pay sufficiently to be taken seriously by serious people. I worry that some of the recent trends have gone in the wrong direction in that respect.” If you really think we are "a precious national asset" and the organisation's "biggest asset remains its people", then taking home less every month than I did 5 years ago does not help to recruit and retain a professional motivated workforce. So decide – annoy (polite words substituted) the Civil Servants so much they leave and have a contractorised Civil Service or start rewarding your “precious resource”.

Winston Smith (not verified)

Submitted on 10 December, 2015 - 11:02
"...the Treasury is considering reducing the maximum payment for voluntary redundancy across the public sector workforce to 15 months' salary, down from the current 21 months." You mean George Osborne (Leader-in-Waiting) hasn't made a decision already? That's so unlike George, who's normal approach seems to be 'cut-and-be-damned' - as long as it's only the plebs who suffer...

Angie Abdirahman (not verified)

Submitted on 10 December, 2015 - 13:07
"The Whitehall chiefs also stress the annual time available to civil servants for learning and development, and say they are still aiming for the civil service to be an "employer of choice". Yes, 5 days learning a year. Which includes sitting at seminars that are nothing to do with your job. Try and get some real training that is relevant to the job and there is no budget. And how can they quote being diverse as a "terms and condition"?

Richy (not verified)

Submitted on 10 December, 2015 - 13:10
I'm sorry, they just don't get it.......

The Grinch (not verified)

Submitted on 10 December, 2015 - 14:48
It's about time Osborne and friends looked at the true value the Civil Service offers. There's a lot of loyal people who up until the last few years were prepared to offer their services for life. But the aggressive erosion of terms and conditions is now simply unbearable for many. Please don't kid yourselves that our T&Cs are over generous compared with private sector. Many of my friends are paid higher salaries, get equal leave, pay rises and bonuses (£2000!) for doing very similar roles with similar responsibilities. Frankly the three leaders who paid tribute to the civil service as "a precious national asset" are missing a major factor. Staff surveys show no improvements or worsening positions in many of the key areas, why do they think this is?.............it's because we are fed up, down trodden and beaten up by government who don't give a flying fig or senior leaders who probably aren't affected by the caps. If we are so much of an asset start rewarding us. Over the last 5/6 years my salary and pension has been hit so hard I'm contemplating going for good. 20+ years of experience, loyal and very good at my job but I will go, along with a lot more people in similar positions. I don't care how much I'll lose because anything has to be better than this going on for the next five years. Out of touch with reality is a massive understatement.....get real or lose a lot of your precious assets and god help those left behind to pick up the pieces.

Raj (not verified)

Submitted on 14 December, 2015 - 13:44
If this is their response, they are not fit to lead.

Cassandra (not verified)

Submitted on 15 December, 2015 - 00:27
There are many potential explanations for this attitude. But the fact is, it is arrogance. It is an arrogance born of the assumption that every successful delivery is down to a successful "leader", not to the efforts of those who actually achieve objectives despite a context of bad policy and bad planning. It is an arrogance which claims credit for "efficiencies", when in fact all that is being achieved is economy - cutting the workforce and cutting its pay, and then denying the credit to those who continue to churn out results by using precisely the "flexibility" being claimed as a benefit to the worker, not the employer. Perhaps someone should inform Messrs Heywood and Manzoni of the number of days banked leave and the number of hours of flexi-working foregone which have enabled the continuing performance of the Civil Service in the face of ill planned ideologically driven cuts, whose successful implementation has been due, not largely but solely, to the increased and increasing efforts of those people whose value is so disgracefully disparaged by the flavour of this continuing assault on their terms and conditions.

Tax professional (not verified)

Submitted on 15 December, 2015 - 08:01
I met with a recruitment consultant last week - I can earn double my money outside with the same flexibility of working hours but more homeworking. Flexi time, my pension and a workplace full of mice is not worth £50k. I'm outta here. Idiots.

Cassandra (not verified)

Submitted on 15 December, 2015 - 14:02
Very best of luck to you!

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 17 December, 2015 - 13:29
Which recruitment consultants did you use?

Billy D

Submitted on 30 December, 2015 - 13:13
All the best with your escape.

Joe MoD (not verified)

Submitted on 17 December, 2015 - 13:16
As an engineer I consider myself fairly numerate. So the quote - "a move the Office for Budget Responsibility says has helped to reduce the need for job losses" when we have lost over 20% already with another 30% to go is a logical step I can't understand. But, I'm only an engineer and can't understand anything complicated... Agreed, we have pretty good terms and conditions, for maternity and paternity leave, sick leave etc. But these good conditions are not going to pay my mortgage when the interest rates go up. So questions to 2 sets of people - 1. In the light of Sir Jermy's interview on "how realistic Civil Servants are" - and this artticle. Is this what you really believe? Come and talk to some of the proliteriate without them knowing you are the SCS. 2. To the Civil Service Unions - Please justify the 10% rise in Union fees over the last 5 years.

Billy D (BIS) (not verified)

Submitted on 30 December, 2015 - 13:09
I am actually glad to be leaving in March. One point is right that leave and some conditions are quite generous but agian this does nothing for those who don;t have children. Unfortunately, no point in having leave if you haven't got any money to spend. As regards, the learning and development programme it is utter rubbish and much worse than when I started. On a related point, the draconian performance management system does little to motivate people. The truth of the matter is that staying in the Civil Service entails a big risk in remuneration as downsizing continues. Not one that I was prepared to entertain.

PCS rep. (not verified)

Submitted on 31 December, 2015 - 13:09
"Citing a Treasury source, The Times said on Wednesday that the chancellor wants to reduce the maximum payment for voluntary redundancy across the public sector workforce to 15 months' salary, down from the current 21 months." Do we have any more information on any concrete proposals from the government to bring about this further detriment to CS terms and conditions in the CSCS other than this Times article source??

Career Civil Servant (not verified)

Submitted on 10 February, 2016 - 15:48
The Civil Service can only be my 'employer of choice' if it remains where I live.....closing offices at the rate they are in HMRC and BIS will leave 'no choice' for those of us in the wrong geographical areas with zero hope of redeployment and therefore redundancy and potentially the loss of our homes as our only 'choice'!

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