'Fed up' officials: What a leaked Cabinet Office survey tells us about staff wellbeing and satisfaction

Less than a quarter of the survey respondents say they think the Cabinet Office’s senior leaders have a clear vision for the future
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By Tevye Markson

06 Jul 2022

Civil servants in the Cabinet Office are significantly less happy than a year ago, an internal survey has revealed.

The survey of close to 2,000 Cabinet Office staff, carried out in May and leaked to CSW’s sister title PoliticsHome, shows that satisfaction levels have dropped in every priority area.

Amid plans from the government to cut 91,000 civil service jobs and regular calls from ministers for officials to get back into offices, the department has also failed to meet any of its targets for improving satisfaction.

Here is what CSW learned from the leak.

Spirits dropping

One of the more startling revelations in the “pulse” survey is that little more than a quarter (26%) of respondents said they had been feeling “good” or “very good” in the week leading up to the survey – a drop of 16% compared to a similar survey in July 2021.

The poll was carried out both before and after prime minister Boris Johnson announced plans to return the civil service headcount to 2016 levels. The number of staff saying they had felt “good” or “very good” in the past week dropped after the announcement, from 28% to 26%.

A third of officials responding to the survey said they agreed or strongly agreed that the Cabinet Office was providing them with good support for wellbeing. This was 25% less than in the last Civil Service People Survey, an annual questionnaire with a much higher response rate, conducted between September and November 2021 and published in April.

In another worrying statistic for the department, less than a quarter (24%) of respondents said they believed that the Cabinet Office’s senior leaders had a clear vision for the future, dropping from around half (49%) in the 2021 people survey.. The department’s target for this question was 54%.

The percentage of respondents who agreed that the Cabinet Office kept them informed about matters that affected them was also far lower than in the people survey, dropping from 59% to 43%. The Cabinet Office’s goal for this is 64%.

There was a smaller drop in satisfaction with professional development opportunities. The number of respondents who felt that the learning and development activities they completed in the last year had helped them improve their performance fell by 4% to 44% – moving still further away from the department’s 55% target.

While more than half of respondents (52%) felt that their team was taking action to combat bullying, harassment and discrimination, this was also a drop from last year’s people survey (60%) and is below the department’s target of 63%.

The percentage of staff who said they had experienced bullying/harassment (12%) or discrimination (10%) in the past six months remained largely unchanged.

What do the results say about working conditions at the Cabinet Office?

A Cabinet Office source told PoliticsHome the findings reflected a "hostile environment cultivated from the very top" of the department. "I can only imagine it will get worse as the government digs their feet into their attacks on hard working civil servants," they said.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Hopkins said the survey results shows Rees-Mogg’s "own staff are fed up with this tired, old-fashioned government’s miserable lack of leadership and have no faith in their antiquated vision for the civil service".

But a government spokesperson said people should not read too much into officials’ feedback.

The questionnaire is a "snapshot survey and the results represent less than 30% of Cabinet Office staff in terms of response rate", they told PoliticsHome.

“We are committed to making the Cabinet Office a great place to work, which is why we regularly seek the views of our staff," they added.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister publication Politics Home.

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