'Retirement regret', Braverman blasts 'low' productivity – and other civil service news you may have missed over Christmas

The ex-officials considering a return to work, ALBs under the microscope: catch up on the stories you missed
Suella Braverman said asylum caseworkers' productivity was "too low". Photo: Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire

 

Many civil servants have taken time away from the office over the Christmas break – and CSW has too.

But news never sleeps, so here are three stories you might not have read from the last couple of weeks.

Arm’s-length bodies under scrutiny in ‘bonfire of the quangos’ revealed

The Cabinet Office published a list of organisations that will be prioritised for review in 2022-23 under the public bodies review programme announced last year.

Forty arm's-length bodies will come under the spotlight, including the Met Office, UK Statistics Authority, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, according to the list published last month.

The list also includes relatively new bodies such as the Office for Environmental Protection, which was set up after Brexit to fulfil some of the regulatory functions carried out by EU watchdogs.

The review, announced by then-government efficiency minister Jacob Rees-Mogg in April, aims to cut costs and could see the outsourcing of more services currently delivered by arm’s-length bodies.

It will aim to identify savings of at least 5% from the operations of bodies under scrutiny and assess whether there are “more efficient and effective alternatives to deliver the government’s objectives” – up to and including merging or shutting down some organisations.

Rees-Mogg said last the year the review would build on the Coalition government's so-called "bonfire of the quangos", which cut ALB numbers by a third between 2010 and 2015, saving around £3bn annually in administrative cost.

Ex-civil servants ‘regret retiring during pandemic’

Former civil servants and local government staff who took early retirement during the Covid pandemic are thinking about returning to work as the cost of living crisis bites, official stats revealed.

Retirees accounted for around half of the former government staff aged 50 to 65 who left the workforce during the pandemic and are considering a return, the Office for National Statistics figures showed.

“Retirement regret” was higher among ex-civil servants and local government workers than for other occupations. By contrast, only 37% of healthcare workers who were thinking about returning to work had left through retirement – with 27% saying they had quit because of stress.

Of those ex-civil servants who were thinking of returning to the workforce, nearly two-thirds of retired civil servants said money was a key consideration.

Amid soaring inflation, half of those considering a change said changes to their cost of living was a deciding factor. Around one in three said they thought returning to the workplace could improve their mental health, and a similar number said they would be looking for social company or a job they enjoyed.

Braverman says Home Office officials’ productivity ‘too low’

Suella Braverman said the “low” productivity of civil servants processing asylum claims in her department was partly to blame for backlogs that could see accommodation costs for asylum seekers rise to £3.5bn this year.

The under-fire home secretary told the House of Lords justice and home affairs committee on 21 December that there was a “large amount of transformation that we want to embark upon when it comes to asylum caseworking” in the department.

“I should say just for context, what I have found during my few months here at the Home Office is that we have very different practices. Our asylum caseworking team do a great job but their productivity, frankly, is too low. The average decision-making rate of a decision-maker per week is one. We need to increase that considerably,” she said.

She said the Home Office was trialling a system that could see caseworkers process three times the number of claims they are at the moment. 

She also said the department was looking at a “range of alternative sites” in which to house asylum seekers, many of whom are staying in hotels while their applications are processed. This could include disused cruise ships, holiday parks and former student halls, she said.

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