Low pay worsening recruitment problems, says Normington

The government is facing growing problems recruiting into key posts because civil service pay levels are too low, the Civil Service Commission (CSC), has warned.

By Winnie.Agbonlahor

17 Jul 2013

In its annual report and accounts for 2012-13 published yesterday, the commission said that while there is no general problem in appointing suitable candidates for senior roles, there are certain categories, such as IT, procurement, finance and programme management, where “current remuneration is a barrier to attracting strong fields”.

First Civil Service Commissioner Sir David Normington said: “We are seriously concerned that without a complete rethink of the current approach to senior pay, the civil service will struggle to attract the very skills it needs and may find it harder to retain the talent it already has in critical areas.”

He added: “I commented last year on the difficulties of recruiting for key skills in some competitions because of the uncompetitive pay on offer.

“But on the basis of the past year I need to sound a more serious warning. In the past year the number of competitions for senior posts in which there has been no appointment or a limited field of candidates has grown.”

Normington’s comments echo similar calls previously made by the Ministry of Defence’s chief of defence materiel Bernard Gray, who told CSW last month that he is losing people mid-career “because they can’t afford to work for us any more”; and by Mark Russell, chief executive of the Shareholder Executive, who described the current restrictions on civil service pay as a constraint.

The CSC’s report also rejects the idea, supported by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, that ministers should pick permanent secretaries from shortlists of candidates. It says the debate itself is running the risk of “diverting attention from the issues of skills and expertise, which are the real key to successful civil service reform”.

Normington said that while the commission welcomes ministerial involvement in the selection process, he added: “We are wary of any step which risks increasing political or personal patronage in senior appointments.”
Another issue the report raises is diversity in the senior civil service. This has made slow progress, it says, and in some areas has even “gone backwards”.


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