Civil Servants get their school report

It's the summer holidays for a lot of people, the children are out of school and MPs are on recess (I'm sure there are a few jokes to be made with that comparison). The end of the school term was always something to look forward to, six weeks of summer and driving the parents crazy, but for children across the land it also meant your school report. In it you would read about things that you did well that year and things that you "must try harder on". So with this in mind, I have decided to do a mini-school report on the Government and its policy towards civil servants. The pay as well as the number of civil servants and senior executives of non-governmental public bodies (quangos to you and me) have been in the news recently so let’s have see how the issue is progressing.

First is the news last week that the Government had been forced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to disclose the pay details of 28 highly-paid civil servants and quango chiefs who had previously resisted the moves to disclose the details of their pay packages. I blogged on this in my first post for the TPA, at the time I called for the publication of top pay packages to be automatic. The fact that it took the ICO to force the Government’s hand (although I secretly suspect they were glad of it) means they only get a C plus for this. They got the result in the end but it took far too long getting there.

On Monday the FT ran a piece on the number of new pay deals over £150,000 that the Government had approved. There were two bits of disappointing news: the fact that the Government had approved what appear to be nearly 40 new pay deals worth more than £150k, and that George Osborne didn’t seem to want to tell us about the ones that he had turned down. Sorry George, but that's a big fat D minus for that one. The Government should be automatically publishing the details of top earners including the salary packages that they have rejected. Transparency on this issue is important; it allows us to see the workings behind the rhetoric and if an organisation's pay agenda is in line with Government policy.

But it looks like someone might have been listening; yesterday the Government published the full list of senior officials that earn more than £150,000. You can see the list here. The Cabinet office were quick to highlight that the number of civil servants and quango bosses earning more that 150k had been cut by 50, a sure sign that they - and Whitehall - were taking austerity seriously. For that good work, the Cabinet Office gets a B plus for achievement. If they want to achieve an A grade they need to make the publishing process automatic, continue to reduce the number of civil servant earning more than 150k and make the information easier to find.

Unfortunately the rest of the class has not been doing so well. The news this morning is that, despite the Coalition's promise for a civil service recruitment freeze, a series of parliamentary questions from John redwood MP have revealed that the rest Whitehall have not been listening to the teacher.  The Mail has the scoop that, despite the Government policy to halt recruitment in Whitehall, Government departments and quangos have taken on over 4,500 new staff - far more than have been made redundant in the same time. Even more aggravating, the figures reveal that quangos such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which should be scrapped altogether, have been able to take on new staff.

TPA Chief Executive Matthew Elliott said in response to the news, “these figures will reinforce taxpayers' feelings that many in Whitehall believe they can continue on as if it’s business as usual.

Whitehall cannot be allowed to carry on as normal while taxpayers and businesses up and down the country have to adjust to austerity. The bloated machinery of the civil service and pointless quangos cannot be immune to the austerity drive and moves towards leaner, more efficient government.

This revelation does not bode well for Whitehall or the Coalition's school report. They need to go back, do their homework and take the test again. It's time that the Government deliver on its promise of a recruitment freeze as part of its efforts to tackle the deficit. If not, voters will offer their own assessment in 2015, and the Coalition might not like what they have to say.

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