The War on Waste Blog: June 2023

It was clear blue skies and a beating hot sun for much of June. Plenty of reasons to bunk off work. Taxpayers will certainly wonder if that’s what civil servants were doing in June, given some of the stories we uncovered in our war on waste campaign.


Shockingly, many departments on Whitehall don’t monitor sick leave properly. Under UK regulations, employees are supposed to provide sick notes if they are taking more than seven days off work. But bureaucrats often don’t bother. Our investigation, published in the Daily Express, revealed that at least 37,545 days were lost in excess of seven days, without a note ever being provided. 


The Ministry of Defence was responsible for 35,065 of the days lost. But the departments for the environment and health also saw days lost. 


This is unacceptable. Clearly, if an employee is genuinely unable to work due to sickness or injury, they deserve the time and space to get better. But with that comes the responsibility to provide the most basic evidence. In a gargantuan bureaucracy, record-keeping is vital and civil servants can’t be taking weeks off with no formal explanation. Otherwise, how can we have any confidence that these days are being lost for good reason? Fortunately some departments do require notes, and enforce the practice. Hats off to them. But this needs to be government-wide.


When civil servants are working, too often we see questionable uses of time.. We’ve long called out the activities of civil service staff networks, which take up time and money when both are precious. In June a newsletter produced by the civil service vegan network included an article describing rats as "valuable, intelligent beings" which can experience "a wide range of emotions including empathy.” Our investigation was published in the Daily Star.


June saw yet another council bankruptcy, this time in Woking. We lost no time visiting the council, a video of which can be seen here. But we also took a peek at the senior salaries not just at Woking but at all of the bankrupt councils. Turns out at Slough, Croydon, Thurrock and Woking there are 45 officials earning bumper six-figure salaries. Given the financial state of those councils, they’ve got serious work to do if they want to begin to justify their pay packets. Read more in the Daily Express.


With all the waste we regularly reveal, questions are inevitably asked about what it could have been spent on. Well we revealed in June that the UK’s tax system is mostly based on outdated software, some of it decades old. Ministers might have been better off using precious resources to keep our vital systems up to date than wasting vast sums on pointless pet projects. Our investigation was published in The Observer.


Be sure to check out the July edition of this blog, when we will reveal how much was spent on painting a second prime ministerial plane…


If you suspect public bodies of wasting money and want us to investigate, let me know at [email protected]

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience.  More info. Okay