Saturday, 21 November 2020

Our Teflon Civil Service

Boris Johnson 'asked for Patel report to be palatable', source claims

Boris Johnson is facing questions about whether he tried to tone down an independent report which said Home Secretary Priti Patel broke the ministerial code by bullying staff.

Number 10 has insisted Sir Alex Allan's conclusions were "entirely his own".

But a Whitehall source told the BBC that Sir Alex had resisted pressure to make the findings more "palatable".

Yet we have already been told -

The definition of bullying adopted by the Civil Service accepts that legitimate, reasonable and constructive criticism of a worker's performance will not amount to bullying.

It defines bullying as intimidating or insulting behaviour that makes an individual feel uncomfortable, frightened, less respected or put down.

Ah - feelings again. What the Civil Service appears to accept is a spectrum of criticism from effective to ineffective, but if criticism is ineffective there isn't much else to be done. Apart from embarking on tedious and time-consuming HR processes presumably, but that will be part of the game. Not an unfamiliar situation.


Sam Vega said...

Grumbling about the incompetence and inertia of the Civil Service has long been a national sport, of course, because they can't answer back. But the scale of their ineptitude became apparent during the run-up to Brexit, when it was clear that under Cameron and May they had done absolutely nothing to prepare for leaving. I hope Sedwill and the others forced out so far will lead an increasing trend, but somehow I doubt it. They are obviously well-armed with a set of procedures and guidelines drawn up to protect them.

No need for shouting and swearing, of course. "Look here old boy. Could you just run along and get your department to x, y, and z for me? Because if you can't, you'll be out of a job and your reference will be honest as to why. And if I can't sack you, I'll make sure you are working in the post room. Thanks!"

Michael said...

If The Home Secretary is having to deal with over-promoted and overpaid people, then she is right to give them a few clops now and then.

A K Haart said...

Sam - the "Look here old boy" approach could work but there will be a procedural armoury to hinder it. The problem is being drawn into defensive procedures designed to play for time which Ministers often don't have.

Scrobs - I agree and we also need these issues to be more transparent because there is no point voting for politicians who cannot hope to change anything.