It shouldn't happen to a civil servant

1st December 1995 at 00:00
Within the new Department of Education and Employment the greatest misery has been caused by staffing changes. All members of staff lost their jobs and had to reapply for up to three posts in the shake-up which followed the merger - the first time such brutal private-sector techniques have been used in Whitehall.

The department's rationale was to ensure openness and fairness, but staff did not always see it that way. In fact, the upheaval led to a certain amount of bitterness and resentment. Compensation came in the form of early retirement packages for those staff members who were not found jobs, with or without pension, depending on the age of the person involved. The department said no one was receiving anywhere near the Pounds 300,000 that was mentioned in some reports.

At senior levels, grade six and above, there was a reduction from 140 to 95 posts. In total, more than one-third of senior civil servant jobs were done away with.

The most prominent casualty was Sir Tim Lankester, initially joint permanent secretary with Michael Bichard. He leaves at the end of the year, clutching his redundancy money, to run the School of Oriental and African Studies, part of London University.

Under him, four under-secretaries in the Sheffield-based training division (the former Manpower Services Commission) resigned rather than apply for any of the new director posts. They probably did not want to uproot themselves from their homes in the Sheffield suburbs.

Their departure has left the Sheffield division feeling leaderless. All the senior civil servants in charge of training until fairly recently are going. Former employment department staff in Sheffield sense a takeover by the education people. However, the directorships have been carved up fairly carefully.

Former DFE people have kept their grip on schools. The further and higher education and youth services are staffed mainly by former education people, but in charge of that area is Roger Dawe, who is a hybrid, having spent much of his career in employment with a recent stint in education.

Lifetime learning and employment is run by Nick Stuart, another hybrid, who spent much of his career in education but had a recent stint in employment.

Another former employment man, Graham Reid, is running the key department of strategy, international and analytical services. Former employment people also control personnel and finance. John Hedger, a former education man, has been put in charge of operations, which includes training and enterprise councils, training and the careers service. It is therefore difficult for either education or employment to claim a takeover by the other.

Enormous effort has been put into talking to staff about the changes. Directors general have been travelling the country to reassure people. One reported that he had been to Darlington twice and Sheffield three times this month. It was not that he had anything new to tell his staff, simply that he felt he should be visible so they could talk to him.

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