Cameron blames civil servants for his own government’s blunders

They say a bad workman blames his tools, a bad manager blames his workforce and now we see a bad Prime Minister blaming his civil service for the mess of which he himself is the author.

On the front page of the Telegraph the Prime Minister blames the “useless” advice from “below-par officials” and whinges about “growing increasingly impatient” with institutional “failures”.

Over the last few weeks the government have fumbled and muddled to bury the numerous embarrassing and damaging headlines that have shined a light on their incompetence.

From the botched budget to the Jerry can blunder, this Government has made mistake after mistake. Now we are back in recession.Cameron is unwilling to take responsibility.

Let’s be clear, the civil service needs reform in project management, efficiency and training. The truth is civil servants did not initiate the shambolic reform of the NHS, did not tell the public to store petrol in Jerry cans, did not tell Oliver Letwin to throw away his constituents’ casework in a St James’ Park bin and certainly did not push the UK back into one of the worst recessions in living memory. The government created this omnishambles on their own.

Francis Maude has now announced measures to make it easier to sack civil servants under the guise of performance management reform; managers will now be “forced to rank” civil servants on their performance. This coincides with a drive to reduce the civil service by over 50% and the charge that the government lacks a strategy.

The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC), looking into strategic thinking in government, produced a damming report into the “chaotic strategy” of the coalition. Tory MP and PASC Chair Bernard Jenkin said that failure to implement a National Strategy could have “catastrophic consequences”.

Giving evidence to the PASC, Francis Maude stated that the” boring operational things” sit in his department; and it is those “boring operational things” that are under staffed, poorly managed and costing this country money.

As a result of poor government the senior civil service is stepping in to fill a vacuum. The truth is the Tories not only failed to win the last election; they have failed to win authority within Government.

Cameron is relying on the senior civil service to run the policy unit, which is now solely staffed and run by civil servants. In his reorganisation of the unit, Cameron also replaced the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, with the Policy and Implementation Unit, which is also made up entirely of civil servants.

Relinquishing policy-making functions to civil servants is clear evidence of a government running out of its own ideas.

Telegraph commentators hinted at a possible coup by the civil service, but this is too generous an analysis.

As I have said once before, the civil service is becoming increasing casualised and weakened at all levels; agency and temporary staff are being hired at almost an equal rate as civil servants are being made redundant. High turnover of civil servants is also increasing. The Cabinet Office alone has a 30% turnover rate and the impact of a pay freeze is reducing morale at the middle and lower levels of the civil service.

Even in the top echelons of the senior civil service turnover is getting higher: in the Crown Prosecution Service it is as high as 86%. In total, across Whitehall, 27% of senior civil servants have quit since the Coalition formed. This leaves the Government in an unstable and vulnerable position dealing with further crises.

Peter Riddell, Director of the Institute for Government, warned back in March that “unless reforms are urgently introduced, there will be the risk of a downward spiral of cuts, inadequate services and a demoralised civil service.”

Let’s be clear, Cameron and Osborne have left a policy and ideas vacuum and Whitehall simply does not know how to react. This degenerate Government have made numerous excuses about their failings – that their unpopularity is a merely a “blip” and that recent mistakes were the result of there not being enough people in Downing street doing political proof-reading. This is simply not the case.

Excuse after excuse, blunder after blunder from this irresponsible and incompetent Tory-led government. We have a part-time Prime Minister with a part-time Parliament who gives tax cuts to millionaires whist the millions pay more.


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