Union bosses accuse civil service staff of playing games over cuts

The Northern Echo: Mowden Hall, Darlington Mowden Hall, Darlington

UNION bosses have accused senior civil servants of being "highly insensitive and crass" after a game involving party hats was used to identify cuts.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) say Department for Education (DfE) officials were encouraged to wear party hats while discussing the future of services.

The Department employs 480 staff at Mowden Hall, in Darlington.

The Government is looking to cut about 1,000 jobs nationwide, and Mowden Hall staff could be moved elsewhere in the North-East.

Last night (Wednesday, January 16), the DfE said the meeting covered service improvements and not a sensitive issue such as job losses.

An internal blog, obtained by The Northern Echo, reveals senior figures, including director of finance and commercial, Simon Judge, put hats on their heads during a directors’ meeting.

They were only allowed to remove them when they revealed services they would cut to save money.

Kathy Prendiville, PCS’ education group secretary, said the behaviour of staff was “highly insensitive and crass”, and wrote to Chris Wormald, DfE permanent secretary, expressing the union’s upset.

She said: “This was a serious error of judgement and it is hard to understand how a group of senior civil servants could consider it appropriate.

“The Christmas period is no excuse for such a monumental loss of judgement, as virtually every member of staff in the department faced a Christmas of anxiety and worry for themselves and their families.”

In his blog, Mr Judge said he told colleagues that he could reach every DfE site - apart from Darlington - on his canal boat.

Ms Prendiville said: “This absurd joke is a clear and deliberate ridiculing of our members’ anxieties about having to relocate to sites miles away from their homes.

“Many of the staff cannot afford the journey to Newcastle, let alone a barge.”

Hundreds of Mowden Hall workers last month staged a protest to keep their jobs in Darlington, and a petition led by The Northern Echo has attracted more than 1,100 signatures.

It will be presented to Education Minister Michael Gove at Downing Street by The Northern Echo and Darlington MP Jenny Chapman.

Mrs Chapman said she was disappointed with the conduct of DfE staff.

She said: “They shouldn’t be making light entertainment out of the situation, they are public sector workers and we expect better from them.”

Janette Durbin, from the DfE, said staff had not behaved insensitively.

She said: “This was a regular meeting of directors and included an item on strategic planning to remove inefficiencies in systems and not staff reductions.

“The approach used was designed to be engaging about a subject that is not sensitive, and had it been so, we would not have used it.

“The management committee is fully aware of the impact of headcount reductions and we are committed to minimising uncertainty through clear and consistent engagement with staff.

“We have always said this would be a difficult and challenging time, but these are necessary steps if we want this country to have the best education and children’s services.”

Comments (6)

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10:14am Thu 17 Jan 13

fracker says...

They are playing games with our lives,and don't give a f**k about us.
They are playing games with our lives,and don't give a f**k about us. fracker
  • Score: 0

10:14am Thu 17 Jan 13

fracker says...

They are playing games with our lives,and don't give a f**k about us.
They are playing games with our lives,and don't give a f**k about us. fracker
  • Score: 0

10:41am Thu 17 Jan 13

Homshaw1 says...

It is certainly insensitive and unprofessional.

How these people get high ranking jobs is a mystery
It is certainly insensitive and unprofessional. How these people get high ranking jobs is a mystery Homshaw1
  • Score: 0

5:43pm Thu 17 Jan 13

greenfinger says...

we need wealth creators not wealth consumers. all those made redundant will finds jobs again in the private sector and the country will be in better shape. the civil service is far too big.
we need wealth creators not wealth consumers. all those made redundant will finds jobs again in the private sector and the country will be in better shape. the civil service is far too big. greenfinger
  • Score: 0

8:59am Fri 18 Jan 13

GeordieB says...

The people at Mowden are trying to deliver public services but as far as the Senior Civil Service is concerned they're nothing more than numbers in a spreadsheet.
Is closing Mowden in the public interest? I doubt it.
So if a Senior Civil Servant is not acting in the public interest, isn't that misconduct in public office? Perhaps the Echo should pursue those individuals in party hats with that. But then again, that's more than re-writing press releases isn't it?
The people at Mowden are trying to deliver public services but as far as the Senior Civil Service is concerned they're nothing more than numbers in a spreadsheet. Is closing Mowden in the public interest? I doubt it. So if a Senior Civil Servant is not acting in the public interest, isn't that misconduct in public office? Perhaps the Echo should pursue those individuals in party hats with that. But then again, that's more than re-writing press releases isn't it? GeordieB
  • Score: 0

2:38pm Fri 18 Jan 13

Spy Boy says...

This is just sick. Who do these people think they are. Are things not bad enough without this sort of demeaning behavior. If I was a union rep there, I'd be looking at sending in a major grievance against the sick moron who came up with the idea and forced his employees to take part in this disgusting ritual. Don't let them off the hook for this. Send in a grievance now !
This is just sick. Who do these people think they are. Are things not bad enough without this sort of demeaning behavior. If I was a union rep there, I'd be looking at sending in a major grievance against the sick moron who came up with the idea and forced his employees to take part in this disgusting ritual. Don't let them off the hook for this. Send in a grievance now ! Spy Boy
  • Score: 0

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