Shifting the focus of its campaign of demonisation just a little, the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) has homed in on the Civil Service. The article concerned, authored by non-job holder Rory Meakin, relies heavily on anecdotal evidence from Digby Jones and Alan Sugar, and little else. Both these august captains of industry assert that Civil Service numbers should be cut in half.
Jones made his comments to the public administration committee, and his complaint is that “underperforming” Civil Servants are “moved sideways”. That means they are not promoted, and the practice is one I have seen in action in more than one large multinational corporate (in other words, a private sector organisation).
Meakin, however, does not let such thoughts detain him, and inserts a characteristic smear when he tells “Most people who have had dealings with the public sector can attest to this [twice as many staff as needed]”, but gives no cite, as he made that up.
He goes on “Co-ordinators, officers and facilitators abound” (again, no cite – also made up), and concludes “managers receive very little reward for cutting back waste” (again, no cite, and again made up).
Indeed, the piece neither contains nor signposts any analysis of Civil Service staffing levels. The central thrust, apart from Meakin’s invention, rests on broad assertions from Jones and Sugar, the latter telling that “They employ God knows how many million Civil Servants”.
FACT: the number of Civil Servants in the UK is approximately 520,000. The full time equivalent (FTE) number in the fourth quarter of last year was around 470,000, down by more than a third from a late 1970s peak of almost 750,000. The Civil Service comprised 2.4% of the UK workforce in 1992, but this has now been reduced by a quarter, to 1.8%. All of these figures are readily available, but the TPA have chosen to omit them.So where Alan Sugar gets his “God knows how many million” is a mystery. But it suits the TPA’s malign agenda, so that’s all right, then.