A successful Brexit needs more than strong leadership - it needs a strong civil service, says FDA union

11 May 2017 11:56 AM

The next government must urgently invest to give Britain the strong civil service it needs for Brexit and beyond, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman will say on Thursday.

Speaking at the FDA's Annual Delegate Conference in London, Penman will challenge politicians of all stripes to match their campaign talk with the investment needed to ensure that Britain's civil service - which is at its smallest size since the Second World War and continues to shrink with current spending plans - is properly equipped for the major challenges facing the country after the election.

He will say: "For all the rhetoric around 'leadership' and being 'bloody difficult', it will be the hard and complex work of civil servants that will determine the outcome of these negotiations.

"And if they are to be a success, then Britain needs a strong civil service. A strong civil service that can support the negotiations, prepare for and implement the outcome whilst at the same time, delivering high quality public services."

He will add: "A successful exit from the EU takes more than just leadership, it will take a strong civil service. This is what Britain deserves.

"But you don't get a strong civil service by drastically cutting the resources and at the same time piling up the demands."

Penman's call comes as new data from the FDA - whose members include more than 18,000 senior civil servants, diplomats, policy advisors and other professionals working across Government - reveal the reality of life in the civil service at this critical time for the country.

Among its findings, the FDA's Working Hours Survey shows that 91% of members already work more than their contracted hours every week, with 41% working more than six hours extra every week.

And more than a quarter (29%) are already working at least nine hours unpaid each week​ - meaning they are effectively working a six-day week without compensation.

More than two-thirds (67%) of respondents said they had worked while on sick or annual leave in the last 12 months​, while half of those surveyed said they were unable to take their full annual leave entitlement in the past year - with workload the most commonly cited reason for this.

Penman will say: "You don't get a strong civil service if a quarter of staff are working the equivalent of a six-day week and one in ten is working the equivalent of a seven-day week. That's what our latest survey of members' working hours has shown.

"You don't get a strong civil service by holding back pay increases for nearly a decade, meaning some staff are taking home less money than they did in 2010 while a quarter of Senior Civil Service job vacancies are going unfilled, mainly due to a lack of competitive pay.

"And you don't get a strong civil service by sending out former ministers to tramp around the TV studios trashing the reputation of civil servants for having the audacity to speak truth unto power, whilst ministers stay silent, refusing to voice their support and giving those attacks their tacit approval.

"Britain needs a strong civil service and the civil service needs investment. Investment in people, skills, and yes, a decent pay rise. Investment to deliver the most successful outcome possible from our exit from the EU, but also investment to deliver the quality public services our citizens deserve."

Notes for editors

  1. The key findings of the FDA Working Hours Survey 2017 - including comments from members - are available to download here.
  2. The FDA Working Hours Survey ran over a four-week period from March to April 2017 and a total of ​1,433 members - working in more than 50 different employers across the civil service - responded.
  3. FDA General Secretary Dave Penman is available for further comment or interview. Please contact Communications Officer Matt Foster on 07982 514 524 or Tommy Newell on 07738 729 145.
  4. The FDA is the trade union for the UK's senior public servants and professionals. FDA membership includes more than 18,000 senior civil servants, Government policy advisors, prosecutors, diplomats, tax professionals, economists, solicitors and other professionals working across Government and the NHS.
  5. The FDA (formerly the First Division Association) should be referred to simply as "The FDA" and can be described as "the senior public servants' union".
  6. The FDA can be found on Twitter @FDA_union and at www.fda.org.uk.