About Me

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I am an ex-civil servant of 27 years experience.  I worked for most of my career at the Department for Work and Pensions (and its previous incarnations) in the employment area.  I also worked briefly for Advantage West Midlands and was seconded to the East Birmingham and North Solihull Regeneration Zone, a wholly owned subsidiary of AWM, for over six years as Employment Development Manager.

Trained to HM Treasury Green Book appraisal standard; supported writing of bids to GB standard for consideration by EBNSRZ; piloted bids through EBNSRZ’s GB standard internal appraisal system; sat on EBNSRZ GB appraisal panels and from time to time chaired said panels.  Naturally, I did not sit on appraisal panels where the  project(s) under appraisal were ones for which I was the pilot.

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10 thoughts on “About Me

    • May I ask you to clarify that remark, please?

      I would hate to over react, unnecessarily, given I currently perceive your comment not so much as a threat, but as intent to do me some form of actual harm.

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  1. Hey John,

    May I ask your thoughts on the Civil Service Code of Conduct, which for many perhaps reads like a silencing order that effectively discourages CS staff from expressing themselves freely without threat of prejudice, retribution, punishment and potential job-loss. Specifically, do you feel the CS Code of Conduct infringes upon Article 10 of the Human Rights Act…the Right to Express?

    Namaste

    DN

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    • No. Civil Servants, except in certain clearly defined circumstances, have a duty not to criticise their employer in any public forum. They should avoid even being perceived to be partial by the people whom they serve, UK taxpayers, their children and visitors to the UK. Civil Servants should know from the outset the consequences of not abiding with the Data Protection Act 1998, Official Secrets Act 1989, Freedom of Information Act 2000, Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889, Equalities Act 2010 and the Civil Service Code.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey John,

        Thank you for your robust defence. For some, these policies perhaps equate to being marginalised and having eroded further any or all opportunity to freely express, support, or challenge traditional politics and promote ideas and notions that may have potential to encourage fair, effective and decent change for those that the government serve, those for example that depend on Welfare to exist.

        This is a modern age, where information (and yes disinformation) is widely available to one and all and through Freedom Of Information requests can be considered reliable. Do you not feel that an address of this legislation is needed so as to fall in line with the sensibilities and emerging ideas of a modern world that seeks to evolve rather than stagnate by being held subservient to traditional values and redundant policies? Why are freedoms removed from certain people when they are extended to millions of others?

        I am not seeking to argue with you, or contravene current legislation, I merely ask for your honest, open-hearted opinion and reasoning, and thank you in anticipation of offering it.

        Namaste

        DN

        Liked by 1 person

      • No.

        The Civil Service and the Diplomatic Service should seek to be impartial, as much as is humanly possible. They form most of the Permanent Government of the United Kingdom.

        I was proud to be a Civil Servant with forebears like Samuel Pepys. There is nothing wrong with conserving, but where necessary, preserving the tradition, the ethos of public service. Citizens should have some expectation of civil servants not behaving partially.

        I would strongly recommend you read up on the Northcote–Trevelyan reforms. Were the Civil Service to go down the road you suggest then you would return Government to the bad old days. The days when civil servants lost jobs when the composition of Governments changed and when individual Minsters quite often exercised an unchallenged power of privilege to appoint friends, relatives or associates to paid Government positions within their Ministries.

        There is quite enough nepotism in our society today as it is. One should seek to root it out not legitimise it and promote it, because in doing so you strengthen not weaken the status quo,

        Moreover, you would not achieve your aims, if the Civil Service lost its cohesion, sense of integrity and became demoralised. Such a state of affairs would undermine the ethos of public service which is in the interests of no one.

        Those campaigning against Social Security ‘reforms’ need to stop thinking there is a smoking memo out there that will change the terms of debate, if only they could get their hands on it. They need to put their minds to ways of getting fellow voters on their side so they may exert increasing pressure on politicians and not civil servants. They have wasted seven years in the vain pursuit of a silver bullet. They need to do some dull, but hopefully rewarding work, not keep making ever more convoluted FoI requests.

        As an aside, I have been in meetings operating to Chatham House rules, but that approach requires everyone in the meeting not to share confidences outside of it with third parties. I do not think you are proposing such an approach.

        You rightly observe that we live in a modern age. One in which people find comfort in echo chambers with folk of like mind. However, to change the minds of those disinterested in your concerns you need to find a way of entering their space and engaging with them. That will require a degree of empathy and an aversion to cognitive dissonance resulting in a high level of emotional intelligence. Once you have done that you will know how to make the best use of the facts, at hand, to present your case to your target audience.

        There are rarely any short cuts to changing public opinion. And, if you got a more partial Civil Service, how do you know that it would be on your side? Would you really want to run the risk of the likely outcomes from such a scenario?

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      • Hey John,

        Thank you for embracing the spirit of our conversation and presenting something close to a personal opinion. I appreciate your input.

        I agree that C Servants should apply themselves individually with absolute integrity to the actions and activities they undertake, but to do so not for their peers, but for the tax-paying public who ultimately pay for the service of government. Preserving tradition leaves no room for progress or for correct and positive challenge to the status quo to be made. It could be reasonably argued that impartiality is another word for remaining complicit even when truths are available in the public domain and fore-grounded by national newspapers and individuals alike. When wrong doing and when unfairness are blatant, when people dependant on Welfare are held at the mercy of austere policies that impact substantially on people’s lives, then surely it is only fair that challenge is made. The CS makes no challenge to their paymasters but remains forever impartial and happy to assist in the erosion of what qualifies as ‘fairness’. I do however agree that it is the policies of government that ultimately need challenging, as much as it is the complicit activities of the CS.

        A return to the bad old days where ‘individual Minsters quite often exercised an unchallenged power of privilege to appoint friends, relatives or associates to paid Government positions within their Ministries.’ Indeed, one would not wish for that ever again, however, one would not wish for decisions to be made either that provide circumstances where ministers sit on borads of commercial companies, or award lucrative contracts to commercial enterprises where forms of nepotism could be said to prevail. One thinks of the Denmentia Tax, for example, and the fact that Mr May is a senior executive on the Board of Legal and General who carry a 29% UK market share and will gross millions from the sale of people’s estates. To suggest that nepotism doesn’t exist is to ignore these modern forms of being self-serving. Do you agree that such activities should be widely publicised rather than not even mentioned by state cotrolled media enterprises? Do you agree that ministers should be able to obtain vast wealth having been voted into power by a democratic process?

        You mention C Servants being demoralised. C Servants have not had a pay rise since 2010, and yet their paymasters have received salary rises above and beyond the pay-cap offered to public sector workers. Such austerity breeds demoralisation amongst public sector workers, and adds further to the disquiet felt by those at the sharp end of the administration of policies to the public. Austerity, erosion of expenditure on public services, schools and hospitals is creating conditins that are wholly unsustainable, and yet privallage and pay rises continue for the elite. Is this fair on the public? Is this fair on public sector workers? The CService is severly underfunded, it’s infrastructure crumbling, barley able to sustain the workloads and achieve government targets on most levels. It is the public who are let down every time, decisions are made to erode expenditure so as to pay for tax-breaks for commericial companies and the wealthy. An exampe being theose who are moved out of the ESA work-group and lose £30/week, which funds tax breaks for the top 7% of UK earners. Is this fair? Is it fair that vast commercial enterprises do not pay a fair and adequate proprtion of their gross incomes into the taxation system that also contrbutes directly to public services such as health, schools, police officers, benefit claimants and other needful groups?

        What exactly do mean by ‘smoking memo’? Would the fact that Labour overturned a conservative party proposal to remove £12 million pound from the welfare budget for Personal Independence Payment be an example of a smoking memo? If so, this was something not widely reported by the press or indeed even mentioned to CS staff. Why is there no transparancy if the government has nothing to hide? Why are public sector workers not given access to full information? What do their pay-masters fear?

        Cognitive dissoance is a great phrase, and I do agree with you that seeking to change hearts and minds will require great strength of character and the will to see the journey to the end. In a world where information is so varied, contrived, protected, and hidden, providing evidence becomes increasingly more difficult. There is also the huge influence that state controlled media empires have on the minds of the many to overcome and challenge as well. And that in itself is a difficult business. However, as more and more independent news teams and investagitive journalists enter the fray, the more widely exposed are the shortcomings of policy and the activitiuies undertaken by governments and their officials. Engaging the disnterested is an enormous undertaking, people have been fed lies, half-truths and disinformation for so long and lived under the rulership of illusion that truth has become a rare commodity indeed. Perception has been altered by years of indoctrination and propoganda, and people are left apathetic to the reality of the world they persist in. Please watch Adam Curtis’s, Hypernormalisation, it is available on BBC Iplayer.

        I acknowledge your statement; there are rarely any shortcuts to changing public opinion. It is a long-term exercise, but like every journey towards truth, the first brave step has to be taken at some point, or else we, the people will be dragged down in to a black hole from which there will never be a way back. A partial CS, more transparent, more open, and working directly for the paying public rather than for the interests of peers sounds a far better bet than an organisation wrapped up in impartiality and hiding itself behind government decisions, and legislation that silences the workers, and that serves no-one other than themselves.

        I will leave you with one question if I may John…. When it comes to provision of public services, when it comes to provision of welfare benefits, who exactly is it that decides what is considered ‘fair’? Who makes that judgement? Is it the elitists rich who have money, power, and wealth already, and feel they are able to judge what is fair for the common man? Perhaps it is their Godless God of Money who justifies their decisions. Certainly it is not God who decides or else we’d not have division on earth or inequality to begin with. Money is a man-made weapon used to stratify society, affirm positions of power, and maintain segregation between people of the world.

        Thank you again for participating in discussion. I am grateful for your input.

        Namaste

        DN

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      • I am afraid that I find your use of the word, complicit, in the context above, deeply offensive. In fact, I find much of your sub text in that regard rather insulting, too. Not so much to myself as to the many with whom I worked in the voluntary and community, private and public sectors. I know from personal experience that the public service ethos is not the sole preserve of the public sector.

        Jeremy Corbyn, who I have been told for 18 months or more now really cares about those on Social Security, has not committed Labour in its General Election Manifesto to ending the benefits freeze and/or scrap the benefits cap. He, too, practises nepotism when it comes to appointing people to well paid positions in the Labour Party’s hierarchy. He leaves my party wide open to the charge that we are no different from the Tories, except, perhaps, for being more hypocritical, even cynical, than them.

        Is it fair that the Labour Party has put free university tuition before reversing Tory cuts in Sure Start? That would be the Sure Start brought in by those well known ‘neo-liberals’, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Labour’s current leadership puts the few before the many when it prioritises free university tuition over greater investment in Sure Start. The Labour Party’s membership is now dominated by affluent, white, middle class (under)graduate males living in London and the South. Unsurprisingly, they are attracted by policies geared to meet their needs drawn up by other affluent (some even millionaires), white, middle class (under)graduate males living in London and the South, some of whom went to private schools like Winchester and then on to Oxbridge.

        You insult my working class relatives when you talk about brainwashing etc. What appals me about some on the Left, especially the privileged and well off, like James Schneider, is how much they patronise and condescend to people like those only a few streets away from where I am sitting and amongst whom I grew up.

        I fundamentally object to your idea of a partial Civil Service. You blithely ignore the argument that it might not always work in your favour and that brings your whole case into doubt. Once it is partial, you might find it hard to bring a case against it for any perceived transgression, because you have allowed it to operate to a very relaxed set of rules.

        UK Social Security (please stop calling it welfare, that is used in a derogatory manner in the USA) law is based on precedents. You would be hard pressed to maintain that approach, if you would allow civil servants to treat clients partially. You would make it easier for discriminatory behaviour. Some people, thankfully just a few, need no prompting to treat different groups of people and individuals more or less favourably, based on personal prejudice.

        I am a Fabian. We are committed to policy being adapted, with the use of solid evidence, to reflect changing times and needs, but some principles and traditions are eternal. Employment and Support Allowance was, when brought in by Labour, an improvement on Incapacity Benefit which preceded it. Work needs to be done to unpick the damage caused by the Tories over the last seven years.

        In the Civil Service, as elsewhere in society, greater devolution of power and responsibility down to its lowest levels would do much to improve the quality of service delivery as much for those providing it as receiving it. The client, customer, patient, traveller etc should be at the heart of any organisation’s activities whether that organisation be in the voluntary and community sector, private sector or public sector.

        I have no particular issue with public services being delivered by the private or voluntary and community sectors. I do not think it is public, good and private, bad or vice versa. I also think the voluntary and community sector has an important role to play in the delivery of taxpayer funded services. I do not regard profit as a dirty word as it creates tax revenue.

        What irritates me is people, often on the Left, who refer to tax fraud as tax evasion, a middle class euphemism. Where I come from no one calls benefit fraud, benefit rules evasion. Calling it fraud makes it clear it is a crime not a trivial faux pas.

        By the way, peers are one’s equals not superiors. The latter, to whom I think you refer, are those who sit in the House of Lords. They no longer have a major role in Government.

        Although the bizarre elevation of Shami Chakrabarti to the Lords has resulted in her opposite number, whom she shadows, being questioned in the Commons by another Labour member. The Attorney General is now always an MP and so cannot be questioned in the House of Lords. Are you familiar with the word sinecure? Such positions were once very common as gifts to be handed out at the discretion of members of the Establishment. The current leader of the Labour Party, like his forebears, is a senior member of the Establishment.

        I do not accept much of your world view. Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George laid the foundations of our Welfare State (in its positive sense) and enacted the State Pension over 100 years ago. Were I of your mind, I might be baffled about why such people chose to take such a step. No one particular group in our society has cornered the market in principle. I am rather a fan of Michael Heseltine when it comes to some aspects of governance and industrial strategy, but I would never vote Tory.

        A smoking memo would be a document in which IDS called for people on ESA to be murdered. I think we may safely say there is not one in existence, because a civil servant would have leaked it by now. The current system has flaws that need addressing, but it has people within it willing to leak in the public interest, but only infrequently and on very important matters. I once gave an MP an off the record briefing.

        Your proposal would, if enacted in full, bring the business of government grinding to a halt as people became unsure of whom to trust and whom not to trust. That would do no one any good, especially those heavily reliant on taxpayer funded services.

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