Stop baiting the right-wing press to trash the civil service brand, FDA tells government – give the service the stability it craves

The civil service needs serious government, rather than “top down, evidence-free micromanagement”.

10 May 2024| News

Speaking at the FDA’s annual conference in London, General Secretary Dave Penman called on whoever is in power after the General Election to:

“give the civil service the stability it craves. Clear objectives with the right resources and crucially, the freedom to manage them. Fair reward to recruit, retain and motivate committed public servants. Then rightly, hold the civil service to account for the outcomes its committed to delivering – but no more micromanaging and no more trashing the brand!”

Penman also addressed the union’s judicial review of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024, stating “we have no choice but to ask the courts for clarity”.

On Wednesday, 1st May, the FDA submitted an application for judicial review relating to the relationship of the Civil Service Code with the UK government’s Safety of Rwanda Act. The Act provides that it is for a minister to determine whether to comply with a Rule 39 order made by the European Court of Human Rights. A direction to ignore such an order would breach international law, and this conflicts with the duty of civil servants under the Civil Service Code to act in compliance with the law, which includes international law.

FDA General Secretary Dave Penman said:

“This is not a decision that we have taken lightly. The government has had plenty of time to include an explicit provision in the Act regarding breaking international law commitments which would have resolved this, but it chose not to.

Civil servants should never be left in a position where they are conflicted between the instructions of ministers and adhering to the Civil Service Code, yet that is exactly what the government has chosen to do.

This is not an accident, or down to poor drafting. It’s a political choice from the government, made not for the good of the country but to avoid upsetting either of the warring factions within its own party.

It’s also irresponsible. Those seeking to undermine the integrity and impartiality of the civil service have seized on the difficulties the government has had in implementing this policy, to accuse civil servants of acting politically.

We have been clear all along that our challenge is not about the policy itself – that is a matter for Parliament. Civil servants know that they have to support the government of the day and implement policy, regardless of their political beliefs, but they also know they have a legal obligation to adhere to the Civil Service Code. Faced with a government that is prepared to act in this cowardly, reckless way, it is left to the FDA to defend our members and the integrity of the civil service.

We do not welcome this action, but neither are we prepared to shy away from it as we must protect the interests of our members and the integrity of the Civil Service Code.”