Civil Service Commission

Open Week Thursday 27 February

Michael would like to know the following about Civil Service pay:

Is your organisation responsible for setting the salaries for Civil Servants in England, Wales, The Isle of Man and Jersey and Gurnsey?

 

Michael

The Civil Service Commission regulates recruitment into the Civil Service, ensuring that appointments are made on merit after fair and open competition.  It does not have a role in matters to do with terms and conditions and contractual arrangements, which includes determining rates of pay. This is the responsibility of the recruiting department.

Thank you for your question.

Adele Biss

Civil Service Commissioner

 

This question, on the Civil Service Code, is from Malcolm in the Passport Office:

I believe in my own workplace there are a number of issues relating to adherence to the Civil Service Code that could be addressed by the commission but are not for the simple reason that very little appears to be done to make staff aware of the commission and the work it does or the code. Most staff know that there is a Civil Service Code but that is about it.

Here at HM Passport office we do a number of short online courses relating to various aspects of our work. I think a course about what the Code and the Commission would be a useful addition to our learning slate. IT would also be helpful if the commission could be more visible in general.

 

Thank you for your question.

The Civil Service Code is an important document for all civil servants, and it puts a duty on their employer to make sure that all staff know about it: ‘your department or agency has a duty to make sure you are aware of the Code and its values’ (Civil Service Code November 2010, paragraph 16).

The Civil Service Commission supports departments in promoting the Code, but as the Code makes clear, the primary responsibility rests with departments. One of the things that the Commission has achieved is the inclusion of a number of questions on the Code in the annual Civil Service Staff Survey. At our request, questions on the Code were first included in 2009, when 75% of civil servants who answered said they were aware of the Code; by 2013 this had risen to 89%. Fewer staff were aware of how to raise a concern under the Code, but this has also risen from 44% in 2009 to 64% in 2013.

I agree that a short on-line course on the Code and the Commission would be a good idea – please suggest it locally, and we will do what we can to support any such initiative from our end. Finally you say it would be helpful if the Commission were more visible. We agree! That is one of the reasons we are running our virtual Open Week, and we are very glad that you found out about it and took the trouble to ask a question.

Thank you again.

 

Adele Biss

Civil Service Commissioner

 

This question comes from Andrew in DWP:

I recently followed with interest a House of Lords Debate, 16/01/14, on the Future of the Civil Service. The main theme running throughout the debate related to “Should Ministers choose their Permanent Secretaries?” and the impartiality of the Civil Service.

The Civil Service Commission was quoted as saying:

“The risk in the Government’s proposal is that it could lead to a Secretary of State substituting his or her personal view of merit for the outcome of an independent, objective assessment process. We doubt whether that is compatible with the legal requirement and it risks candidates being seen to be appointed on the basis of personal or political patronage”.

Civil servants are expected to discharge their duties with honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity. Is this ethos enshrined within the Civil Service Code still achievable when a senior Civil Servant has been appointed by a minister for the duration of his or her term in office? Has the Commission sufficient authority to prevent what seems to be an inevitable politicisation of the Senior Civil Service?

 

Hello Andrew

I agree it was a very interesting debate.

The quote from the Civil Service Commission is taken from our current consultation document and explains why the Commission is resisting the Government’s proposal for Ministerial choice in Permanent Secretary appointments.  I am confident that the Commission has the powers it needs to uphold appointments on merit to a non-political Civil Service.  These powers are contained in the 2010 Constitutional Governance and Reform Act.  This gives the Commission the sole authority to determine the rules for Civil Service recruitment.  There is no Government override.

David Normington

First Civil Service Commissioner

 

Next is an interesting question from Julian in Ordnance Survey:

Can the Commission comment on the implication of what would happen to UK Civil Servants in the event of a Yes vote in the Scottish Referendum and how it would impact on pan UK agencies including pension and pay? I am hearing nothing internally.

 

I don’t think this is a question for the Civil Service Commission-fortunately! If there were a ‘yes’ vote, these matters would presumably be for the UK and Scottish governments to sort out in post-referendum negotiations.

David Normington

First Civil Service Commissioner

 

We kick off Day four of Open Week with question from an MOJ employee:

Good morning, At present I’m in MOJ  and my salary is just above £27k but if I apply for another similar vacancy, my salary will be reduced as all similarly banded vacancies have a starting salary of £24k.   Also, they rarely give any names or telephone numbers in  advertisements to  get advice from a staff member  before applying for any of these posts.

 

Thank you for your question.

From what you say, you do seem to have a problem progressing your career if moving jobs at the same grade means a drop in salary. The Commission does not have any role in matters to do with terms and conditions and contractual arrangements, or internal promotions, so I am afraid we cannot help you with your specific query.

You also make a point about having no contact details on advertisements so there is no-one that you can discuss a vacancy with before applying. A number of people have mentioned this to us and it does seem to be a developing problem. All parts of the public service are subject to tight financial constraints so responding to what could be a large number of individuals’ queries about vacancies may not always be viable.  But I agree that it would be helpful if organisations were able to ensure there is adequate background information with their advertisements (perhaps through a link) including answers to the likely FAQs from prospective applicants.

I do hope you are successful in finding the role you want.

Thank you again for your comments

Adele Biss

Civil Service Commissioner