"No staff suicide is a success": grim civil service report amid job cuts

Civil servants have been left reeling by the level of job cuts to such an extent that one department considers it a success that no member of staff has committed suicide yet.

Those tasked with making budget cuts have been threatened with “physical violence”, as staff across Whitehall have been described as feeling “furious, shocked” and in a “fragile” state.

This comes as more than 54,000 civil servants have been sacked in the last 18 months, a faster rate than Margaret Thatcher did in four years.

This news has emerged after an exhaustive report into the civil service by the Institute for Government.

The IfG warns in its report, titled “Transforming Whitehall”, that waning staff engagement could make further change “extremely difficult” as many see a “bleaker future”.

One official complained to researchers that too little focus had been put on “how change makes staff feel” rather than imposing “logical” cuts.

Another said that the atmosphere had become “dour and hairshirt”.

“Whitehall is at a turning point; the rapid pace of change to date belies a deeper fragility and challenges ahead,” the report reads.

“Two out of three large-change programmes fail to achieve their aims in the private sector and there are reasons to think Whitehall may fare worse.”

“Most departments have struggled to find the capacity and capability required to lead departmental reorganisation on top of ministerial and other priorities.”

Junior officials should be given more responsibility so that programmes can be kept on track in case of changes in senior management, according to the report.

Alternatively, departments should work together to deliver savings if they can’t make cuts solely in their own budgets.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said:

“In May 2010, this Government inherited the biggest budget deficit in the developed world. To ensure Britain can be in the future what it has been in the past, we are acting and taking difficult decisions.”

“That’s why we set up the Efficiency and Reform Group which is driving massive savings from departments and fundamentally changing the way Whitehall operates to improve efficiency through reforms and spending controls.”

“Savings of this magnitude cannot come by trimming budgets. That’s why we are working to transform Whitehall into a leaner, more efficient machine that manages its finances like the best-run businesses.”

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