Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Ministers use Afghanistan crisis to force officials back into office

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Ministers were charged with using the Afghanistan crisis to push officials back into the office after allegations that working from home hampered the government’s evacuation efforts.

The FDA, which represents senior officials, said anonymous allegations that government workers were not efficient enough during the recent crisis were “wholly unfounded.”

It is followed by an unnamed minister who attacks the “culture of absence” in Whitehall and the Post on Sunday: “People were left to the Taliban who could have been saved.”

Dave Penman, Secretary General of the FDA, said The independent one: “It’s the worst way to scapegoat officials for political failure.”

The union leader added: “To say that people died because officials were working from home is outrageous. Anonymous ministers know they can raise these allegations and officials cannot respond. It’s cowardly. “

Government departments could reportedly meet deadlines and targets to force employees to go back to the office when the Covid crisis subsides.

Boris Johnson used his speech at the Conservative Party conference to say that Britain “needs to see people back in the office” and claimed, “A productive workforce needs this stimulus that only comes with face-to-face meetings and water-cooler gossip.”

But Mr Penman said flexible working and pressure to employ more people outside of London were part of the government’s agenda even before the pandemic.

“Officials are arguing about it,” he said. “You wonder what this obsession is about. It doesn’t seem to be about finding efficient ways of working – it seems to be about making civil servants easy scapegoats for failure at the moment. “

Mr. Penman related The independent one that the FDA would reject any attempt to introduce quotas so that every government department was forced to have a certain percentage of employees in the office.

He added: “If the introduction of quotas is pushed ahead, it will create completely unnecessary logistical challenges for the government. That would be so counterproductive. “

The union leader also pointed out that many parts of Whitehall have already slumped to very low desk counts due to cost savings prior to the Covid crisis. “In the Cabinet Office there are only three desks for every ten employees.”

Downing Street insisted that there were no plans to set precise targets for the number of civil servants to work from their offices rather than from home.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said Monday: “We are seeing a steady return of officials to work in office. We expect this not only in the public service, but also in the private sector, and it will stay that way. “

The PM spokesman was responsible for the individual departments to monitor how many officials should return to the office.

The Cabinet Office also responded to anonymous claims that sensitive documents could only be held in government offices during the Afghanistan crisis and that evacuation efforts suffered from staff shortages in the office.

A spokesman said, “We reject these claims. The cabinet office and its staff made a significant contribution to the success of Operation Pitting, working around the clock and helping to carry out the largest and fastest emergency evacuation in recent history. “

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