Memorandum from Public and Commercial
Service Union Branch, HM Treasury
1. Thank you for your letter of 12 May 2000
to HM Treasury Departmental Trade Union Side inviting the trade
unions to submit evidence to the Select Committee. I am replying
on behalf of the PCS.
IN HM TREASURY
2. There are three recognised trade unions
in HM Treasury. Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), First
Division Association (FDA) and the Institution of Professional
Managers and Specialists (IPMS). Broadly speaking PCS represents
the executive and administration grades. FDA the senior civil
service and staff who are progressing through the former "fast
stream" programmes, and the IPMS, technical grades specifically
members of library staff.
3. All three unions are national unions
with members across the civil and public services and PCS in particular
has a growing presence in commercial organisations following government
transfers to the private sector.
4. We would first like to note several management
initiatives and achievements which reflect well on the Treasury
and its recognition of the need to take forward the Modernising
Government Agenda for the benefit of staff:
(a) the achievement of the standard for Investors
in People in December: one aspect of this success has been
the Treasury Development Program of training courses;
(b) the debate around and issue of a document
setting out the "Career Deal" for Treasury staff. Amongst
other matters, this provides overdue acknowledgement of the need
for better arrangements for career advice and guidance, and of
the role of specialist groups within the Department;
(c) Management's commitment to targets for
diversity, 360 degree appraisal and other initiatives arising
both from the Modernising Government agenda and Sir Richard Wilson's
report to the Prime Minister on Civil Service Reform;
(d) senior management's willingness to examine
issues such as the particular needs of staff at ranges A to C
(formerly Administrative Assistants, Administrative Officers,
Personal Secretaries and Executive Officers); equality of treatment;
(e) the plans for modernising the Treasury's
main building in Great George Street, which will improve working
conditions and contribute to better team working than the current,
5. We think on the whole that senior management's
interest in the welfare of staff has increased in recent years
and that Treasury's "culture" is somewhat more open
and tolerant than it used to be.
6. The main, continuing challenges for the
Department's management are: translating accurately Ministers'
requirements into likely demands upon officials; obtaining the
staff to meet those needs; and thus avoiding excessive pressure
upon officials which can lead to the risk of mistakes, stress,
poor working relations within the Department or with partners
outside it and the loss of a balance between work and life outside
work. Here, on the whole, we think there is room for improvement.
7. In addition we are mindful of the Department's
poor record for sustaining initiatives and hope that the ambitious
programme of management change being undertaken will succeed.
This need to sustain initiatives has been recognised by management
during the IiP process and as a result they have given us their
8. PCS and FDA are signatories of the Civil
Service Partnership Agreement recently negotiated between Cabinet
Office and Council of Civil Service Unions. In HM Treasury we
are keen to work with the Department in partnership under this
umbrella agreement and we will be seeking a similar commitment
from the department.
9. To make partnership real to our members
we will want to identify with the Department projects with measurable,
realistic and clear outcomes that can be worked on a partnership
basis. The review of the Department's staff appraisal system is
one project that we are particularly interested in taking forward
on this basis.
10. Partnership will require working through
issues together from concept to delivery, sharing agendas and
communicating jointly. This will require a new way of operating
industrial relations in HM Treasury which has tended to operate
on the trade unions reacting to Treasury Management Board views
and on occasion non-negotiable decisions, recent changes to the
appraisal system being a prime example.
Staffing, Workloads and Stress
11. The ministerial requirements have developed
at some pace under this administration with two comprehensive
spending reviews, major legislation on financial services, working
families tax credit and single European currency to note a few
with more major projects being prepared.
12. Moreover, we are aware that for some
years the Department has, at times, struggled to recruit staff
with the level of skills required to meet its ministerial requirements.
The department has made frequent use of long-term temporary promotion
to fill gaps. Furthermore, it has been unable to attract sufficient
graduate recruits, in 1999 for example, the Department secured
only 16 entrants compared to a target of 34.
13. Staffing problems coupled with the major
ministerial requirements alongside the Department's day-to-day
work have taken their toll on staff and the recently published
Stress Audit has highlighted the enormous pressures staff are
working under. Long hours, excessive overtime are symptoms of
a bigger problem and falls short of government policies on balancing
work and home life. Indeed 15 per cent at Range E, formerly grade
7, and 29 per cent of those at Range F, formerly grade 5, at least
10 hours or more work than their conditioned hours each week.
14. The recent Stress Audit (conduct by
an independent academic body) has provided evidence of an intolerable
level of bullying across the Department as a result of these pressures,
behaviour, which is, rightly condemned by management and unions
15. The 1999 pay settlement and encouraging
attitudes from management during this year's negotiations point
to a fresh approach to Treasury pay.
16. Traditionally the Department has been
a low payer and sets a standard to other departments to moderate
pay, which has not been conducive to attracting the calibre of
17. The PCS hope that future pay settlements
will continue to be positive, and sufficient to recruit and retain
staff and in keeping with the commitment from Sunningdale on developing
talent and setting a positive example to other departments when
setting their pay.
Training and Career Development
18. There are a number of successes under
this heading highlighted in paragraph 4 that the PCS have drawn
to the Committee's attention as part of our recognition that the
Department is striving to improve Training and Development.
19. However, there is much work still to
be done. Looking in particular at the Career Deal we are not convinced
that the commitment to developing staff of all grades can be matched
by jobs available, especially for generalist staff and if the
proper resources will be made available to fulfil the expectations
raised by the Career Deal.
Recognition of Management Skills
20. Traditionally management skills have
been low profile and given little recognition compared to technical
and other specialist skills. The PCS believe that management is
a key skill and should be given the same status as other responsibilities.
21. We are encouraged that the department
is taking steps to improve the management skills of team leaders
and line managers but have concerns about the impact on the demands
of these postholders, who will be expected to continue with the
other aspects of their already overloaded posts which may not
marry well with additional management responsibility. As with
career development and training we believe that the centre needs
to take more responsibility, there needs to be a structured management
development programme, a much higher profile and support for the
importance of management roles.
22. The PCS unreservedly welcome the Permanent
Secretary's recent endorsement of the value of diversity and the
determination of management to make the Department "reflect
better the whole of the country's population". We support
the Diversity Action Plan and are encouraged by the ambitious
targets for increasing the representation and career prospects
of women and ethnic minorities across the grades. The Plan is
strong on diagnostics, awareness raising, and better training
opportunities, however, we are concerned that no standing strategic
steering group is in place to take the plan forward.
23. The unions are disappointed that suggested
measures to encourage a better balance between work and lifestyle
merely reflect existing policies that are perceived by a majority
of staff to have had little impact. We would like to see management
re-evaluating its approach to the problem. The commitment to monitor
excessive hours to reduce it where possible is ambiguous. There
needs to be a more radical approach, including a commitment to
improve resources dedicated to reducing staff workloads.
24. We are pleased that the Department has,
at last, been given the finance to complete the refurbishment
of the main HM Treasury building. We are convinced that this will
be of great benefit to staff by creating a much better working
25. We are grateful for this opportunity
to present evidence to the Committee.
26. As you have seen from the content of
our evidence we are very mindful of the status of HM Treasury
and we are appreciative of the good work that the Department is
undertaking to improve matters for its staff.
27. I am copying this letter to Sir Andrew
Turnbull (Permanent Secretary, HM Treasury), Nicholas Holgate
(Chair, FDA Branch HM Treasury), Graham Belchamber (Negotiations
Officer, PCS National Union) and Tom Grinyer (Parliamentary Officer,
PCS National Union)
20 June 2000