Civil Service back office savings ‘very difficult’

The disparity between pay and recruitment processes across Civil Service HR will make it “very difficult” to create shared service back-office functions as part of a clampdown on costs, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has warned.

Last week the Treasury wrote to all ministers warning that hundreds of back-office jobs -including HR -could be on the line as the government tried to claw back £5bn of costs, to protect frontline jobs in health and schools. Finance minister Yvette Cooper called for saving of at least 20% in corporate services and suggested smaller public organisations and quangos under a certain size should share HR, IT and finance functions.

But Mike Emmott, employee relations advisor at the CIPD,told Personnel Today that realinging back-office functions into a central bank of staff could cause chaos.

“It would be very difficult to make full savings with payroll and recruitment processes still widely varied across departments,” he said. “HR faces serious headaches when on one hand they’re being forced to slim down further and at the same time realign processes that have moved away from a central strategy over the years.”

Last week the Institute for Public Policy Research warned that more job cuts were on the cards for central government departments, a view backed up by the CIPD.

Duncan Brown, HR business development director at the Institute for Employment Studies, agreed there would be additional pressure for civil service personnel departments to make cuts, but said there was no basis for an apocalyptic vision of mass Whitehall HR job cuts.

“Admittedly [the move to shared services] could pose a problem for HR, changing its size while adapting processes across multiple organisations,” added Brown. “However, managing payroll and improving back office flexibility will create a demand for HR specialists with skills in those areas.”

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