Lack of government urgency on green issues means Civil Service eco-friendly courses are running unfilled

A lack of government urgency in training civil servants on sustainability means courses are running unfilled, Personnel Today has learned.

A National Audit Office (NAO) report released last week showed departments are failing to make new projects environmentally friendly, by cutting energy consumption, minimising water use or by reducing pollution.

Just 35% of new builds planned to or carried out ‘green’ assessments in 2005-06. The report blamed a shortage of “knowledge and expertise” among staff responsible for construction and procurement.

Adrian Robertson, sustainability programme director at the National School of Government – responsible for professional development in the Civil Service – said it ran courses on the subject, but people rarely turned up.

“If you look at the HR framework for the Professional Skills for Government programme, nowhere does it say you should think about sustainable procurement,” he said. “It’s not linked to personal objectives. Sustainability is harder than it looks – putting solar panels on the roof of the Treasury is not that practical.”

Shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth said: “It is depressing and embarrassing that nobody is turning up to sustainability courses. The cultural attitude in government departments hasn’t changed where businesses employ people to endeavour to address environmental issues, the public sector has not caught up.”

Martin Hunt, head of built environment at sustainable development charity Forum for the Future, said: “Businesses lack leadership on sustainability. It should be part of any new project, not just an add-on. It’s all very well setting green targets, but staff must learn how to achieve them.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs refused to comment ahead of a parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on the NAO report, due in mid-June.

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