Need to travel first class is based on whether you need to work on the move

I feel I need to respond to the recent letters regarding central government travel – not because I want to defend the level of expense, but because I thought the correspondence was not well thought-out (Letters, Personnel Today, 22 October).

The person who makes the point about the level of taxation obviously has no understanding of how the Civil Service operates, and I would recommend reading Alan Clark’s diaries covering his time at the Department of Employment.

Government expenditure will always rise to the level of the amount that is allocated. Saving on travel expenses would not reduce taxation it would ‘release resources from the back office into front-line services’ (in today’s Gershon-proofed phraseology). Even the most right-wing, red-tape-cutting, mandarin-hating governments have not been able to get past this, so accept it or speak to your MP to ask what they are doing about it.

Trying to work on any east-coast mainline train in the early morning in standard class is impossible, therefore using standard class to ‘travel’ to a meeting is not too bad, but if you are expected to work while on the move, that’s another matter.

The point about public sector workers not lasting five minutes in the private sector is as crass as it is ludicrous. Am I to glean that one of the key capabilities of potential employees is resilience to economy travel? I have moved between public and private sector on many occasions, and have travelled in business class and economy class in both sectors – it depends on context.

Given recent stories about the former BP chief executive’s liking for first-class travel and private jets, is there a whiff of hypocrisy about this debate? We value our employees, as the saying goes, it’s just that the relative value goes down if you work in the public sector. Or is payment for performance/results less valued because it comes out of the taxpayer pocket?

I don’t know the answers, but I do know that governance and ethics are important, whichever sector you work in.

Barry Scarr, director of resources and property,
Castle Morpeth Borough Council




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