Managers at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are operating under such huge political pressures that the “catastrophic failure” in implementing its efficiency programme last year was inevitable, according to public sector consultancy, Governetz.
As part of the government’s Gershon Efficiency Review, the DWP is expected to cut 30,000 jobs from an overall Civil Service target of 84,000 by April 2008.
Last week, a work and pensions select committee report criticised the efficiency drive at the DWP’s Jobcentre Plus agency. It described it as poorly planned and said that it had caused a “serious failure” in customer service, staffing, procurement and IT in summer 2005.
Jonathan Werran, director of consultancy at Governetz, said DWP managers were stuck between “a rock and a hard place” because of the pressure to meet headcount reduction targets.
“The DWP is the department expected to lead by example in cutting jobs and generating savings,” he said. “The problem is that it has to be done under huge political pressures.”
The Public and Commercial Services Union said the report supported its view that the efficiency programme was having a disastrous impact on services and called on the department to stop cutting jobs. The union warned that if a positive way forward was not found, it would consider taking further industrial action.
But employment minister, Margaret Hodge, said the situation was improving.
“The report primarily focused on a period when we recognise that Jobcentre Plus experienced difficulties as it implemented a major change programme to improve service standards for customers,” said Hodge.
And Werran said the government was working to address skills issues across Whitehall. “The skills question is one always raised, but the government is attempting to embed greater professionalism in all functions, including HR,” he said.
Personnel Today asked Jane Saint, HR director at Jobcentre Plus, for an interview but she was unavailable for comment.