Treasury staff hit by feel-bad factor

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Two years of downsizing and restructuring at the Treasury have left staff morale at rock-bottom, according to the annual staff attitude survey published yesterday, writes Chris Godsmark.

The bewildering mass of statistics reveals that employees feel insecure, they believe they are poorly led, and that the Treasury is held in low regard by the media, industry, the public and even people in other government departments.

It's publication may be a sign of the warm breeze of "openness" sweeping the dimly lit corridors of the civil service, but it suggests Britain's pre-eminent government department is not a pleasant place to work. The 605 staff who filled in questionaires last month were asked to respond to the statement "morale is high at the Treasury". Only 8 per cent agreed, hardly a stunning increase from a the 7 per cent recorded in 1994.

International Survey Research, which carried out the work, compared the findings with similar average scores in private sector organisations. Just 32 per cent of Treasury staff thought they were treated with respect, compared with 47 per cent in private firms undergoing similarly painful changes.

Demonstrating that you can prove anything with statistics, especially when you are an economist, Sir Terry Burns, the Permanent Secretary, pointed to more favourable findings. Staff are happier with the culture in the Treasury, feel they are given plenty of responsibility and are pleased as punch with the quality of their work.

Norina O'Hare from the civil service union PTC had a different interpretation. "Morale is lower in the Treasury than anywhere else in the civil service. With employee numbers cut by a quarter there's a question mark as to whether it's adequately staffed to run the public finances."

Sir Terry, who has reduced running costs by 14 per cent in three years, believed his departmental mission statement, "RESPECT," was getting through to staff. It is a rough acronym for: Focusing on Results, Showing integrity, working with People, applying Expertise, Communicating effecTively.