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Public sector 'faces political pressure': Managers 'unable to resist interference'

MANAGERS in the public sector are coming under increasing political pressure, according to a survey published today.

With the Government's White Paper on the future of the Civil Service expected to be published on Wednesday, the joint Institute of Management and Centre For Public Services Management study makes grim reading for Whitehall chiefs and ministers.

After a decade of wholesale reform, one-third of the 1,160 managers surveyed say they expect to have left the public sector within the next five years. One respondent even predicted the public service was 'destined for extinction'.

Nearly half said their ability to resist political interference has been reduced. They blamed the decentralisation of public-sector functions, such as managing housing schemes, running schools and hospitals, for exposing them to direct political intervention. The removal of large hierarchy above them has also left them feeling unprotected and vulnerable.

Devolution downwards and further erosion of the central Whitehall machine are expected - along with the introduction of personal contracts for senior civil servants and a new efficiency drive leading to massive job cuts - to be key themes of the White Paper.

One-third of those questioned claimed they lacked the training and development to help them cope with the change; 40 per cent feel inadequately equipped to combat political interference.

The survey also found that public-sector managers are not keen to adopt performance-related pay - also expected to be a core item in the White Paper. Yet, despite this, it discovered they are happy to adopt private-sector language and terminology to describe their non- profit-making functions and roles.

Roger Young, the Institute of Management's director-general was not surprised by the findings. 'Reforms in the public sector mean that many more managers are coming into direct contact with their political masters,' he said. 'If politicians want public organisations to be empowered to take decisions and run their own affairs then the same politicians must give organisations the freedom to do so.'