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Bethany Doughty worked as an actuary for 10 years before deciding to retrain as a maths teacher. It has proved to be a lifechanging move, for all the right reasons…

Promotions given to 'appalling' civil service staff, ministers claim

"Appalling" civil servants are promoted out of jobs that they're failing in as part of a culture that "protects inadequacy", government ministers have said in anonymous interviews.

Larry, Downing Street's ratcatcher, has yet to make his first kill

Being poor isn’t hard – skin the cat and make a cosy hat!

The Department for Making The Poor Poorer has been very busy recently

Bruce Forsyth poses for photographs after receiving his knighthood in 2011

Britain's honours system set for shake-up, with ministers given powers to 'fast track' nominations for knighthoods and other awards

Ministers are to be given the power to ‘fast track’ nominations for knighthoods and other awards as part of plans to radically shake-up of Britain’s ancient honours system.

George Entwistle and Sir Jeremy Heywood demonstrate the dangers of narrow professional experience in our highest public servants

The French call it déformation professionnelle - but these blinkered men of the machine are not an exclusively Gallic phenomenon

Assad troops 'kill 106 in one village'

Up to 106 people, including women and children, were killed as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad swept through a small farming village, torching houses and shooting and stabbing residents, activists claimed today.

Civil servants ballot for strike action over pay and pensions

Around a quarter of a million civil servants are to be balloted about taking part in a fresh round of strike action, to protest against cuts to pay and pensions and poorer working conditions.

Lord O’Donnell has accused ministers of blaming officials for self-inflicted problems

Ministers 'attack civil servants to deflect blame from Coalition'

Former Cabinet Secretary Lord O'Donnell says the Government has undermined morale

Quiet, steely and cricket-loving, Hart was much more used to settling disputes over a pint

Jack Hart: Trade unionist who took on the Tory government over the ban on unions at GCHQ

Jack Hart, a leading signals specialist, was an unlikely trade union activist, but on 25 January 1984, Hart, then chair of the committee representing all civil service trade union branches at GCHQ, was summoned to a meeting to be told that the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had decided to ban all unions at the government's secret listening centre in Cheltenham, and at other listening posts. Workers had a choice of leaving their unions or being dismissed. Those who gave up their membership were to receive £1,000.

Whitehall's bid to save £50m, one paperclip at a time

Tax collectors have set up "swap shops" to redistribute surplus envelopes and briefcases. In one Whitehall outpost, staff are using ash from their bio-mass burner as garden fertiliser. Elsewhere, Home Office officials have taken to generating electricity from bootleg alcohol.

Coalition heads for storms as parties diverge before election

Civil Service will need to defuse rows over public spending review, think-tank warns

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez 'in good mood' after surgery

Vice President Nicolas Maduro surprised Venezuelans with a Christmas Eve announcement that President Hugo Chavez is up and walking two weeks after cancer surgery in Cuba, but the news did little to ease uncertainty surrounding the leader's condition.

The shell-loving scientists torn apart by a mystery woman

They lived in Edwardian England at a time of impeccable manners and stiff upper lips, but for these two gentleman scientists something very bitter and acrimonious must have happened to destroy a 25-year collaboration on the study of microscopic sea-shells collected from the other side of the world.

George Entwistle resigned from the BBC

BBC takes advice on clawing back pay-off to director-general George Entwistle

The BBC has taken legal advice on whether it can recoup some of the £450,000 payoff given to director-general George Entwistle, Lord Patten said today.

‘Worst’ civil servants to be named

The worst-performing 10 per cent of senior Whitehall mandarins are to be identified for the first time and put into a programme of “performance management” which could ultimately lead to their dismissal.

We’ll have to work longer and live on less in old age, warns top civil servant

The head of the Civil Service has warned that the public will have to cut costs and work for longer to fund their retirement.

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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform