Letter: Plight of Whitehall exposed

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Sir: Like a thief in the night who suddenly has the lights turned on him, ministers and their policies have been devastatingly exposed ("Ombudsman flays Whitehall over staff cuts", 21 March).

William Reid's report linking the dramatic rise in the number of cases of maladministration by departments and agencies to staff cuts across the Civil Service is highly significant. The annual report by the ombudsman acts as a barometer on the state and health of the Civil Service and I cannot remember any previous report being so critical and outspoken as this one.

Ministers, who for the past five years have paid mere lip service to the idea of better public services, have now been found out. For the first time it is not just the trade unions and the opposition parties who are saying that the Civil Service is in a state of crisis: even the independent parliamentary ombudsman is bitterly complaining that you cannot expect service standards to be maintained or improved if you cut staffing levels year after year.

The fact that the day after William Reid's report was published, the Department of Social Security announced that further budget reductions would be likely to result in an additional 21,000 staff being cut, sends the clearest of signals. Clearly, the need, at any cost, for this unpopular government to finance a treasure chest for a big pre-election tax cut, is a greater priority than decent public services.

Barry Reamsbottom

General Secretary

The Civil and Public Services


London SW11