And they're off! Civil Service told to 'work' from home

Oliver Wright
Monday 26 March 2012 00:09
Comments

It is known as the "silly season": the month when politicians and civil servants go away for their holidays and shark sightings off the coast of Cornwall take on a national significance.

But this year the annual Government shutdown is set to double to almost two months as the Olympic Games takes over Whitehall.

Officials from 16 Government departments have been told to avoid all but essential travel in London for eight weeks from late July until the end of the Paralympics on 9 September.

All job moves and interviews have been cancelled for the period and non-essential, non-Olympic business is being severely curtailed. Supplies are being stockpiled to cut down on deliveries and meetings cancelled or re-arranged remotely.

Known as Operation StepChange, it will affect thousands of civil servants, many of whom are being encouraged not to come into work at all. Up to 50 per cent of the entire London-based civil service is expected to be affected.

It follows fears that London's transport infrastructure will be unable to cope with the expected influx of Olympic spectators.

Games organisers have already launched a huge campaign to encourage private companies to allow their employees flexible working during the period and central Government is keen to do its part.

Many Government departments are based in and around Whitehall – which is both the location for the beach volleyball and on one of the key Underground routes to the Olympic Stadium.

A series of pilots have been carried out in order to assess the practicalities of civil service home working with mixed success. One insider said Department of Business servers were unable to cope with just 150 members of staff trying to log on from outside the building during a recent trial. However, this was denied by the department.

A senior Whitehall source said besides a terrorist attack, ministers' greatefear is a transport meltdown.

...while PM warns ministers to cancel their holiday plans

David Cameron has instructed government ministers not to go on holiday during the Olympics.

The games coincide with the start of the school holidays. But Cabinet members and lower-ranking ministers have been told that they must be on hand to receive visiting VIPs.

The Government has made no secret of its hope that the Olympics can be used to boost British business, and with many of the world's top politicians and business lead- ers in London, there will be scope for what he described as "Olympic mini-summits".

But ministers who have been told it will "look good" if they "staycation" during both the Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, have not been banned from holidaying abroad later in the summer.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in