Sunday 24 January 2016

"The highlights of 2015 for the [UK] Civil Service"

Sir Jeremy Heywood is the Cabinet Secretary and the Head of the UK's Home Civil Service.

He published his review of calendar 2015 in a series of 54 tweets between 23 December 2015 and 3 January 2016, a period he refers to as the 12 days of the Civil Service Christmas.

54 tweets about the highlights of the year as far as the Civil Service is concerned, month by month. The introductory tweet alongside and one for each month makes 13. 41 to go.

Some initiatives have Sir Jeremy's name obviously on them:
Sir Jeremy (5) set out his priorities in January 2015 sent his first tweet (in March 2015), launched a Leadership Statement, launched a Shadow Board and launched new Implementation Task Forces to drive the delivery of top cross-department priorities.

2015 was a successful year for the Civil Service ...
Achievements (18) The rate of employment reached a record high, the Americans followed the UK example and introduced Civil Service exams, the government carried on functioning despite the general election, the Civil Service celebrated its 160th birthday and Magna Carta its 800th, Scotland's will be one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world, a historic deal was reached with Iran, the government was still in power 100 days after the election, HM the Queen became our longest-reigning monarch, the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked the Civil Service for ideas on how to make the Civil Service more efficient, the government will invest a record amount in digital transformation, thousands of Civil Servants attended "fantastic" Civil Service Live events all over the country, the Civil Service was lectured to on the subject of fraud by the fraudster Frank Abagnale, Sierra Leone was declared ebola-free, the award-winning face of the UK government on-line – GOV.UK – had its two billionth hit, public servants worked around the clock to limit flood damage, the Paris Agreement on global climate change was signed and Britain's first official astronaut was launched into space.

... which attracted condign recognition:
Praise (9) Ipsos MORI said the public trust the Civil Service, the Queen praised the Civil Service in a speech at the Home Office, the Times newspaper declared the Civil Service a good place for (a) graduates and (b) women to work, the Major Projects Authority said there had been a "range" of improvements in 188 government projects, the OECD said the UK Civil Service is above average in open data and social media, the Chancellor of the Exchequer thanked the "brilliant officials" of the Civil Service for working on the Spending Review, the Civil Service Awards recognised the "fantastic" work completed by the Civil Service and the Civil Service Diversity & Inclusion Awards recognised those who champion difference.

Sir Jeremy's Civil Service is its people:
Appointments (9) A new Gender Champion was appointed at the Civil Service, there will be nearly four times as many Civil Service apprenticeships, the Civil Service Talent Plan was "refreshed" to help under-represented groups, the Civil Service Disability Champion will increase support for disabled civil servants, a Diversity Champion was appointed and a Social Mobility Champion, more quangos have women on the board, the Civil Service has hired a record number of ethnic minority graduates, four expert diversity advisers were appointed to make the Civil Service more representative and Stephen Foreshew-Cain was appointed head of the Government Digital Service.

The Civil Service has a job to do. It provides the permanent government of the UK, while politicians come and go. Sir Jeremy could have chosen any number of ways to demonstrate that the Executive is doing its job. He chose these 41. Why? What message are they meant to convey? And to whom?

Those 18 achievements. They raise questions. Is it thanks to the Civil Service that employment is at a record high? Or that 2015 is 800 years after 1215? Is there no achievement of the MOD, say, worthy of mention or the NHS?

The nine tweets of praise. Do they stand up to inspection? Is the Major Projects Authority, for example, saying that Civil Service project management is now impeccable? Is there no room to acknowledge failings/areas that need to improve? Shouldn't Sir Jeremy be preparing us for the storm clouds approaching Universal Credit and GOV.UK Verify (RIP), among others?

There must have been hundreds of people recruited to the Civil Service in 2015, maybe thousands. And hundreds or even thousands of promotions. Why are just nine of them mentioned? Why are the rest excluded?

Perhaps it's just us, with our idée fixe here at DMossEsq about the Government Digital Service (GDS), but:

And has Sir Jeremy read GDS's Style Guide?

Under W for Words to avoid, the entry for "deliver" says that pizzas can be delivered, as can the post and public services, but not "abstract concepts" like improvements or priorities.

GDS also recommend that metaphors should be avoided and give as one example "drive" – you can only drive vehicles, according to GDS, not schemes and not people.

Was there really nothing else Sir Jeremy could have tweeted? 12 days of the Civil Service Christmas makes a surprisingly poor fist of it if the idea was to enhance the standing of the Civil Service and to boost morale.

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