Government needs specialists


Horsemeat crisis shows that specialists must be at the heat of government

Prospect, the union for 34,000 specialist civil servants in government says that in the wake of the horsemeat crisis the government must reconsider its approach to its specialist staff, learn to value their skills and ensure that civil service reform embeds them at the heart of the Whitehall policy making process.

The union says the government’s rush to dismantle organisations as part of the much-vaunted ‘Bonfire of the Quangos’ has not produced the benefits intended.

Deputy general secretary Leslie Manasseh said: “How many MPs thought through the consequences when voting in favour of abolishing or reorganising Public Bodies.

“Of all the thousands of words written about the UK food supply chain, insufficient attention has been paid to the need for good regulation, consistently applied. Complexity and fragmentation of arrangements for responsibilities across departments and the public sector have added to the chaos.”

As the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee commented last week: ‘the Food Standard Agency’s diminished role has led to a lack of clarity about where responsibility lies, and this has weakened the UK’s ability to identify and respond to food standards concerns.’

Manasseh said: “It is ironic that that after being vilified by some politicians and parts of the media, FSA staff now have an essential part to play in the resolution of the crisis. It is barely three months since we experienced the full force of the Ash Dieback outbreak, with government relying on similarly hard-pressed specialists to manage the consequences.

“The crisis illustrates very well the crucial role specialists must play in government. Far from the caricature of time-serving bureaucrats, they are the go-to people when there is a crisis. Government must take them seriously.”