Defra staff lack ‘confidence’ in bosses

Less than a third of staff working at Defra have confidence in decisions made by their managers, according to a departmental staff survey.

The results have been published in Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA)’s Departmental Annual Report 2012-13.

The report highlighted that only 22% of employees believe that the Defra Management Committee have a clear vision for the future. This is 18 points below the civil service average. It also found that 19% believe change is managed well in Defra, which is ten points less than the civil service average.

The survey also found that 25% of staff believe that Defra motivates them to help the department achieve its objectives. This is 13 points below the civil service average.

The Committee asked the Permanent Secretary how she was tackling these issues of “low morale and lack of confidence in the way the Department manages change”. She said that Defra had embarked on a number of initiatives, many focused on learning and development. 

She added: “For example, it had run a campaign to remind staff that they were entitled to five days training per year, created a leadership programme for senior staff and introduced a series of question times with the senior management team.”

The Permanent Secretary said that the survey results had been poor in 2012 because there had been a fair amount of restructuring which had created a period of uncertainty.

There were also concerns about how the department would address spending reductions.

EFRA said that Defra is one of the smallest of Government departments but it has faced among the most substantial budget cuts, which are set to continue up to 2016.

Launching its report, EFRA chairman Anne McIntosh said: “Defra is a small ministry facing massive budget cuts and which relies on a large number of arms length bodies to deliver many significant areas of policy.

“Ministers must clarify how further budgets cuts of over £300m over the coming two years will impact on the funding provided to these agencies and the ability of the Department to respond to emergencies.”

Elsewhere, the Committee also mentioned last year’s announcement from Resources Minister Dan Rogerson in relation to scaling back waste activities this year.  Under the heading of ‘arm’s length delivery’, the report suggests that councils many now be expected to realise efficiencies in their waste contracts to meet reduced support.

The Committee urged the Government to introduce its levy on single-use plastic bags earlier than its intended implementation date of October 2015.

The study stated: “Reducing the number of single-use carrier bags which are given away is a quick win: reducing both waste and environmental pollution with little effort.

“While we would welcome the development of a fully biodegradable shopping bag to replace existing plastic bags, this should not be a condition for the introduction of the charge. Given the evidence elsewhere, we recommend the early introduction of the charge. When fully degradable plastic bags are available, these should be exempt from any charge.”

Liz Gyekye



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