Civil service morale has – perhaps unsurprisingly – taken a distinct knock in the face of the spending cuts.
But the staff’s increased scepticism that the top of the office knows what it is doing is most marked with Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms, Eric Pickles major deconstruction of the local government department, and in Vince Cable’s business department.
Staff are also appreciably less convinced that the department’s board is clear about what it is up to at Michael Gove’s education department and in the Home Office, headed by Teresa May.
Each of these departments has seen an 11 to 13 percentage point dip in the proportion of civil servants who believe that the department’s board “has a clear vision for the future of my organisation”.
Julian McCrae of the Institute for Government said that given huge spending cuts and big policy changes in some departments, the results are not surprising.
But intriguingly, the dip in perception that the top of the office has a clear vision for the future – while coming off a much lower base – been appreciably smaller at Iain Duncan Smith’s work and pensions department .
That is despite radical plans for a new universal benefit. That may be because the department, at least tentatively, had been exploring that idea ahead of the election while both pension policy and the government’s ambitious welfare-to-work programme contain much continuity with previous Labour policies.
Interestingly, and despite the cuts they have faced, the Ministry for Justice and the department for culture media and sport are the only two where the overall “employee engagement index” – a composite measure of morale – has risen.
In the case of the MoJ, that is almost certainly because Jack Straw, when he was justice secretary, allowed his department to start planning for the world of austerity to come some 18 months ahead of the general election – with the department engaging its staff on how to do that, rather than semi-secretly devising the solution at the top of the office. As a result, more civil servants now than in 2009 say they have a clear understanding of what the MoJ is up to.