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Tue, 31 March 2020

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Civil service union slams lack of complaints procedure for ministerial staff amid Priti Patel 'bullying' row

Civil service union slams lack of complaints procedure for ministerial staff amid Priti Patel 'bullying' row
2 min read

A major Whitehall trade union has urged the government to urgently introduce an independent complaints procedure for civil servants after Home Secretary Priti Patel was accused of "bullying" her staff.


Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA - which represents senior government officials - accused the government of "dragging its feet" over the establishment of an independent complaints process for civil servants.

Earlier this week, several Home Office sources told The Times that Ms Patel had created a "culture of fear" within the department after she attempted to oust her most senior civil servant, Sir Philip Rutnam.

But fresh claims relating to her time as international development secretary and as a work and pensions minister have now emerged, with some former staff alleging she had publicy dressed down colleagues, sent "aggressive" late night emails, and questioned why some staff were "so f***ing useless".

Allies of the Home Secretary have dismissed the comments, describing them as "malicious gossip".

But Mr Penman hit out at the "inadequacy" of current complaints process for Whitehall officials saying they were "neither transparent, formal nor independent".

"It is simply not good enough that there is currently no formal process for a civil servant to raise complaints against a minister," he said.

The union boss said civil servants working for ministers should have access to the same "clear and independent process" recently implemented for staff working with MPs in the Palace of Westminster.

He added: "It's unconscionable that 100 yards away in Whitehall, if the same type of complaint were raised against a minister in a UK government department then no such investigation would take place and staff would have no access to justice.

"Civil servants deserve to feel safe and respected in their workplace, and ministers deserve to have a fair hearing, with any complaints dealt with in a transparent manner.

"The government must stop dragging its feet on this; we urgently need an independent investigation process to properly protect staff. Change is long overdue."

Responding to the comments, a government spokesperson said: "Government departments have established procedures in place to deal with any complaints."

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