Friday, June 21, 2024

Civil Service diversity jobs will be scrapped

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Civil Service diversity jobs will be banned in a new crackdown on Whitehall “woke” spending, The Telegraph can reveal.

In a radical overhaul aimed at ending the “back-door politicisation” of the Civil Service, mandarins will be ordered not to hire any new staff dedicated to boosting diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI).

Under the plans, there will no longer be any jobs in Whitehall devoted solely to diversity.

Managers will be forbidden from hiring third-party DEI contractors, and officials whose jobs are currently focussed solely on diversity will be transferred into human resources teams and given broader remits.

Esther McVey, the Cabinet Office minister, is concerned that Whitehall managers are becoming distracted by “woke hobby horses” rather than delivering their core functions.

In an announcement this week, she will warn that the public sector must not become a “pointless job creation scheme for the politically correct”.

Writing for The Telegraph, she said the amount of staff time devoted to diversity and inclusion schemes is a “major concern”.

“Indeed, we have some employees in the public sector whose only role is to ensure that departments are meeting diversity targets,” Ms McVey said.

“Time and money which should be spent on the core purpose of the public sector – delivering for the public – is being wasted on woke hobby horses and I’m determined to stop it.”

New guidance on third-party expenditure

Officials will also be banned from spending their department’s budget on external DEI campaign groups, experts or consultants.

Ms McVey said that most of these programmes are not transparent about what impact, if any, they have, adding that their benefits are “unproven to say the least”.

New guidance will be issued to all government departments on third-party expenditure on diversity, making it clear that this can only take place with express sign off and clearance from ministers.

In October, the Chancellor launched a review into all public spending on diversity jobs. Government departments and quangos were ordered to assess how much they had spent on such roles and report their findings to the Treasury.

The review, which identified £27 million worth of spending across Whitehall in just over six months, has now concluded and its findings have been passed to the Cabinet Office.

Department chiefs summoned

Ms McVey has summoned heads of departments and quangos that have spent the most on equality and diversity schemes for a meeting, where she will ask them to explain how this spending has benefitted taxpayers.

Ms McVey said: “Diversity in the Civil Service should never just be measured in terms of race and sex; it should also be about background and differences of opinion and perspective which has not always been the case. Above all it should be about merit.

“However, some managers feel that this doesn’t reflect their reality; and spend millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on advice from so-called equality professionals.”

She questioned whether this is “really what we should be spending people’s hard-earned taxes on” adding that people want their public servants to be “getting on with the job of making their lives easier, not engaging in endless internal discussions about ideology”.

Ministers have become increasingly concerned about the amount of time and money being spent on diversity jobs and initiatives in recent years.

Review into diversity networks

In 2021, the then equalities minister Liz Truss ordered Whitehall departments to withdraw from a controversial “diversity champions” scheme run by the charity Stonewall following accusations that it was promoting extreme ideologies.

Earlier this year, the Cabinet Office ordered a separate review of Whitehall diversity networks and a “refresh” of civil service impartiality guidance to stop officials “using their jobs as a vehicle for political activism”.

Under plans discussed with Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, and Ms McVey, diversity meetings would have to be held before work, during lunch breaks or in the evenings.

Last year, the Cabinet Secretary was warned by senior civil servants of a “woke takeover of Whitehall” that risks “improperly” influencing government policy.

Simon Case was told in a letter signed by 42 staff from 16 departments that ideology on gender promoted by trans activists has become embedded in the Civil Service in a “significant breach of impartiality”.

It said the concept that “everyone has a gender identity which is more important than their sex” is “treated as undisputed fact”.

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