The Civil Service

Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Over the years, I’ve had in a wide variety of jobs. As well as being self employed, I’ve worked for a sole trader, for partnerships, for limited companies, in education and charities, as well as for multinational companies.

However, for 17 years of my life, I worked as a Civil Servant. I can’t say too much about this, as I have had to sign the Official Secrets Act! However, in my opinion, it was the best job that I have ever had.

It’s very easy to take make a joke about the Civil Service. Lazy, pen pushers, with no initiative? When I left studying Agriculture at university, in the absence of a family farm, I decided that I would become an Agricultural Adviser. I had a choice between working for the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) and ADAS (the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service) – an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF. The Milk Marketing Board offered their graduate employees a brand new car (an enticing offer, and something that 40 years on I have never had). However, I opted for a job in the Civil Service, no car, but possibly a better pension in 40 years time…

I very quickly found that I had made the right decision. The Civil Service is one of the most professional organisations that I have ever worked for. Their training was second to none (and, in my opinion, much better than what I later receive working for educational establishments).

As Civil Servants, we weren’t supposed to have political opinions. I once went onto a farm, and the farmer complained that I had two arms! He was fed up of advisers that said “well, on the one hand…”, “but on the other…”. However, I liked to present people with the facts, and then let them make up their own minds.

In the 1980’s, Yes Minister became a popular comedy. The joke was that the country was being run by the Civil Service, and the politicians only thought that they were in control!

But is this such a bad thing? Government ministers bounce around different departments, and can’t possibly be acquainted with all the facts, for all the departments that they happen to walk into. As a Civil Servant, I was occasionally asked for facts, by a government minister. I always had to be very careful that facts is what I gave them, and not my opinion.

However you can always get a cheap laugh, by knocking Civil Servants! In my opinion, the vast majority are not lazy skivers, but work hard (for a not particularly high wage), making this country a better place to live in.

┬áThis year, one senior civil servant, after another, is being forced out. I find this deeply worrying, as the politicians that are doing this have only a shred of the integrity of most Civil Servants…

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