To: Francis Maude, Cabinet Office Minister

Lift restrictions on civil servants’ contact with the media

Thanks to everyone who signed for your support. As a result of the petition response rate and media coverage, the FDA met with Francis Maude’s Ministerial team to discuss our concerns. We have received a commitment on further alterations to the Codes, which will strengthen the commitment to openness and transparency between civil servants and the public.

Lift restrictions on civil servants’ contact with the media

We call on the Government to withdraw the unnecessary, unworkable and unjustified restrictions on civil servants’ contact with the media introduced on 16 March 2015.

Why is this important?

In January 2015 the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, proposed changes to the Civil Service Management Code and Civil Service Code relating to contact with the media, including a requirement that civil servants obtain Ministerial authorisation before any contact with the media.

The FDA argued strenuously that the proposals were unwarranted and unreasonable. However, despite this, on Monday 16 March these changes were made without our agreement.

Guidance already exists relating to contact with the media and no justification as to why such a blanket restriction is necessary has been provided. There has been some clarification on the role of trade union reps and protection for whistleblowers, but very little practical guidance for civil servants over what they may or may not say in public without fear of disciplinary action.

Prior to this change, the Codes already included comprehensive requirements for civil servants to maintain the highest standards of confidentiality, integrity and probity. No evidence has been provided to explain why the existing rules were inadequate. We are additionally concerned that the introduction of the hurdle of Ministerial authorisation introduces a conflict of interest against which there is no route of appeal.

Similarly, little thought has been given to the role media contact plays in a wide range of civil service jobs as a routine part of their role as modern public servants. The requirement now to seek Ministerial authority, or the bureaucracy involved in delegating authority to thousands of civil servants in hundreds of different potential situations where they may be proactively or reactively dealing with the media, simply has not been thought through.


Reasons for signing

  • I think that there should be more contact with the public by civil servants, not less. The civil service should also be trusted to use social media to tell the public what we do.
  • This policy only serves corrupt governments.
  • No more cover ups let's be transparent.

Updates

2015-03-31 08:54:27 +0100
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Petition is successful with 3,033 signatures

2015-03-30 22:27:41 +0100
Success badge small

Petition is successful with 3,023 signatures

2015-03-30 22:09:26 +0100

Thanks very much for taking the time to sign the FDA’s petition to lift restrictions on civil servants’ contact with the media. We really appreciate your support in helping to publicise this issue and move the debate forward.

As a result of the petition response rate and media coverage, the FDA met with Francis Maude’s Ministerial team last week to discuss our concerns. While the amendment will not be withdrawn, we have received a commitment on further alterations to the Codes and guidance being made, which will strengthen the commitment to openness and transparency between civil servants and the public. The Cabinet Office has committed to opening a consultation on any additional changes and Francis Maude has today written to the FDA to confirm this.

We wouldn’t be in this position without your support, along with the assistance of the more than 3,000 people who signed our petition. Thank you again for using your voice and helping us to achieve this change.

2015-03-21 21:50:41 +0000

1,000 signatures reached

2015-03-21 11:36:38 +0000

500 signatures reached

2015-03-21 09:26:51 +0000

100 signatures reached

2015-03-21 09:19:47 +0000

50 signatures reached

2015-03-20 23:35:13 +0000

25 signatures reached

2015-03-20 21:37:40 +0000

10 signatures reached

2015-03-20 18:14:59 +0000

The Telegraph yesterday reported that Prime Minister David Cameron rejected concerns over the changes and stated his own support for them.
FDA General Secretary Dave Penman responded that "“whatever exemptions may have been made for whistle-blowing, these unnecessary and unjustified changes will have the effect of making civil servants think twice before dealing with or responding to the media.
"The FDA feels this can only create a more opaque culture and is interested to see how the Prime Minister thinks this change will help lead to more openness and transparency in the civil service.”
Read the article at:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/11484083/David-Cameron-backs-ban-on-civil-servants-meeting-journalists-without-government-approval.html

2015-03-20 18:00:21 +0000

The Guardian this week reported on the new requirements, quoting FDA General Secretary Dave Penman, who said:
“This announcement is an unnecessary, unworkable and unjustified restriction on the work of the civil service. Survey after survey shows that civil servants are trusted more than politicians, yet this change now requires ministerial authorisation before any civil servant – from a prosecutor being asked for comment outside of court to a job centre manager dealing with a local news story – can respond or make contact with the media.
"Guidance already exists to regulate contact between civil servants and the media. There has been no justification for this draconian change, which seems designed to intimidate civil servants into silence. This panicky last-minute decision appears to be borne out of ministerial paranoia rather than a legitimate attempt to improve public services,”
You can read the full article at: http://bit.ly/1MUXqAV