Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Staff at DoE warned over letters about job cutbacks

The Department of the Environment is facing a “gagging” row after civil servants were officially warned about writing to Stormont Ministers about planning staff cutbacks.

Some 270 jobs are to be axed within the DoE’s Planning Service with staff members being offered redeployment.

A number of planning officials wrote to both Environment Minister Edwin Poots and Finance Minister Sammy Wilson in recent weeks to register concern about the cuts.

They then received letters from the DoE telling them their letters were “inappropriate” under civil service rules.

Copies of the Departmental replies have been leaked to the Belfast Telegraph.

A civil service source last night said: “This has caused real concern and is being viewed as a gagging attempt. ”

The DoE letters to staff also detail the arguments for the Planning Service post reductions.

It warned that the redeployment plan was dependent on sufficient numbers volunteering for it.

“If insufficient specialist planning staff volunteer for regrading and redeployment, redundancies will almost certainly follow,” the DoE stated.

“The Department will use all pre-redundancy measures to limit the extent of any redundancies but the possibility of redundancy especially in specialist grades cannot be ruled out.”

The DoE replies to staff reminded them that, under civil service rules, their “duty is first and foremost to the Minister who is in charge of the Department in which you are serving”.

It continued: “You are in breach of your duty, and damage your integrity as a servant of the Crown, if you seek to obstruct or delay a decision simply because they do not agree with it.

“It is your duty as a civil servant loyally to carry out the decision of your Minister with precisely the same energy and good will, whether you agree with it or not.”

A DoE spokesman said it was the Department’s policy not to comment on leaks.

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