Cabinet chief Simon Case lets civil servants work from home as Minister blasts: ‘My office is like the Mary Celeste’
- Many Government departments on Whitehall were largely deserted last week
- Cabinet Secretary has not written to department heads urging staff to return
- Cabinet Minister likened his department to deserted ‘ghost ship’ Mary Celeste
The Cabinet Secretary Simon Case is under mounting pressure to order civil servants back to their offices in Whitehall as one Minister admitted: ‘My department is like the Mary Celeste.’
While millions more Britons returned to work last week, many Government departments remained largely deserted.
Despite the frustration of Ministers, Mr Case, who was appointed head of the Civil Service last September, has not made any written request for the Permanent Secretaries of each department to urge their staff to return.
The Cabinet Secretary Simon Case is under mounting pressure to order civil servants back to their offices in Whitehall as one Minister admitted: ‘My department is like the Mary Celeste’
Likening his department to the Mary Celeste, the deserted ‘ghost ship’ discovered in the Atlantic in 1872, a Cabinet Minister told The Mail on Sunday that he had ‘tried getting people in’ but ruefully acknowledged there was ‘a limit’ to what he can tell officials without more support from Mr Case.
Mr Case’s predecessor, Sir Mark Sedwill, last year wrote to all Permanent Secretaries telling them to ‘move quickly to seek to bring more staff back into the office in a Covid-secure way’.
Those efforts were hampered by the second wave of coronavirus last autumn. But the Cabinet Office confirmed that Mr Case has not issued any written direction for civil servants to return to their offices, despite Government guidance to work from home being lifted in July.
There are almost 470,000 civil servants in central government and 1.3 million council employees in local authorities.
While exact figures for how many public sector staff are working from home are not available, some Government departments are said to have 80 per cent of staff still working from home.
A Government spokesman last night said: ‘We are gradually increasing the numbers of staff in the workplace, while ensuring we retain the flexibility of home-based working where appropriate.’