Chaotic scenes at Education Department as civil servants outnumber desks

Jacob Rees-Mogg, making a gesture that well defines him.

Is this Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comeuppance after he went around leaving nasty notes on empty civil service desks, for them to see after they returned from home working?

In notes left for civil servants, he wrote: “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.”

Nadhim Zahawi took Rees-Mogg’s demand for a return to the office seriously, and told officials at the Department for Education to “immediately” return to “pre-Covid working” after an audit found that the DfE had the lowest attendance of any Government department, at a quarter capacity.

Well, unless pre-Covid working took place in corridors and canteens, he didn’t get his wish!

It turns out that, before the pandemic, the DfE only had an occupancy rate of 60 to 70 per cent because of the department’s flexible working policy.

And changes to the department’s estate, such as giving up space at the DfE’s London headquarters, has meant there are fewer desks than previously – 4,200 to accommodate 8,009 staff.

So after the department’s top civil servant, permanent secretary Susan Acland-Hood, was joined by ministers to tell officials to work 80 per cent of their week in the office, chaos ensued:

Civil servants at the Department for Education have been forced to work in corridors and canteens.

Whole teams have been turned away from some offices because of overcrowding.

According to Schools Week, staff were sent home from the department’s Sheffield office after a mass return earlier this month, despite some staff already working from the canteen.

Online meetings were also forced to take place with staff perched on the end of shared seating because meeting rooms were full.

The Tories have insisted that having more people than desks was the practice at the department.

Were they saying that chaos is supposed to be the practice at the Department for Education and that it was the intended result of Rees-Mogg’s interference. How revealing!

And isn’t it curious that, while DfE staff – and presumably other civil servants – scrabble for desk space, another government department looks set to spend £20 million on a luxury townhouse for a single, privileged representative – so she can hold lavish parties?

Source: Department for Education descends into chaos as civil servants can’t find desks after returning to office

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