Whitehall focus Anti-terror strategy has cut risks

16 Feb 06
Whitehall's counter-terrorism strategy since the London bombings has focused on reducing risks, but communicating that to the public has proved difficult.

17 February 2006

Whitehall's counter-terrorism strategy since the London bombings has focused on reducing risks, but communicating that to the public has proved difficult.

That was the view of the government's security and intelligence co-ordinator, Sir Richard Mottram, when he addressed an event hosted by the FDA senior civil service union on February 8.

Mottram – who also chairs the government's Joint Intelligence Committee, which advises ministers on the work of the British security services – moved to assure his peers and the public that a modified, proportionate and co-ordinated counter-terrorism strategy has been in place since July 2005.

It was, he said, aimed at enabling people to go about their everyday lives while ensuring that there was an effective network of scrutiny and deterrents and a framework for dealing with potential future attacks from 'a new type of threat', such as Al Qa'eda.

Peter Hennessy, professor of contemporary history at Queen Mary, University of London, had earlier suggested that politicians had been drawn into headline grabbing reactions to terrorism by proposing a series of contested laws since July 7, including the government's failed plan to detain suspects for up to 90 days.

But Mottram said that the counter-terrorism work going on behind the scenes in Whitehall, endorsed by ministers, was far removed from the controversy surrounding events such as the trial of Muslim cleric Abu Hamza.

'We have a strategy and it is one that goes under the banner of reducing risks. But if it's about risk, then it implies that the government response has to be proportionate: it can't impact disproportionately on how citizens go about their daily lives,' he said.

But he acknowledged that it was difficult for the government to communicate fluid information about public risks without causing undue alarm.

Mottram's words were interpreted as a response to a leaked memo from Number 10's Delivery Unit last year, which claimed the government's counter-terrorism was 'immature', 'disjointed' and lacked accountability.

The unit's memo included a critique of 'Project Contest', the code name for Whitehall's counter-terrorism strategy that focuses officials on the security services' 'four Ps' of combating terror: preparedness, prevention, pursuit and protection.

Hennessy said it was the job of politicians to improve the public's understanding of counter-terrorism strategies. Referring to the furore over Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair's call last year for MPs to back a 90-day detention plan for terror suspects, he said there were inherent dangers in other public bodies performing that role.

Concluding, Mottram said he believed that public confidence in the security services had not been irreversibly damaged by the events of July 7 and the Butler report on intelligence failures prior to the war in Iraq.

Pay deals stay within 3.5% Treasury limit

The majority of pay deals across the civil service last year met the Treasury's strict 3.5% threshold, with the exception of the agreement to harmonise salaries at the new Revenue & Customs department.

A study of 2005 public sector pay deals by analysts Incomes Data Services, due to be published this week, shows that central government largely met the Treasury's target to reduce the number of multi-year pay settlements involving civil servants.

The key exception, the IDS study states, was 'the new three-year deal negotiated with staff in Revenue & Customs'.

That agreement means that former Inland Revenue staff will receive sizeable increases under a 'harmonisation' settlement that will place all staff into one of seven civil service grades.

Previously, even low-paid former Customs & Excise staff could earn up to £2,500 more for doing the same job as their new colleagues — a legacy of Whitehall's fragmented pay negotiation structures. Thousands of staff could receive around 4% per year more until 2008 under the Revenue & Customs deal.

Chancellor Gordon Brown has also achieved his short-term ambition to shorten Whitehall pay spines, the IDS study shows.

Overall, pay increases across the civil service last year mirrored those in the private sector at between 3% to 4%, according to IDS.

DWP meets target of relocating 4,000 staff from London

The Department for Work and Pensions has almost achieved its target to relocate 4,000 staff from London and the Southeast to the regions by 2008, according to its performance director.

Jeremy Moore, DWP director of planning and performance management, said the relocation plan identified in Sir Michael Lyons' 2004 Treasury review had been a 'considerable challenge', but added that 'the target has virtually been achieved now'.

Speaking at a conference on Whitehall's efficiency programme in London last week, Moore said the DWP had achieved 'at least' 3,176 staff relocations, and had identified the remainder of the posts that would need to be moved over the next two years.

Lyons recommended shifting 20,000 civil service posts away from the Southeast to reduce costs and to create jobs in regional cities. So far, hundreds of DWP posts have been moved to Wales and Northwest England.

The DWP also has a target to reduce its overall head count from 130,000 in 2004 to 100,000 by 2008.

Moore confirmed that more than half of the reductions had already been made.


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