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Defra to act on staff morale

Defra has said it will take action on morale after the latest staff survey found it was lagging behind other departments.

The pledge came in response to a report by the environment, food and rural affairs (Efra) committee, which also called on the department to explain how it decided policies and priorities in the face of spending cuts.

Defra restated a position outlined in November’s comprehensive spending review, that it would be protecting the maintenance budget of the Environment Agency (EA) “in real terms” during this Parliament.

It added that the EA was expected to work 10% more efficiently with the savings put back into its maintenance budget.

The MPs also called on the department to clarify its strategy for maintaining morale among staff and for ensuring that valuable expertise was not lost from the cuts.

Defra’s overall staff engagement score increased by two percentage points to 54% in the latest civil service-wide people survey, but this was five points below the average across Whitehall.

Now the department has said: “We will continue to maintain a strong focus on capability in selection processes, and in continuing development, so that we retain the most talented people for increasingly exciting and challenging careers in Defra.

“Defra’s operation of a paybill pilot will allow us to continue to make use of flexibilities, within overall limits, in terms of staff pay and performance-related bonuses. This should help further address matters of staff morale.”

As reported by MRW at the time of its publication, the scrutiny report made no reference to waste management or the circular economy.

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