Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Staffing Review of the Wales Office


Purpose and Methodology

  By late 2001 the Wales Office had been in existence for over two years. When the Department was created, its size, its remit, and its special relationship with the Assembly all marked it out as being rather different from most other Government departments. Because of these unusual characteristics it was not possible for those who initially determined its budget and its staffing to foresee exactly how it might eventually have to function. After two years of operation both Ministers and the Head of Department felt that the time was right to examine the existing assumptions. They also felt that this could only be done satisfactorily by bringing in an entirely fresh pair of eyes to take a rigorous and objective look at the organisation.

  Following a tendering process, Inbucon were therefore asked to advise on whether or not the Department's staffing level was appropriate for its current role. Inbucon are a private sector consultancy; the lead consultant on the Wales Office work had considerable experience of reviewing public sector organisations, including some years spent as a staff inspector within HM Treasury.

  The work was carried out in late 2001 and early 2002 and the final report presented in February 2002.

  There were two key elements to the review:

    —  a questionnaire to be completed for as many posts as possible (for the 48 posts in the staffing structure, 36 questionnaires were completed)

    —  follow up interviews with a consultant (interviews were held with 21 members of staff).

  The consultants also met Ministers, visited the Assembly and the Scotland Office, and attended an all-staff meeting to explain the process.

General Findings

  The review found that the Department had more work than it could satisfactorily cope with and that most staff were therefore working under pressure. Amongst the aspects on which it commented were:

    —  the amount of work made it difficult for staff to be proactive. There was not enough time to foster contacts with Whitehall departments or for them to read into or round their subject responsibilities;

    —  although staff were committed to the work, prolonged periods of being over-stretched had the potential to threaten morale;

    —  recruitment difficulties meant that junior posts were often filled by casual or Agency staff. However able these people might be, their limited stay meant that managers felt they could delegate only basic work to them, thus increasing the workload of the managers themselves;

    —  staff were on average working 43 hours a week (the standard working week is 36 hours in London and 37 hours in Cardiff). Even so they were not able to complete all that needed to be done.


  The review's conclusions on the overall staffing picture were as follows:

    "The current staffing complement is significantly below where it should be and this shortfall is preventing the Wales Office from adequately fulfilling its role. In an ideal world therefore, we would be recommending:

      —  the introduction of 13 new posts (being 1 x G6/G5, 2 x HEO/HEOD, 7 x EO and 3 x AO); and

      —  the re-grading of three posts (being 1 SEO to G7 and 2 AA to AO).

  This would produce a staffing increase of 28% which, we believe, would cause some difficulties—partly due to the problem of having so many inexperienced/new people and partly due to the presentational difficulties of such a large (in percentage terms) increase in staffing.

  On balance, therefore, we have decided to moderate our recommendations in order to make them more manageable, by only recommending the essential changes (ie the desirable, but not essential posts have been dropped). The result is:

      —  the introduction of 9 new posts (being 1 x G6/G5, 1 x HEO/HEOD, 5x EO and 2 x AO) and

      —  the re-grading of 3 posts (being 1 SEO to G7 and 2 AA to AO).

  This increase of 9 staff translates in to a 19% increase in staff resources, which we believe is the minimum increase that is required in order to enable the Wales Office to adequately undertake its current role.

  It is also important that the vacant posts (of which there are 5) are filled, as these proposed staffing and organisational changes take that into account"


  In the light of the review, and bearing in mind the many other pressures on the Welsh block, the Secretary of State has decided to add seven posts to the existing complement. These will be at the middle grades within the organisation and will strengthen the Department's capacity to deliver timely and good quality policy advice.

Alison Jackson

Head of Office

Wales Office

October 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 17 February 2003