Written evidence submitted by Public and
Commercial Services Union |
1. The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS)
is the largest civil service trade union, with a total membership
of over 300,000 working in over 200 civil service departments,
non-departmental public bodies and related areas.
2. PCS welcomes this timely inquiry. We are happy
to supplement this submission with any further written evidence
and would also welcome the opportunity to provide oral evidence
to the committee.
3. For the purpose of clarity we have dealt with
each question posed in the inquiry under separate subheadings
How can mechanisms to ensure the sustainability
of Government operations, procurement and policy-making be improved
and further embedded and mainstreamed across Government departments?
4. PCS was delighted to see the recommendation
in the EAC's 2008 report Making Government operations
more sustainable which, citing evidence that PCS had submitted,
commented on the lack of union involvement on sustainable development
issues and recommended (paragraph 69) that:
"....OGC works with civil service unions to
ensure that staff are trained, motivated, and empowered to take
a leading role in mainstreaming sustainability in Government operations."
5. Following this recommendation a sustainability
forum was set up early in 2009 under the auspices of the Council
of Civil Service Unions (CCSU)/Cabinet Office/OGC "Work and
well-being" negotiations. The forum has made good progress,
meeting on a quarterly basis, and focussing on principles for
CCSU engagement in the delivery of sustainable government.
6. Some of the initiatives and achievements to
- CCSU participation in a "Raising our Game"
conference for practitioners across the wider public sector (September
- Publication of a union case study in an OGC Delivery
Plan Update (2009).
- Ongoing work looking at setting up joint sustainability
forums at departmental level.
- Ongoing work to agree a process for joint workplace
- Discussions around the role of OGC in monitoring
and encouraging departments/ agencies/ NDPBs' involvement in the
Cycle to Work Scheme.
- Joint work around sustainable procurement.
7. Since the general election, however, PCs are
concerned that there has been a lack of clarity about what the
new coalition government's broader framework and priorities are
regarding sustainable government. Indeed, despite the government's
rhetoric about being the "greenest government ever"
it is still unclear as to which department is leading on this
8. We are particularly concerned about how the
Prime Minister's commitment on gaining office, to a reduction
of 10% in carbon emissions within 12 months across the government
estate, is being implemented. We are aware that guidance has been
issued by DECC on meeting this commitment
and are concerned that there appears to have been no formal consultation
with the unions - particularly as some of the issues, such as
setting inflexible workplace temperature maxima/minima, clearly
have implications for health & safety, work practices, and
other conditions of employment. We are also concerned that some
of the suggested measures appear rather short-term, piecemeal
and in some instances patronising to staff - contrary to the strategic
approach that the CCSU/Cabinet Office/OGC sustainability forum
has been taking.
9. Furthermore, the "Greener Government"
briefings suggest that the government plans to use its own employees
to test wider behavioural change initiatives; we regard this as
highly questionable, particularly given the lack of consultation.
How can governance arrangements for sustainable
development in Government be improved, and how can sustainability
reporting by Government departments be made more transparent and
10. The government's spending plans, due to be
set out in the Comprehensive Spending Review, are likely to mean
substantial cuts in costs as well as emissions. This also means
that unions have an important role to play in a joint approach
on staff engagement. PCS believes that if each department set
up joint employer/union sustainability forums as we have suggested
during talks with OGC/Cabinet Office this would not only secure
greater staff awareness and engagement but would improve governance
arrangements and also increase ownership and accountability.
11. Joint employer/union sustainability forums
could publish annual progress reports with recommendations for
12. In this context we would reiterate the comments
we made when we submitted evidence to the EAC's 2008 enquiry on
sustainable government: if union green representatives are to
be effective in performing the role of helping departments in
the crucial task of securing behavioural change and reducing emissions
they need formal rights to time off for trade union duties and
activities under the Acas Code of Practice Time off for Trade
Union Duties and Activities.
13. The TUC's successive GreenWorkplace
projects have shown clearly the potential for change when employers
and unions work together on these issues
as has the local strategic partnership at Bristol City Council,
Was the SDC successful in fulfilling its remit?
Which aspects of its work have reached a natural end, or are otherwise
of less importance, and which remain of particular continuing
14. The SDC's successive Sustainable Development
in Government reports have, in our view, been invaluable in
monitoring and scrutinising the progress of government in making
its own estate more sustainable, in making government accountable
and encouraging government to raise its game.
15. The SDC's most recent report, Becoming
the "Greenest Government Ever", published in July
this year (on the same day that the government announced that
the SDC was to be abolished), makes clear that while much had
been achieved by the previous administration there is still much
work to do. For example, on the key issue of reducing carbon emissions,
the report shows that government is still not yet on track to
achieve the sustainable operations on the government estates (SOGE)
target of a 12.5% reduction in carbon emissions by 2010-2011 (and
30% by 2020). There is also a need, as identified by the SDC,
for some of the targets - such as on biodiversity - to be more
16. PCS believes that the SDC has been very successful
in fulfilling its remit as the UK Government's sustainable development
watchdog and advisor. The commission's "Greenest Government
Ever" report - which reported that £60-70 million
was saved in one year through sustainable measures across government
- demonstrates that the commission, which received £3 million
in funding, was very good value for money.
17. We would disagree with the Defra Secretary
of State, Caroline Spelman MP, who in announcing that the SDC
was to be scrapped said that the sustainable agenda was part of
what the government does "as a matter of course" and
is now "everyday government business". The SDC's Sustainable
Development in Government reports have demonstrated that this
is not the case and that government has had to be cajoled into
improving its performance. We would argue that it is vitally important
that the scrutiny and accountability that the SDC provided continues
and is adequately resourced.
In formulating a future architecture for sustainable
development in Government, how can it take on board wider developments
and initiatives (e.g. to develop "sustainability reporting"
in departments' accounts) and the contributions that other bodies
might make (eg Centre of Expertise in Sustainable Procurement)
18. As indicated in our comments under the first
subheading above, PCS believes the government will only be successful
in improving the sustainability of its own estate if it continues
to do so in consultation with trade unions. Proposals we have
made in OGC/Cabinet Office sustainability talks - such as on joint
workplace environmental audits - could go a long way in helping
to achieve both the short term 10% emissions reduction target
as well as longer term SOGE targets.
19. In addition we suggest that there are many
lessons to be learnt from sharing good practice across government
as suggested in the SDC's Becoming the "Greenest Government
Ever" report. At present there is little evidence of
joined up thinking. The TUC's GreenWorkplaces projects
could provide a useful starting point.
How, without the assistance of the SDC, will the
Government be able to demonstrate that it is "the greenest
20. PCS believes that withdrawing funding from
the SDC was a short-sighted decision that makes a nonsense of
the claim to be the "greenest government ever". It signals
that in the rush to put in place austerity measures "being
green" is a luxury that can no longer be afforded. As the
SDC's Chair Will Day commented in response to the government's
decision to scrap the SDC, the opposite is in fact the case. Measures
to make government greener are also about avoiding waste and saving
money. Our members know this and want to make a positive contribution
to making government operations greener - but not by worsening
their terms and condition, passing on the cost to them or cutting
13 October 2010
2 Greener Government: Pan-government
staff engagement plan and Emissions-saving Behaviour
Change - Briefing for permanent secretaries. Back
See for example GreenWorks, TUC, March 2010 (downloadable
See IDS, HR Studies, May 2010 pp16-18. Back