Email from Nick Raviden, PCS Negotiations
Officer to Mike Gapes MP |
I wrote to you previously when you were chair of
the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to outline the concerns PCS
had on behalf of our members working in the FCO, in particular
the impact of the localisation of jobs currently performed by
UK diplomats around the world, and also the relatively high levels
of harassment and bullying reported by staff, particularly those
from an ethnic minority background.
I note that the select committee is holding an Oral
Evidence Session on Wednesday 24 November.
While PCS has not made any further formal submissions
to the committee since our previous correspondence, I thought
that ahead of the evidence session this week, you might appreciate
an update on the issues we previously highlighted to the committee.
The committee's report published earlier this year
highlighted concerns that the continuing localisation of jobs
may restrict the opportunities for UK based staff to serve overseas
and that this could damage the FCO's policy knowledge and capability.
At the time the report was published the FCO had just announced
plans to localise over 100 management officer posts around the
Since then, this Summer the FCO announced another
30 posts to be localised. These posts were mainly admin jobs,
often Personal Secretaries and PA's to ambassadors and Heads of
After the recent spending review announcement the
FCO has made it clear that intends to localise even more jobs
in order to make further savings.
PCS is very concerned there is going to be even more
localisation of posts without a proper assessment of the impact
of the most recent localisation programme. Many of those posts
have yet to be localised so the impact of the change is not known.
We do know that there are now fewer and fewer posts
overseas for UK based staff. This is causing morale problems for
staff, who joined the Diplomatic Service on the basis that they
would spend the majority of their career overseas.
We also have a situation now where more junior posts
overseas are fast disappearing. Traditionally this was a good
method to allow younger recruits to get some experience of living
and working overseas before going onto more senior postings. Increasingly
the first posting for staff is now at a more senior level without
having first gained the valuable experience of an overseas posting
at a more junior level.
Another problem of having fewer and fewer UK based
staff overseas, is that those that remain are having to take on
a much bigger workload. This is because there are many tasks at
post that only UK staff can perform for security reasons. Many
of those tasks were carried out by Management Officers. These
jobs are now falling onto Deputy or even Heads of Mission at some
posts, who should be concentrating on more high level diplomatic
issues. This is undermining the resilience of overseas posts.
We continue to have security concerns over the localising
of posts in some parts of the world. This has been highlighted
by the recent difficulties of locally engaged staff in Tehran.
In the most recent round of posts to be localised it is proposed
that PA's to the ambassador's in and should be localised. These
are countries with a high risk of espionage, and we are concerned
that sufficient weight is not being given to security considerations
when decisions are made on where to localise staff.
The main driver behind localisation is clearly costs.
While we believe the damage this causes to the capability of the
UK Diplomatic Service far outweighs any cost savings, we are not
even sure localisation saves as much money as the FCO claim. Two
years ago they said it would save £14 million a year, last
tear that was down to £12.5 million a year and the figure
now quoted is around £10 million. This suggests the savings
are not as big as first thought.
I hope you might find this information useful ahead
of the evidence session on Wednesday, and if you wish I would
happy to meet up and discuss at a later date in more detail the
concerns of our members in the FCO.
22 November 2010