UK government hails relocations; Australian Senate calls for COVID Royal Commission; US Secret Service probes ‘influence operation’: management and workforce news in brief

By on 14/04/2022 | Updated on 14/04/2022
A photograph of the city market in Leeds, UK
The city market in Leeds, where a number of UK civil servants have been relocated to Photo: Pixabay

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UK government has moved 4,000 jobs out of London

The UK civil service has moved 4,000 jobs from London to cities including Cardiff, Belfast, York and Leeds, the Cabinet Office has said.

In an update on the Places For Growth scheme that is intended to move 22,000 officials out of the capital by 2030, the central government department said that nearly a fifth of the plan had already been achieved.

The plan to better spread civil service jobs around the UK is a key element of the government’s levelling up agenda, which is intended to spread economic opportunity across the country and reduce the dominance of London and the south east.

According to the update, 19 government departments have announced relocations of staff, including several that plan to set up second headquarters in the regions.

Secret Service probe launched after men arrested over ‘influence operation’

An investigation is under way after two men were arrested in the United States under suspicion of seeking to influence Secret Service agents.

Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali have been accused in court documents of posing as Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees and spending large sums in an attempt to influence Secret Service agents, who provide protection to the serving US president and vice president and their families, and former holders of those offices.

According to reports, the FBI believed the men had used the guise to get closer to four agents, including one who served on first lady Jill Biden’s protection detail.

The agents have now been put on leave and a Secret Service investigation is underway. In a statement issued to the BBC, a Secret Service spokesperson said the agents will be “restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment and systems” as the investigation progresses.

Government of Yukon extends hiring initiative

The government of the Yukon territory in Canada has announced it will extend its indigenous hiring preference initiative for the rest of the decade after struggling to increase indigenous representation.

The government launched the programme in October 2020, in an effort to increase the proportion of the administration’s employees who identify as indigenous from 15% to the 22.1% in the general population.

However, the government has said the indigenous hiring preference initiative will be extended to the end of 2029. The scheme gives hiring preference in a recruitment process to any qualified candidates who self-identify as Yukon First Nation; or another Canadian indigenous ancestry.

According to the government, since the pilot began in October 2020, 78 successful indigenous candidates have been employed across a total of 632 competitions. This includes new employees and existing employees moving to a new position within the Yukon government.

However, Ashley Kayseas, director of diversity and inclusion with Yukon’s Public Service Commission, told the APTN News website that “it was disappointing to see we haven’t moved the needle as much as we wanted”.

He added: “Typically, we average about 70 new indigenous employees per year, and that fluctuates. So really one of our findings is that 18 months is just not long enough for us to get a true sense of if this preference is going to be working.”

Australian Senate committee recommends COVID Royal Commission

A committee of the Australian Senate has called on the government to form a Royal Commission public inquiry to examine the effectiveness of Australia’s response to COVID-19 to inform preparedness for both any forthcoming waves and future pandemics.

The committee on COVID-19 has made 19 recommendations, which also include the creation of an Australian Centre for Disease Control to improve Australia’s pandemic preparedness, and a seven point plan for immediate improvements. These include a pandemic workforce strategy with an immediate focus on support and protection for health and care and other frontline staff; an agreement between the central government and states and territories on the responsibilities of different levels of government; and agreement on national principles for quarantine, including responsibility for provision of suitable facilities and for funding, management and compliance.

In Australia, Royal Commissions are the highest form of inquiry on matters of public importance. They have broad powers to gather information to assist with their inquiries, including the power to summon witnesses to appear before them and the power to request individuals or organisations to produce documents as evidence.

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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