back to article UK agriculture department slammed for paper pushing despite tech splurges

The UK agriculture department is "working towards" getting consultant and contractor numbers down to less than a quarter of its tech and digital transformation teams and reducing contingent labor to 12 percent of headcount by the end of the financial year. The Department for Environment, Farming & Rural Affairs (Defra) was …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    As the yorkshire man said "eeeee government"

    The big problem with online-only government services is that when any part of the tech chain fails (and it does - quite frequently and seemingly increasingly often) everything stops in its tracks. There should always be a fallback option, particularly where interactions have legal implications.

    1. TimMaher Silver badge


      A popular club activity in Leeds, and probably the rest of Yorkshire, is taking E by gum.

      Mines the one with the syringe in the pocket.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: eeeee"

        And remember, Roman York was founded by Irish Vikings: Eee Bagora.

  2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    In a way I can understand why Defra, of all departments, could be a bit behind the curve on adopting online stuff. A lot of those forms will be to/from farmers, who tend to live in rural - often very remote - locations. Just this week there was something of a celebratory story in the local news about how a number of farms along a particular valley have just been connected up to mains electricity.

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Between the lines

    5. PAC conclusion: Defra is over-reliant on contractors because it struggles to

    recruit and retain the people with the digital skills it needs.

    Public sector struggles to recruit skilled workers because of the way system has been created to facilitate hiring big consultancies instead.

    This is because public sector can't pay the market rates directly to employees, but they can pay over the market to big consultancies (market rate employee salary plus huge big consultancy mark up).

    This looks like a nudge to abandon cheaper contractors and outsource the work to the usual suspects, as there seems to be no suggestion of how are they going to adjust the pay scales to attract talent.

    Senior civil servants are certainly against it: "Why some teenage looking pimpled geek basically sitting behind tiny laptop in the comfort of home sofa should be earning more money than me?" and it's back to square one.

  4. xyz Silver badge

    It's farming...

    Massive admin, all online, no signal or broadband in a field.

    A. Farmer

    1. MatthewSt

      Re: It's farming...

      Is it easier to submit paperwork from the field instead?

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "reducing contingent labor to 12% of headcount"

    So, they're aiming to fire 88% of their "contingent".

    Does that mean they're going to fire 88% of administrative busybodies ? And nobody has gone on strike yet ?

    Wow. Talk about double standards. Google fires 25 people and it's headline news. A UK Gov administration is looking to reduce headcount by 88% and it would seem that that's just worthy of a throwaway line in one sentence of a 14-paragraphe article.

    Where's the angst ? Where's the revolt ?

    Oh, I forgot. It's administration. Bureaucrats do not know how to revolt.

    1. Andy the ex-Brit

      Re: "reducing contingent labor to 12% of headcount"

      I read it as reducing the portion of their headcount that is "contingent" -- meaning not permanent, full-time employees -- to 12% of the total. So if it's e.g. 15% now, they'd reduce by 3% to get down to 12%.

      1. JamesTGrant

        Re: "reducing contingent labor to 12% of headcount"

        If it’s 15% now then they’d reduce the number of people that fit this category by 20% to get to 12%. Overall this would reduce the total number of people by 3% and so be left with 97% of what they had before.

        Hope that worked example helps!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "reducing contingent labor to 12% of headcount"

      Contingent labour is civil service speak for temporary workers hired directly (short employment contracts, freelancers inside IR35).

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Recruitment freeze

    Defra started a recruitment freeze this month cancelling job interviews, even for the key tech roles this report says they want to fill. You can make of that what you will.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Recruitment freeze

      Yeah, I've had half a dozen replies in the last few months: "sorry, but this post has been withdrawn".

      1. Richard Jones 1

        Re: Recruitment freeze

        Perhaps they lost the papers behind the filing cabinet?

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