The pressure on the department responsible for delivering the government's growth plans mounted this week after a report accused it of bullying and weak leadership.
The ODPM select committee's annual report highlighted the findings of a survey that indicated that one in 10 staff felt they had been bullied in the past year and 8% had experienced discrimination. Ethnic minority staff were nearly twice as likely to have reported discrimination compared with the workforce as a whole.
The same survey also identified what the committee described as a "leadership deficit" in John Prescott's department with only 22% of staff reporting that the department's leadership had been sufficiently visible. An even lower figure, 20%, believed leadership had been effective.
The select committee report said that the department's heads had failed to explain to staff what the ODPM was trying to achieve. This failure had hampered the department's ability to persuade outside bodies to back its ambitious plans for housing.
Another ODPM survey referred to by the select committee confirmed that there was widespread scepticism among outside bodies about the department's ability to achieve its objectives.
The select committe report concluded: "There is clearly a need for the ODPM to work harder at communicating its vision. Like other external stakeholders we remain to be convinced that the department will be able to ensure the co-ordinated government action needed to meet its goals."
Committee chair Phyllis Starkey MP told Building that many of the department's problems stemmed from a failure to communicate its ideas. She said: "One of the problems within the department is that a significant proportion of staff were unclear about what they contributed to the aims and objectives of the department."
We remain to be convinced that the ODPM can ensure the action needed
Select committee report
The report urged Peter Hounsden, the department's recently appointed permanent secretary, to take steps to stamp out bullying and communicate goals more effectively.
It also said that concerns had emerged about resource management at the ODPM, noting that some efficiency targets appeared to have been achieved by double counting, which was unacceptable and must be eliminated by greater clarity in future reports.
John Slaughter, of the Home Builders Federation, said: "It's a big department and pulling it together is a challenging task. But if you look at housing and planning, the Treasury and No 10 are working together on that. There's no question that they are not talking to one another."
But Michael Chambers, the RICS' policy director, said there was widespread discontent in the ODPM about the extent to which it was sidelined over housing and planning.
Prescott’s headaches …
- Staff survey showed one in 10 staff felt they had been bullied in the past year and 8% had experienced discrimination
- Select committe concluded that ODPM “presents its achievements in an unduly favourable light”
- That there was no clear guidance on Thames Gateway
- That there was continuing concern that the rest of government was showing sufficient backing for the ODPM’s growth plans
- Prescott pulled out of 100 m race last week with a sprained foot