UK

Just 10% of civil servants ‘back at their desks’ despite end of WFH

Civil servants are defying orders to ‘lead the way’ and return to the office this week as the Government attempts to crackdown on working from home.

Thousands of workers are failing to return to their desks in Whitehall and other buildings across the UK, despite Cabinet Office enforcer Steve Barclay telling top officials that Government offices should see ‘maximum use’ from this week.

Whilst ministerial departments saw a slight rise in attendance from last week, many welcomed as few as 10 per cent of staff back to their desks on Monday morning, a Daily Mail audit found.

At Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ cavernous 6,500-capacity building in Longbenton, North Tyneside, reporters counted just 227 people arriving for work between 7.30 and 11am – 3 per cent.

On Friday, Mr Barclay, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, revealed that civil servants would now be expected to return to the office full-time following the easing of Plan B restrictions as the country ‘learns to live with Covid’. 

Transport for London told MailOnline that this morning up to 10am, there were around 1.17million entry and exits on the Underground – up 10 per cent on the previous Wednesday and 51 per cent of normal pre-pandemic levels. 

On London buses, again up to 10am this morning, there were around 1.2million boarding taps – up 1 per cent compared to last Wednesday and 70 per cent of normal. 

At Tube stations with close links to the City of London, such as Mansion House, Aldgate, Canary Wharf and Holborn, there were 115,000 entries and exits this morning, which represents just 36 per cent of normal demand.

Specifically at Shopping and West End stations, such as Stratford, Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Circus, there were around 113,800 entries and exits this morning, which represents 49 per cent of normal demand.

Yesterday, 2.08million Tube journeys were made, which is around 51 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and up 7 per cent week-on-week. On buses, 4.35million journeys were made, which is 71 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.   

But congestion on London’s roads has been almost unchanged compared to last week, with a figure between 8am and 9am in the morning rush hour of 68 per cent on Monday compared to 69 per cent the previous Monday.

The figure from TomTom was 73 per cent yesterday compared to 74 per cent the previous Tuesday; and 71 per cent today compared to exactly the same figure last Wednesday. 

The data represents the extra travel time for drivers on average compared to baseline uncongested conditions – so a 30-minute journey will take 21 minutes longer with a 71 per cent congestion level.

It comes as Citibank revealed today that it will completely refurbish its 42-story office tower in London’s Canary Wharf district in a three-year project that signals that US lender is keen to keep staff coming into the office.

The overhaul of 25 Canada Square, which was purchased for £1billion in 2019, is set to be completed by 2025 and will cost more than £100million with all staff based there having to relocate to other offices while it takes place.

Bosses at Citibank, whose new building will house 9,000 employees, are known to be keen to get employees back in having told staff in London last week that they expect them to now come in for at least three days a week.

On Monday, at the seven-floor, 2,000-capacity Westminster headquarters of the Department for Education, at least 238 staff were recorded entering the main entrance. This was a marked improvement from a turnout of 63 recorded on Friday, but still little more than 11 per cent of all employees

On Monday, at the seven-floor, 2,000-capacity Westminster headquarters of the Department for Education, at least 238 staff were recorded entering the main entrance. This was a marked improvement from a turnout of 63 recorded on Friday, but still little more than 11 per cent of all employees

At the Treasury headquarters on Horse Guards Road, Westminster, around 215 people were recorded arriving for work on Monday morning at the main entrance. The true total is likely higher, as there are a number of entrances into the building, however the attendance is just a fraction of the 2,200 employees the building holds

At the Treasury headquarters on Horse Guards Road, Westminster, around 215 people were recorded arriving for work on Monday morning at the main entrance. The true total is likely higher, as there are a number of entrances into the building, however the attendance is just a fraction of the 2,200 employees the building holds

At the Department for Work and Pensions' central London site, 173 people were recorded getting to work between 7.30 and 11am. The figure was an improvement on the 94 people recorded arriving for work on Friday, but still represented just 10 per cent of the 1,700 employees the building can hold

At the Department for Work and Pensions’ central London site, 173 people were recorded getting to work between 7.30 and 11am. The figure was an improvement on the 94 people recorded arriving for work on Friday, but still represented just 10 per cent of the 1,700 employees the building can hold

Ministers hope private firms will follow the lead back to the office with the mass return of employees boosting ailing city centres which have been damaged by the work-from-home culture.

However the move has been met with consternation by trade unions, with Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA civil service union, branding the plans a ‘distraction’ from ‘partygate’ scandals engulfing Downing Street.

On Monday, at the seven-floor, 2,000-capacity Westminster headquarters of the Department for Education, at least 238 staff were recorded entering the main entrance.

This was a marked improvement from a turnout of 63 recorded on Friday, but still little more than 11 per cent of all employees. 

While one security official admitted attendance remained very low, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi attempted to lead by example, arriving at the office for departmental business at 9.15am.

At the Department for Work and Pensions’ central London site, 173 people were recorded getting to work between 7.30 and 11am.  

Commuters travel on a Jubilee line train on the London Underground during the morning rush hour at 7.30am today

Commuters travel on a Jubilee line train on the London Underground during the morning rush hour at 7.30am today

Underground commuters board a train at Finchley Road station in North West London at about 7.30am this morning

Underground commuters board a train at Finchley Road station in North West London at about 7.30am this morning

Commuters sit on a Jubilee line train this morning as they make their to work in Central London at about 7.30am this morning

Commuters sit on a Jubilee line train this morning as they make their to work in Central London at about 7.30am this morning

Underground commuters wait for a train at Finchley Road station in North West London at about 7.30am this morning

Underground commuters wait for a train at Finchley Road station in North West London at about 7.30am this morning

Commuters sit on a Jubilee line train this morning as they make their to work in Central London at about 7.30am this morning

Commuters sit on a Jubilee line train this morning as they make their to work in Central London at about 7.30am this morning

Commuters sit on a Jubilee line train this morning as they make their to work in Central London at about 7.30am this morning

Commuters sit on a Jubilee line train this morning as they make their to work in Central London at about 7.30am this morning

This included Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, who arrived in her chauffeur-driven Government Jaguar at 7.47am.

The figure was an improvement on the 94 people recorded arriving for work on Friday, but still represented just 10 per cent of the 1,700 employees the building can hold.

Speaking to a reporter, Miss Coffey acknowledged the office is yet to return to capacity, adding: ‘We’re going to start getting back to normal very soon.’ The reluctance to return to the office has been slammed by past and present senior MPs.

Former business secretary and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable on Monday warned of the ‘damage’ that can be caused by ‘mass absenteeism’, pointing to the Foreign Office’s shambolic handling of the Afghanistan evacuation. 

A graph from Transport for London shows how Tube usage fell off in December 2021 but is now recovering again this month

A graph from Transport for London shows how Tube usage fell off in December 2021 but is now recovering again this month 

This Transport for London graph shows how Underground usage has changed over the last two years, split by type of station

This Transport for London graph shows how Underground usage has changed over the last two years, split by type of station

 

He said: ‘There is a lot of evidence that semi-permanent working from home reduces the efficiency and productivity of the civil service and other companies.’ 

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘The signal this sends to the rest of the country is ‘do as we say, not as we do’.’

At the Treasury headquarters on Horse Guards Road, Westminster, around 215 people were recorded arriving for work on Monday morning at the main entrance.

The true total is likely higher, as there are a number of entrances into the building, however the attendance is just a fraction of the 2,200 employees the building holds.  


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