Is Civil Service accountability above the Law?

Now this is going to be quite short but covers the important issue of Civil Service accountability.

Over recent years I have come across a number of instances where the Civil Service in the execution of their duties have seen fit to impose an interpretation of the Law that has no foundation in legislation.

All well and (not very) good – but what does that mean in practice?

When challenged – the standard response is “our Policy Unit has set out the Rules” – yet when asked how these relate to underlying legislation, NOBODY will hold their hands up and accept accountability. It’s a real failure of leadership.

Take the supposedly simple Rules surrounding an International Student looking to come and study in the UK. Recently these were tightened up to ensure that applicants are intending to study at a bona fide college or school and hence stop a common route for illegal immigration. And quite right too. But then the administrators take the Legislative Requirement that anyone coming to the UK under such conditions must not have recourse to the Public Purse and give them a vicious twist. For the uninitiated the legislation means the student has to be able to support themselves whilst here, since they cannot claim Social Security.

There is Guidance – setting out how much that might reasonably be expected to cost, taking into account London or other locations, Course Fees and duration. But the present approach seems to be to treat that Guidance as immovable LAW. How idiotic when you consider the consequences.

This means that families wanting to bring a relative to live with them whilst they study in the UK (or philanthropists who are prepared to do similar) are apparently required to prove the existence of £thousands (that will never actually be needed to pay for rent etc.,) before a Student Visa will be granted. It appears that nobody in authority considers the human fact that not every student is going to be living in a flat and be paying food and accommodation charges.

This appears to be the tip of a very large iceberg in the approach of Civil Service accountability. Who knows what other invented rules are being rigidly adhered to, to the detriment of human lives? And therefore I think it is time that a more rounded approach was required of our Civil Service Administrators – to think through the intention of the Law and apply that, not rigidly follow rules on the basis that doing so avoids any possibility of being accused of getting it wrong.

We hear via the media of interpretation of other things such as European Arrest Warrants that never expire and cause potential mayhem for a woman who thought she had been acquitted in France. We have absolutely no idea who the people are who make these decisions nor do we apparently have any way of keeping them in check. This is NOT an holistic approach to all the stakeholders in our Society.

It all makes for increasingly dangerous times – and even more so when the result is to mess with the lives of young people who are trying to make their way in the world. So how do we get Civil Service accountability back into the Public Sector?

Answers please – because I’m damned if anyone in a position of power seems to know or is prepared to stick their neck out.