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Page last updated at 08:50 GMT, Thursday, 4 October 2012 09:50 UK

'Attacking their own staff... that's a mistake'

A former head of the civil service, has criticised the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, for publically blaming civil servants for mistakes made in the bid to run West Coast Main Line. Three civil servants have been suspended.

Lord O'Donnell, who retired last December, told Today presenter James Naughtie that the problems with the bid "does raise some issues about skills in the civil service... We are suffering in some areas where there are skills shortages."

But he added that civil servants were working under difficult conditions. "They accept that fact that it's a time of austerity, they accept that their pay's been frozen, real pay cuts, their pensions have been cut back, their redundancy terms, all these other things, what they want is ministers to say actually and... make sure that they're doing a good job and praise them.

"When it comes to... the thing that they're doing which is, I think, self-defeating, is attacking their own staff; that's a mistake."

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