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Inquiry call.

Byline: By Bill Jacobs and Gareth Deighan

Environment Minister appalled at scandal

A top Government minister has called for a high-level probe into the Naked Civil Servant scandal uncovered by the Chronicle.

Environment secretary David Miliband has demanded a "full and rigorous" inquiry into the appalling behaviour at a North East Government office.

The South Shields MP, who is in charge of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) ( whose Newcastle-based office is at the centre of the claims ( is said to be horrified at alleged behaviour of staff. His deputy in charge of the RPA, Jeff Rooker, told of his boss' anger.

On Monday, the Chronicle reported a probe was under way in the RPA's Newcastle office following claims a number of workers leapt naked from filing cabinets and vomited into cups during workplace pranks.

We received an anonymous letter detailing some of the "depraved" acts which included accusations of drug-taking and sex in the toilets.

When the claims were made, officials for the RPA based in Lancaster House, Hampshire Court, Newcastle, confirmed disciplinary action and a dismissal had already taken place.

Today it has also emerged a RPA worker circulated derogatory comments about farmers claiming subsidies under the new Single Farm Payments scheme. The email circulated among staff described one of the farmers making a claim for subsidies as "crazy, unhinged" and at one point as a "nutter".

It's understood the e-mail was compiled from comments made on a log of application forms. The RPA said it believes the comments to be the work of a former temporary member of staff who has since left. The agency said it condemned any negative comments about customers.

Farming minister Lord Rooker said: "I am appalled by the reported behaviour of some staff. The RPA has important work to do in getting payments to farmers as quickly as possible and anyone who does not take that job seriously is letting the public down."

The scandal took another turn yesterday, when we received another anonymous tip-off from one of the staff in the office. Branding co-workers "animals" he said: "I am forced to come in day after day to the smells and the mess they create."

The civil servant went on to say the bad behaviour was carried out by temporary workers, hired from Adecco, a city-centre recruitment agency, and the majority did no work and spent night-shifts surfing the internet.

Berwick MP Alan Beith said the allegations will madden the farming community who have suffered delayed payments.

A spokesman for the RPA said: "The vast majority of the 912 people working in the RPA office in Newcastle are hard-working and dedicated. The misconduct involves a small percentage of staff." Adecco said anyone found to have acted in a way that amounts to misconduct would be dealt with through its disciplinary procedure.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 15, 2006
Words:468
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