Now a Vice President, Peter Jones CB served as Chairman of the CSRF from 1994 to 2000 and was very much involved with the growth and development of the organization. As part of our ‘Talk to Us’ editorial strand we found time to chat to him about his memories of his time as Chair…

How did you first get involved/hear about the CSRF?
The first I heard of the CSRF was from a talk at a pre-retirement course by the then General Secretary (Chief Executive today) but did not pursue it when I eventually retired. About eighteen months later I had a telephone call from the Cabinet Office out of the blue which I asked if I would be interested and willing to become the next Honorary National Chairman of the CSRF. My predecessor (who happened to be an old friend from the Inland Revenue) had made a sudden and early resignation having been tempted away by the offer of six months advising an African country on the administration of its tax system. I had thought I might do some voluntary work in a good cause in retirement and this sounded interesting, so I accepted.

What was your role within the Civil Service?
I joined the Inland Revenue as a graduate entry trainee Inspector of Taxes in 1957 but something like half of my career was spent doing entirely different things including a couple of spells in IT (then called data processing) but for my last six years I was Director of Personnel (HR today), a job I enjoyed and which I believe gave me some experience that proved helpful in my role as Chairman.

Above: Peter with the late Kate Losinska (a past Vice President)

At the time you became Chairman what were the challenges the CSRF faced?
When I became Chairman in 1994 the CSRF was still at its peak with more than 100,000 subscribing members and around 500 local groups forming some 100 Branches. But the signs of change were already appearing. For many years a substantial number of those who retired each year became subscribers but from the mid-nineties that number fell sharply, partly because the Civil Service was smaller and there were fewer people retiring each year but mainly because the proportion that became subscribers was dropping. There were many reasons for this, but I think the three most significant were:
• The Civil Service was changing radically, and civil servants no longer felt that it was a large family with which they still felt a bond after they had retired;
• People were retiring earlier in better health with longer life expectation and a wider range of interests;
• There many organisations, both national and local, that served the needs and interests of retired people which simply did not exist in the 1960s when the CSRF was formed.
So, Douglas Houghton’s inspiring comment that ‘A pension is not enough’ did not have the same resonance for civil servants and the Civil Service in the 1990s that it did in the 1960s. The challenge for the CSRF was how to adapt itself to the changed circumstances but remain true to its founding purposes.

Above: Peter with members of the Dorset Branch at Bovington Tank Museum

What do you think contributed to the CSRF’s successful initial growth?
It is difficult for me to comment on this since I must rely on what I have been told by people who were there and what is recorded in the history of the CSRF. But I think three things were particularly significant. First, the 1960s were exactly the right time for an initiative of this sort. Second it had good support from the Civil Service (chiefly the Treasury). Third, and above all, it had a band of extremely enthusiastic and energetic volunteers to work hard shaping the organisation and stumping the country to carry the message and enthuse everyone: people like Philip Wolstenholme, Gerry Gerrard, John Vetch and Ron Hayward all of whom I was privileged to meet when I became Chairman.

Pictured above: The Fellowship holiday on the Isle of Wight in 1998

Is there a CSRF or Civil Service event that sticks in your mind from when you were Chairman?
One of the best memories of my time as Chairman (and many years after) is of all the wonderful and dedicated people my wife and I met at the conferences that were then held each year and on our visits to Branches up and down the country. I also have good memories of the work that the members of the Committee of Management (Board of Directors today) and I did together. But the event that perhaps epitomises all this was the highly successful five-day national holiday held in May 1998 at Harcourt Sands holiday centre on the Isle of Wight as part of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the CSRF. This was attended by over 500 people from 42 Branches together with most of the CSRF staff.

Do you have any anecdotes and/or favourite memories from your time as Chairman?
I think I would pick as my favourite anecdote something that happened to me on the Harcourt Sands holiday. After the entertainment in the centre’s theatre on the last evening I was scheduled to make a brief closing address and wish everyone a safe journey home. I was taken completely by surprise to find my entrance rather more dramatic than expected, wreathed in clouds of dry ice and accompanied by pounding disco music. I had a strong suspicion that this had been set up by the CSRF staff, but I did just wonder whether all my future appearances at CSRF events could be heralded in this way.

Above: Peter with Fellowship Office staff as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations for the CSRF

What in your opinion were the great successes of your time in office?
This must be the campaign to recruit an additional 10,000 subscribing members by the end of the year 2000. This was an ambitious target, but it did give the campaign the snappy title of ‘10,000 by 2000’ which was also turned into a logo for all the publicity material etc. Although I initiated the campaign and chaired the steering group that guided its work a lot of other people put in a lot of effort to make it a success. The campaign was launched in 1998 and although we fell short of the target by just over 1,000 it gave a much-needed boost to the CSRF and proved to be a significant success.

How does the organisation today differ (if at all) from when you were Chair?
It will be clear from my description of the CSRF when I became Chairman that its size and shape has changed radically over the following years. This has been a gradual process which, perhaps, began in my time and may have been affected by unhelpful developments since then that lie outside the scope of this piece. But fundamentally things have not changed that much and the purpose and essential work of the CSRF remains the same and will do so if it is needed.

Above: Peter (second from left) at the 50th anniversary reception in Admiralty House in 2015

There has been considerable change to the Civil Service in the years since the CSRF was formed. What, in your view, are the challenges that organisations such as ours face today?
Since I am no longer an active participant in the CSRF this is difficult for me to answer. But in simple terms I think the challenges that face all voluntary organisations today are to raise the funds that enable them to function, to find a continuing supply of enthusiastic and energetic volunteers to do the work and to remain true to their founding principles.

What are your hopes for the legacy and the future of the CSRF?
Quite simply the CSRF should continue to carry on the valuable work its volunteers do with the support of the staff and, though it may be exceedingly difficult, to seize any opportunity to expand the scope of its activities. And never to forget the legacy of its founders.