Civil servants are used to dealing with red tape - but a group are now having to adjust to black tape to show them where to put things on their desks.
National Insurance staff in Longbenton, North Tyneside, are taking part in a pilot scheme on desk management.
It is part of the Lean programme brought in by consultants Unipart, which has already seen public sector workers told to clear their desks of personal items.
HM Revenue & Customs declined to say how much Unipart was paid, claiming it was a commercial matter.
But a spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) claimed it was costing £7.4m nationally.
He said: "The scheme is demoralising and demeaning. Staff know how to order their desks themselves.
"We had a situation in some offices in Scotland where staff were asked 'Is that banana on your desk active or inactive?', meaning were they going to eat it? If not, it had to be cleared away."Can someone explain how it costs over seven million pounds to be told to keep a clean desk? And this at a time when it's being reported that Britain's armed forces are not only living in appalling conditions but the Parachute Regiment are facing the coming years without any parachute training.
Seems to me that Labour should have been cutting the bureaucrats' budgets this past decade instead of the Armed Forces.