5.9k Share this
Ministers face a fight with unions over plans to cut back on Britain’s ballooning civil service – as they aim to slash many of the roles created to deal with Covid and Brexit.
The Treasury has vowed to reverse a recent boom in public sector jobs – prompted by the pandemic and the UK’s departure from the EU – over the next three years.
It has now been revealed, in order to meet that aim, up to 40,000 roles could go among pandemic-related staff in the Department of Health and among those working on Brexit.
‘Those are the areas where we’re looking to reduce headcount,’ a government source told the Telegraph.
The size of the civil service has ballooned during Brexit and the Covid pandemic – with the number of staff rising by almost 7% in 2021 alone
Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, last month bemoaned how the number of civil service staff had increased by more than a fifth (23%) from 2015/16 and by almost 7% in 2021 alone.
He said this was ‘something that’s impossible to justify long-term, and something we’re determined to reverse’.
There are currently 485,000 civil servants in the UK.
In June 2016, when the EU referendum took place, there were 384,000 civil servants – the smallest number since the Second World War.
Mr Clarke has promised to reduce the current frontline civil service headcount to pre-pandemic levels by 2024/25.
However, the civil service union has accused ministers of being ‘fixated’ on numbers.
They added an expanded Whitehall machine was needed due to newly-increased demands – such as Covid-created backlogs and powers moving permanently from Brussels to Westminster after Brexit.
Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has vowed to bring the number of civil servants back down to ‘sustainable levels’
FDA general secretary Dave Penman has accused ministers of being ‘fixated’ on numbers and said resources needed to match with ‘what the civil service is committed to do’
‘Governments expand and contract all the time,’ FDA general secretary Dave Penman said.
‘But it’s whether they match resources with what the civil service is committed to do.
‘It’s disappointing the Chief Secretary to the Treasury is fixated on this increase over the last six years, which is due to civil service demands increasing.’
In a speech to the Institute of Economic Affairs in March, Mr Clarke said that Covid had shown ministers ‘that some parts of Whitehall remain resistant to change and that it’s sometimes easier to expand the state than it is to remodel or streamline it.’
But he promised the government was ‘alert to that’ and – through ‘efficiencies’ and ‘more streamlined processes’ – would ‘bring civil service headcount down to sustainable levels for the longer term’.
‘The reality is that some growth in the civil service was required to deliver Brexit and our Covid response.
‘But over the next spending review I want to see headcount levels fall back towards where they were before what were very much out-of-the-ordinary events.’
Source: Daily Mail