Numbers game: the latest Civil Service staff numbers

17 September 2014

The Office for National Statistics has published the latest civil service staff numbers today, to Q2 2014 (June 2014). Petr Bouchal and Gavin Freeguard crunch the numbers.

More up-to-date analysis of Civil Service staff numbers can be found on our blog.

The total number of civil servants is 408,010, up 2,940 on the previous quarter.

This is only the second quarter since Spending Review 2010 where the Civil Service has grown compared to the previous one. This is because 9,100 probation staff are counted as civil servants for the first time, having joined the National Offender Management Service (part of MoJ) from the National Probation Service on 1 June. (The only other quarter with an increase, Q2 2013, occurred due to 6,000 staff from government organisations being counted as civil servants for the first time.)

Our graph has numbers increasing by 2,940 from the previous quarter, while the ONS figures report a 2,060 rise. This is because MoD has revised its figures for the previous quarter to include some of that increase, while our figures show it all in this quarter.

In its June 2012 Civil Service Reform Plan, the government committed to reducing the Civil Service by around 23% over the course of the Parliament. The reclassification of probation staff means that, for the first time, the government is not on course to meet this target. However, the civil service is down 70,120 staff (FTE) since Spending Review 2010, and – the probation staff increase aside – cut staff numbers during the last quarter (indeed, by the same percentage as the previous quarter).

DWP is the largest department with just over 80,000 staff, MoJ now the second largest.

The increase in staff numbers at MoJ means it has overtaken HMRC to become the second largest government department. Four delivery departments – DWP, MoJ, HMRC and MoD – are considerably bigger than the other government departments: DWP is nearly three times the size and MoD almost twice the size of the Home Office, the fifth largest department.

We have broken government departments down into three components:

  • Managed department – the core department and bodies within the department that are line managed within a structure that flows from the departmental leadership (for example, the National Offender Management Service within MoJ, Education Funding Agency within DfE)
  • Other organisations – other Civil Service bodies for which ministers in the department have responsibility, for example, Ofsted in DfE or the DVLA in DfT, but which are not part of the department’s line management structure
  • Departmental group – the sum of the managed department and other organisations.

Three of the biggest managed departments – DWP, MoJ and HMRC – cut existing staff numbers by around 3% in the last quarter.

DWP’s 3.4% reduction was its third biggest since Spending Review 2010 (it cut by 3.6% in 2014 Q1 and 2011 Q2), and HMRC’s 2.8% reduction its largest. Excluding reclassifications like the probation staff transfer, MoJ is the only managed department to have made a reduction in every quarter since the Spending Review. Ten managed departments grew in size in the last quarter.

Since the Spending Review, DCMS and DCLG – two of the smallest managed departments – have cut the greatest percentage of staff.

Both DCMS and DCLG have cut staff numbers by more than 35% since Spending Review 2010. In absolute terms, the reductions at the bigger departments – DWP, MoJ, HMRC and MoD – account for the bulk of staff cuts to the civil service.

Three departments – DECC, DfID and the Cabinet Office – have increased their numbers since the Spending Review. Unlike other departments, DECC (which has had the largest increase), did not indicate that it would reduce staff numbers at the time of Spending Review 2010. It is also the newest department, having only been established in 2008.

Most departments made significant cuts following the Spending Review, and are now relatively stable.

There are exceptions:  DfE, for example, embarked on two rounds of cuts – in mid-2011 and again in mid-2013. DWP and HMRC may also be accelerating cuts again as of the last few quarters.

Of the departments with an increase in headcount, DECC has had a continuous increase in staff numbers since the Spending Review (until 2014 Q1, its first fall by quarter) and DfID a consistent rise since mid-2011. The Cabinet Office has increased its staff numbers after an initial cut.

DCMS, which has gained (broadband) and completed (Olympics) various policy areas, has seen erratic increases and decreases in the size of its staff.

Including sponsored organisations and agencies, Cabinet Office has had the biggest percentage staff increase this quarter.

At Cabinet Office, the Crown Commercial Service – an executive agency bringing together procurement and other government commercial capability into one body – has 150 more staff (620) in 2014 Q2 compared to 2014 Q1.

Including organisations and agencies, only DfID and DECC have increased in size since Spending Review 2010.

Cabinet Office – which had a staff increase within the managed department – sees a drop once other organisations it is responsible for are included (the Central Office of Information, for example, was abolished in early 2012).

The percentage drop in staff numbers is also slightly less severe for a number of departments, including DfT, DH, Defra, DCLG, HMT and DCMS, suggesting that the managed departments – those directly line managed by ministers and senior civil servants – have been cut by more than other organisations for which the department has responsibility.

Alongside this blog post, we have published the methodology and the underlying data we have used in our analysis.

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