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Counting down to the election: the latest civil service staff numbers

Emily Andrews and Gavin Freeguard crunch the last numbers to be published before the election.

The latest set of quarterly civil service staff numbers came out last month, taking us up to December 2014. Emily Andrews and Gavin Freeguard crunch the last numbers to be published before the election. Click on the images to enlarge.

The civil service now employs 405,400 FTE, down 1,290 on the previous quarter.

The last quarterly staff numbers release before the election shows that the Civil Service has reduced in size by 15% since Q3 2010.  The Civil Service has continued to shrink in the last quarter.  But even this is still some way off the expectation contained in the 2012 Civil Service Reform Plan, to achieve a 23% reduction by 2015.  To meet that, a further 25,000 staff would need to be cut. Around a fifth of all civil servants work for DWP.
If we look at each departmental group – each department and all the other agencies and organisations it is responsible for – more than half of all civil servants work in the four biggest groups: DWP, MoJ, HMRC and MoD. DWP and MoJ remain the largest, even though they have taken some of the heaviest cuts in the last quarter and since 2010.
HMRC – overtaken in size by MoJ in 2014 Q2 – is the third-largest departmental group, over twice the size of the Home Office in fifth.  DfT is now the seventh-largest group, some reductions in its agencies making it fall behind BIS. We break departmental groups into two components. First is the ‘managed department’ or department itself, which includes the core department and other bodies that are effectively line-managed by the departmental leadership (for example, the National Offender Management Service within MoJ or Education Funding Agency in DfE). Second is the group of ‘other organisations’, which are other Civil Service bodies for which departmental ministers have responsibility but aren’t part of the line-management structure (for example, Ofsted in DfE or the DVLA in DfT). The Home Office has seen a substantial shift within its departmental group in the last quarter.  The absorption of the Passport Office – formerly an executive agency, part of HO’s ‘other organisations’ – means over 3,000 people have been transferred into the department itself. Nine departments have taken on staff in the last quarter.
More than half of the 17 main departments have taken on staff in the last quarter.  Our analysis discounts transfers in and out of the department to show the underlying rate of change: the Home Office has increased by 2% even after we account for its absorption of the Passport Office. Defra has taken on the most staff relative to its size, growing for the third consecutive quarter, although the numbers in Defra are relatively small. Nearly all departments are smaller than in 2010, with DCLG having cut by the most...
DECC, DfID and the Cabinet Office are the only departments to have increased in size since the 2010 spending review.  For the most part, the largest managed departments have borne the bulk of the cuts – DWP, MoJ and MoD have all decreased in size by 25% or more.  HMRC, the third-largest department, has reduced by only 15% although this still amounts to almost 10,000 people. But it is DCLG which has seen the biggest cuts, shrinking by 35% since 2010. The managed department now contains 1,630 people – down from 2,520 four years ago. …while the Home Office is growing back towards its size in 2010.
After steep cuts in the two years following the last spending review, the Home Office has increased in size continuously since the end of 2012, even after taking transfers (like the absorption of the Passport Office) into account. It is now only 5% smaller than at the beginning of the Parliament. DECC grew continuously up to the end of 2013 (the department was only created in 2008) but has since stabilised. The Cabinet Office, which has led the charge of Efficiency and Reform in this Parliament, is now 9% bigger than in 2010. The erratic movements in DCMS’s staffing – an increase followed by a sharp decrease – reflect it gaining policy areas (like broadband) and completing delivery of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Civil servants
Institute for Government

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