06 August 2011

Yesterday both the Daily Mail and The Times reported on the apparent explosion in the recruitment of civil service and quango bureaucrats since the last election.  But dig a little deeper and all is not as it first appears.

“At least 4,500 civil servants have been taken on since the election in May last year by Government departments and quangos – three times the number that have been handed compulsory redundancy notices” reports the Daily Mail. The source? Figures released by eight Whitehall Departments to a series of parliamentary questions on recruitment and redundancy by John Redwood.

However, Redwood asked about those who had been “made redundant”, ignoring the more important figure of reductions in civil service headcount. Take for instance the Home Office, The Mail reproduces the figures released by the Department that 832 staff have been recruited and only 35 have been made redundant. True. But this ignores the clarification in the parliamentary answer that the headcount of the Home Office and its Executive agencies has actually dropped by 3297 because of “the recruitment freeze and voluntary redundancy”. The moral? If used in isolation, redundancy and recruitment can mask what is really happening in the civil service.

That is why the Institute has been independently analysing what has been really going on with Civil Service headcount since the Spending Review.

Check out our quarterly publication the Whitehall Monitor for more information.