Pace and depth of Whitehall cuts without precedent

The Institute has published an analysis of today's labour market statistics, focusing on civil service reductions.

Overall, the ONS stats reveal a sharp fall in public sector employment with a 3.25% reduction in the head-count since the third quarter of 2010. However, this is eclipsed by the Whitehall numbers, where there's been a headcount reduction of more than eight percent in the same period.

In the Whitehall Monitor #8 the Institute reveals some interesting variations in the pace of change at the departments included in the analysis:

  • Several parts of Whitehall are on the ‘fast-track' of headcount reductions, moving well ahead of the public sector average. These include BIS, DCLG and the Home Office.
  • Whitehall has reduced by over 4,000 FTE* since the spending review with significant numbers going from a few departments.
  • In other departments, headcount has gone up although in most cases this is explained by machinery of government changes and the implementation of alternative efficiency drives.

Commenting on the stats, Institute for Government Senior Researcher, Justine Stephen said:

"Our analysis shows that there is now a serious and momentous drive to reduce the number of civil servants in Whitehall. In fact with the cuts running at more than twice the rate in the public sector overall, it's clear that there's a concerted effort to lead this process from the centre. In some cases, the reductions are quite staggering, with DCLG reducing its workforce by nearly 20%. Using any comparable programme from history, this is unprecedented progress. What is crucial is that departments match these head-count reductions with equally enthusiastic programmes to modernise the way they do business, ensuring that a high quality of public service can be maintained".