The civil service workforce

Civil Service staff numbers, Spending Review 2010 to March 2015

The number of civil servants has been cut by more than 70,000 since the Spending Review in 2010, meaning the Civil Service is at its smallest since before the Second World War. Particular departments – DWP, HMRC, MoJ and MoD – account for most of the reduction in absolute terms, given their size.

The biggest headcount reductions in percentage terms have come at the most junior (administrative officers and assistants) levels. Different departments have very different grade mixes, from top-heavy DfID (where the dominance of grades 6 and 7 has become more pronounced since 2010) to administration-heavy MoJ.

A more diverse Civil Service should be more effective; it would be more representative of the population and would suggest that talented candidates from all backgrounds were working within it. Although much progress has been made on diversity, the representation of women, ethnic minorities and disabled staff in the most senior grades is lower than across the Civil Service as a whole.

Different parts of the country host varying numbers of civil servants, with London (unsurprisingly, given central government’s base there) employing the most. Every member of staff in DCMS is based in London, while other departments have a wider geographical spread, including in the devolved nations (DfT in Wales, DfID in Scotland).

Annual report 2014 chapter


About the data

Our data on staff numbers by department is taken from the quarterly Public Sector Employment (PSE) series, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). We have adjusted for Machinery of Government changes (so movements of staff between departments are not counted as cuts) and distinguished between staff directly within a line management structure up to departmental leaders (‘managed departments’), and those staff working for government organisations for which a minister has some responsibility (’departmental group’). We also used the ONS PSE data for the figures on the wider public sector. The Cabinet Office has kindly provided us with headcount data back to 1902. These figures are all Full-time Equivalent (FTE).

Our diversity analysis is based on the Annual Civil Service Employment Survey, also published (usually in October) by the ONS. We have also used the annual Fast Stream Recruitment Report, which provides information on applicants to one of the Civil Service’s recruitment streams. The historical data comes from both the Annual Civil Service Employment Survey and the Cabinet Office’s Senior Civil Service (SCS) database, and was previously published in the Institute for Government report Bringing In and Bringing On Talent. These figures are for headcount and thus include part-time staff.

Our location analysis is largely based on the ONS Annual Civil Service Employment Survey. For staff numbers in the Northern Ireland Civil Service we use Nisra, Employment in the Northern Ireland Civil Service – 1st June 2014, table 1(a), as it is not available in the ONS release. These figures are for headcount.


Staff numbers