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Whitehall Monitor 2023: Methodology

How we produced our analysis for Whitehall Monitor 2023.

Whitehall Monitor 2023 coverwave

Throughout report

Defining departments

Where possible, we categorise bodies into ‘departmental groups’ according to where ministerial responsibility lies, even when these are reported under a separate departmental heading in the original ONS Public Sector Employment data. For instance, we group Ofsted with the DfE departmental group and not as a separate department.

In such cases where source data reports organisations as independent from core departments, we have identified the departmental group to which those organisations belong by using the ‘sponsor department’ identified by the most recent (2020) Public Bodies report published by the Cabinet Office.

We then make the following distinction within each departmental group:

  • Department: the core department, and other bodies within and linked to it, that are directly line managed by the department (for example, HM Prison and Probation Service within MoJ, and the Education and Skills Funding Agency within DfE).
  • Other organisations: other bodies employing civil servants – executive agencies, non-ministerial departments and crown non-departmental public bodies – for which ministers in the department have responsibility (for example, Ofsted in DfE, the DVLA in DfT) but which are not part of the department’s line management structure.

We have made these distinctions using publicly available evidence of organisations’ governance and structure, such as departmental organograms and governing documents.

We use this distinction as most appropriate in specific parts of the report, for example:

  • We use the wider ‘departmental group’ in our analysis of staff numbers, grade, location and profession.
  • We use the department as defined by the cited source data on pay, turnover and Freedom of Information.

A table listing the departments and their associated organisations is found below. We have not included organisations which no longer exist, for example because they have been merged with other bodies or renamed. However historic organisations are counted in our figures for change over time, and details of those used in our analysis is available upon request.

List of departments and associated organisations

Acronym Department Other organisations/units
AGO Attorney General’s Office Crown Prosecution Service; Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate; Government Legal Department; Serious Fraud Office
BEIS Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service; Companies House; Competition and Markets Authority; HM Land Registry; Insolvency Service; UK Intellectual Property Office; Met Office; Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem); UK Space Agency
CO Cabinet Office; Government Property Agency Crown Commercial Service; UK Statistics Authority
DCMS Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Charity Commission; National Archives; Building Digital UK
Defra Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Animal and Plant Health Agency; Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science; Ofwat; Rural Payments Agency; Veterinary Medicines Directorate

Department for Education

Education and Skills Funding Agency; Standards and Testing Agency; Teaching Regulation Agency

Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation; Ofsted; Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education
DfT Department for Transport Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency; Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency; Maritime and Coastguard Agency; Office of Rail and Road; Vehicle Certification Agency; Active Travel England
DHSC Department of Health and Social Care Food Standards Agency; Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency; UK Health Security Agency
DIT Department for International Trade Export Credits Guarantee Department
DLUHC Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (formerly the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) Planning Inspectorate; Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre
DWP Department for Work and Pensions The Health and Safety Executive

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office


Wilton Park Executive Agency

FCDO Services
HMRC HM Revenue and Customs Valuation Office Agency
HMT HM Treasury Debt Management Office; Government Actuary’s Department; Government Internal Audit Agency; National Savings and Investments; Office for Budget Responsibility; National Infrastructure Commission
HO Home Office National Crime Agency

Ministry of Defence


Defence Equipment and Support; Defence Electronics and Components Agency; Submarine Delivery Agency

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory; UK Hydrographic Office

Ministry of Justice


HM Courts and Tribunals Service; Legal Aid Agency; HM Prison and Probation Service; Office of the Public Guardian; Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

UK Supreme Court
NIO Northern Ireland Office  
Scot Gov Scottish Government Accountant in Bankruptcy; Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal; Disclosure Scotland; Education Scotland; Food Standards Scotland; Forestry and Land Scotland; National Records of Scotland; Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator; Registers of Scotland; Revenue Scotland; Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service; Scottish Fiscal Commission; Scottish Forestry; Scottish Housing Regulator; Scottish Prison Service; Scottish Public Pensions Agency; Social Security Scotland; Student Awards Agency for Scotland; Transport Scotland
SO Scotland Office (including Office of the Advocate General for Scotland)  
Welsh Gov Welsh Government ESTYN; Welsh Revenue Authority
WO Wales Office  

Defining civil servants

We define civil servants as politically impartial, appointed officials of the UK Home Civil Service, which supports the work of the UK’s central government departments. This includes agencies that employ civil servants such as executive agencies, non- ministerial departments and some non-departmental public bodies.

Our definition includes staff of the three Whitehall-based territorial offices that manage the UK’s relationship with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And we include the civil servants employed by the devolved governments of Wales and Scotland, but not the staff of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, which is administratively distinct.

In this way, civil servants are defined more narrowly than public sector workers: police, teachers, NHS staff, members of the armed forces or local government officers are not counted as civil servants. Nor do we include the UK’s diplomatic service in our analysis since it, too, is administratively separate from the UK Home Civil Service.

Civil service grades

Broadly, there are five civil service job grades:

  1. Administrative Officer/Administrative Assistant (AO/AA) – the most junior civil service grade. These roles tend to comprise administrative support and operational delivery roles, such as prison officers and caterers.
  2. Executive Officer (EO). Civil servants in this grade offer business and policy support and include roles such as executive assistants, finance, HR, IT and communications specialists.
  3. Senior Executive Officer/Higher Executive Officer (SEO/HEO) includes policy officers and officials with specific policy responsibilities.
  4. Grades 6 and 7 civil servants tend to be experienced officials with significant policy responsibilities.
  5. Senior Civil Service (SCS) is the most senior grade of the civil service made up of the senior management team. Generally, directors are ultimately responsible for the policy work of their team and directors general oversee directors and work closely with the department’s ministers. Each department also has a permanent secretary as part of the SCS who supports the minister at the head of the department, acts as the accounting officer and is responsible for the day-to-day running of the department.

Inflation/real-terms figures

For government spending information that spans multiple years, we use the GDP deflator to present numbers in consistent prices. The GDP deflator is a measure of economy-wide inflation and so is appropriate for considering changes in government spending. We use the GDP deflator published alongside the November 2022 autumn statement, adjusting the figure for 2020/21 to be the midpoint of the 2019/20 and 2021/22 values as the pandemic affected the deflator’s measurement. For information on pay, we use the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to present numbers in consistent prices as this is the relevant measure to understand how much pay packets are worth to households.


Ministerial resignations

Our tally of resignations includes only those outside of reshuffles; those during reshuffles are often difficult to discern from sackings (although we do include Jonathan Aitken’s resignation in 1995, where he resigned to fight a libel action).

We do not count those who announced in advance they would step down at the next reshuffle, or those who were sacked, except Johnny Mercer, who was planning to resign before being sacked. Firings are, however, listed in our open spreadsheets of resignations at and This means our numbers may differ very slightly from others’.

We also do not include Alok Sharma’s resignation from the post of secretary of state for BEIS in January 2021 as he did not leave the government but resigned to focus on his other post, president of the COP26 climate conference, and he still attended cabinet until Rishi Sunak became prime minister.

Part 1

Civil service staff numbers

To analyse civil service staff numbers, we use Table 9 from the ONS’s quarterly Public Sector Employment series, which contains staff numbers (headcount and full-time equivalent, FTE) in all public organisations that employ civil servants. Unless stated otherwise, we use FTE figures, which count part-time staff according to the time they work (e.g. a person working two days a week as 0.4 FTE); this is more accurate than headcount, which does not distinguish between full-time and part-time employees.

Our calculated rates of change in each period for each department are adjusted for reclassifications of staff between bodies. Reclassifications are usually noted by the ONS in footnotes to the data tables. We adjust for reclassifications in our rates of change calculations to more accurately portray the changing size of departments, rather than changes to the way officials are counted and reported.

Our figures exclude temporary Census Field staff.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development (DfID) were merged to form the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in Q3 2020. Our calculated rates of change for FCDO over time are assumed to be equivalent to the sum of the figures for the two component departments for quarters prior to Q3 2020; the same applies for BEIS before the merger of BIS and DECC.

For operational security reasons, staff from Central Government Security (formerly Security and Intelligence Services) have been excluded from civil service statistics published since Q2 2016. We adjust for this by manually excluding Central Government Security staff from our datasets before this date, too.

To analyse other characteristics of the civil service, such as age, pay, profession, location and ethnicity, we use the Cabinet Office’s annual Civil Service Statistics release. To analyse the engagement and experience of civil servants, we use the Cabinet Office’s annual People Survey.

Staff numbers are generally reported to the nearest 10. The ONS and the Cabinet Office (for its Civil Service Statistics) report staff numbers lower than five as “..”. We have rounded any staff numbers lower than five to three.

For further information about the Institute’s analysis of civil service staff numbers,
see our explainer on the topic.


Data on civil service staff turnover is derived from the annual Cabinet Office Civil Service Statistics dataset (Tables 20, 42 and 43). We use headcount rather than full- time equivalent staff for all staff turnover calculations. Figures relate to the core department and do not include agencies within the departmental group.

External staff turnover is calculated as the number of civil servants who left the civil service entirely over the course of a given year, as a percentage of the average civil service headcount during that period. Average civil service headcount is calculated as the mean of civil service headcount at the beginning and end of the interval (for instance, headcount in March 2021 and March 2022 for the period 2021–22). We use average headcount to account for the fact that the number of civil servants changes over the course of the year.

Internal staff turnover (‘churn’) is calculated as the number of civil servants who transferred to another department over the course of a given year, as a percentage of the average civil service headcount during that period. This is an underestimate of real internal turnover in the civil service because it does not include civil servants who transferred to another role within the same department. Unfortunately, data on staff transfers within departments is not publicly available.

Total staff turnover is calculated as the number of civil servants who either left the civil service entirely or transferred to another department over the course of a given year, as a percentage of the average civil service headcount during that period. This is an underestimate of real total staff turnover in the civil service for the same reasons detailed above.

Public bodies

Throughout this report we use ‘public bodies’ which includes public corporations, unclassified bodies and parliamentary bodies, to encompass the widest possible group of organisations. However, in a number of charts we are relying on Cabinet Office data which is limited to a narrower subset, ‘arm’s length bodies’. This category only encompasses non-departmental public bodies, executive agencies, and non- ministerial departments.

To calculate the 2022 number of arm’s length bodies, we looked at 2020 figures and added in the abolition of Public Health England, and the creation of the UK Health Security Agency, the Office for Environmental Protection and the Trade Remedies Authority, all of which came into being or were officially classified between March 2020 and March 2022. We did not include the abolition of NHS Improvement, which was only completed in the summer of 2022.

Budgets, spend and cost

Our analysis uses the Online System for Central Accounting and Reporting (OSCAR) II annual data taken from three releases (2022 for 2017/18–2021/22, 2015 for 2015/16 and 2016/17 and 2015 for 2010/11–2014/15) to assemble financial returns from 2010 through to 2022.

We used final out-turn figures and excluded so-called ‘non-budget’ and ‘non-voted’ expenses, as these are more likely to include double-counted figures or revaluations. This means that the data does not include spending granted directly away to the devolved administrations or local authorities.

Pay spending data includes spending on the recovery of pay costs. When calculating total arm’s-length body pay, we excluded teachers’ pay (‘Academies’) and those employed by NHS trusts (‘NHS Trusts’ and ‘Foundation Trusts’) as these staff are not directly employed by public bodies. For spending by departmental group figures, we have excluded the pension schemes which appear as separate spending lines in the data, including the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and Civil Superannuation, as these are not always allocated accurately to the right department and so can cause some distortions. HMRC, although it is a non-ministerial department, is included as a departmental group of its own in this data, to be consistent with other IfG analysis, while smaller departments have been excluded from the chart for the sake of visualisation.

This analysis is necessarily imperfect, and some spending by public bodies (particularly executive agencies which are closely integrated into their departments) is categorised as departmental spend. Similarly, spending by non-ministerial
departments is categorised as departmental, despite them being a type of arm’s length body. This means that, for instance, the OSCAR dataset suggests that most spending by the Ministry of Justice is directly spent by the department. This is incorrect, as the MoJ’s annual reports consistently show most money is spent by its arm’s length bodies, such as HM Courts and Tribunals Service and HM Prison and Probation Service.

This dataset also underestimates the scale of spending by public bodies as it does not consistently include public corporations, or includes only their net rather than gross spending.


Workforce diversity and population benchmarks

The benchmark for the economically active working-age UK population that is female is calculated from the ONS ‘A02 SA: Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity for people aged 16 and over and aged from 16 to 64 (seasonally adjusted)’ dataset. It is the economically active female population aged 16–64 as a percentage of the total economically active population aged 16–64.

The benchmark for the economically active working-age UK population that is from a minority ethnic background is calculated from the ONS ‘A09: Labour market status by ethnicity’ dataset. It is the economically active population aged 16–64 which self- identified as of ‘Mixed’, ‘Indian’, ‘Pakistani’, ‘Bangladeshi’, ‘Chinese’, ‘Black/African/ Caribbean’ or ‘Other’ ethnicity, as a percentage of the total economically active population aged 16–64.

The benchmark for the economically active working-age UK population that has a disability is calculated from the ONS ‘A08: Labour market status of disabled people’ dataset. It is the number of economically active people aged 16–64 who meet the Government Statistical Service harmonised standard definition of disability, as a percentage of all economically active people aged 16–64 whose disability status is known (i.e. excluding those respondents who did not state their health situation).

To adjust for season variations in employment data, we calculate the average for each of these benchmarks over the last four quarters up to 31 March 2022 (to match the publication date of the 2022 Civil Service Statistics dataset which is the source of our data on civil service diversity).

The benchmark for the working-age UK population that is LGB+ is drawn from the ONS Census 2021 dataset. The census question on sexual orientation was a voluntary question asked of those aged 16 and over. Our benchmark is calculated as the number of respondents who self-identified as ‘Gay or lesbian’, ‘Bisexual’ or ‘Other sexual orientation’, as a percentage of respondents who answered the census question on sexual orientation. Our use of the term LGB+ refers to staff who report belonging to one of the last three groups. The term ‘LGBT+’ is not used because this data only refers to sexual orientation. The Annual Civil Service Employment Survey does not collect data on the gender identities of civil servants.

Professions and functions

We have grouped the 29 civil service professions reported by the Cabinet Office into three overarching categories: operational delivery; departmental specialism; and cross-departmental specialism.

Profession IfG category
Commercial Cross-departmental specialisms
Communications Cross-departmental specialisms
Corporate finance Cross-departmental specialisms (included in the finance sub-category)
Counter fraud Departmental specialism
Digital, data and technology (DDaT) Cross-departmental specialisms
Economics Cross-departmental specialisms (included in the analytics sub-category)
Finance Cross-departmental specialisms
Geography Departmental specialism
Human Resources (HR) Cross-departmental specialisms
Inspector of education and training Departmental specialisms
Intelligence analysis Departmental specialisms
Internal audit Cross-departmental specialisms
International trade Departmental specialisms
Knowledge and information management Cross-departmental specialisms
Legal Cross-departmental specialisms
Medicine Departmental specialisms
Operational delivery Operational delivery
Operational research Cross-departmental specialisms
Planning Departmental specialisms (included in the planning sub-category)
Planning inspectors Departmental specialisms (included in the planning sub-category)
Policy Cross-departmental specialisms
Project delivery Cross-departmental specialisms
Property Cross-departmental specialisms
Psychology Departmental specialisms
Science and engineering Departmental specialisms
Security Departmental specialisms
Social research Cross-departmental specialisms
(included in the analytics sub-category)
Statistics Cross-departmental specialisms
(included in the analytics sub-category)
Tax Departmental specialisms
Veterinarian Departmental specialisms

Additionally, we classify legal professionals from the Crown Prosecution Service separately under the ‘prosecutor’ profession (as a departmental specialism).

The Cabinet Office includes ‘other’ professions as a category in their annual Civil Service Statistics dataset. Where civil servants’ profession is not recorded at all we classify them as ‘unknown’. In 2018, 2020 and 2021 DWP failed to report the professions of many of their civil servants. In order to estimate changes in professions over time, we have calculated assumed average sizes of each profession in DWP for those years using the reported numbers in 2017, 2019 and 2022.

Reforms since 2013 have helped to develop a series of centrally managed, cross- government ‘functions’ to improve the way the civil service conducts activities that rely on specialist skills. These functions overlap with the civil service’s existing professions, but there are some differences between the two. Professions are groupings of officials with similar expertise, such as veterinarians, and focus on skills. All civil servants are members of a profession. Functions are instead focused on activities that occur across departments, such as finance, commercial or project delivery. They provide expert advice, and are responsible for setting cross-government strategies and standards to ensure that activities are delivered widely and consistently across the civil service. Around a quarter of civil servants belong to a function.


  1. Analysis
  2. Commercial
  3. Communications
  4. Counter fraud
  5. Debt
  6. Digital, data and technology (DDaT)
  7. Finance
  8. Grants
  9. Human resources
  10. Internal audit
  11. Legal
  12. Project delivery
  13. Property
  14. Security

The number of individuals in particular functions or professions is calculated based on the data reported by officials on their departmental HR system, rather than an objective classification. Since it is based on individuals’ decisions to self-identify with a specific function or profession, changes in numbers over time are likely to be caused in part by an increase in the number of people self-identifying, as well as increases in the objective numbers, although this is difficult to untangle.

Part 2

Improving diversity and inclusion

Socio-economic background

As no workforce statistics are currently published on socio-economic background (SEB) in the civil service, our analysis draws on the number of responses by group in the 2021 Civil Service People Survey to illustrate distribution of SEB by seniority.

SEB is approximated using civil servants’ parental occupation when they were aged 14 and grouped according to the three-class National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC) scheme. Figures exclude civil servants with an unknown socio-economic background.

Part 3

Major projects

The analysis of the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP) comes from data collected by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA). The latest IPA data set (2021-22) contains data on whole life costings of individual projects unless where given exempt as in accordance with the government’s transparency policy e.g., national security. However, total whole life costings of projects delivered by individual departments include the costs of exempt projects. Our analysis for Figure 3.5 includes costings of exempt projects while Figures 3.6 and 3.7 do not include projects with exempt costings as well as projects that are exempt from providing a risk ratings.

List of abbreviations

Departments and organisations

Abbreviation Organisation name
AGO Attorney General's Office
BEIS Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
BERR Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
BIS Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (until the creation of BEIS)
BBC British Broadcasting Corporation
CDDO Central Digital and Data Office
CIPFA Charted Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy
CO Cabinet Office
CQC Care Quality Commission
DCA Department for Constitutional Affairs
DCSF Department for Children, Schools and Families
DCLG Department for Communities and Local Government (now DLUHC)
DCMS Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
DECC Department for Energy and Climate Change (before BEIS and Defra)
Defra Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
DETR Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
DExEU Department for Exiting the European Union
DE&S Defence Equipment and Support
DfE Department for Education
DfEE Department for Education and Employment
DfES Department for Education and Skills
DfID Department for International Development (before merger with FCO to form FCDO)
DfSS Department for Social Security
DfT Department for Transport
DHSC Department of Health and Social Care
DIT Department for International Trade
DIUS Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
DLUHC Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
DNH Department for National Heritage
DPCP Department for Prices and Consumer Protection
DTLR Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions
DWP Department for Work and Pensions
ETF Evaluation Task Force
EU European Union
FCDO Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
FCO Foreign and Commonwealth Office (before merger with DfID to form FCDO)
FDA Association of First Division Civil Servants union
GCS Government Communication Service
GDS Government Digital Service
GSCU Government Skills and Curriculum Unit
HMCTS HM Courts and Tribunals Service
HMRC HM Revenue and Customs
HMT HM Treasury; the Treasury
HO Home Office
HoC House of Commons
HoL House of Lords
ICO Information Commissioner's Office
IfG Institute for Government
IPA Infrastructure and Projects Authority
Law Law officers (AGO, Office of the Advocate General for Scotland)
MHCLG Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (before the creation of DLUHC)
MoD Ministry of Defence
MoJ Ministry of Justice
MPA Major Projects Authority
NAO National Audit Office
NHS National Health Service
NDA Nuclear Decommissioning Agency
NICS Northern Ireland Civil Service
NIO Northern Ireland Office
NISRA Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
OBR Office for Budget Responsibility
OCPA Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments
ODM Ministry of Overseas Development
ODPM Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
ONS Office for National Statistics
OPS Office of Public Service
OPSS Office of Public Service and Science
PCS Public and Commercial Services union
PHE Public Health England
Scot Scotland Office
SG/Scot Gov Scottish Government
SMC Social Mobility Commission
UKHSA UK Health Security Agency
UN United Nations
Wal Wales Office
Welsh Gov Welsh Government

Other abbreviations

Abbreviation Definition
ALBs Arm’s length bodies
AME/RAME Annual managed expenditure/Resource AME
AO/AA Administrative officer/administrative assistant (civil service grade)
CEO Chief Executive Officer
CS Civil service
D&I Diversity and inclusion
DDaT Digital, data and technology profession
DEL/RDEL Departmental expenditure limit/Resource DEL
EO Executive officer (civil service grade)
FTE Full-time equivalent
FTSE 250 Financial Times Stock Exchange 250 index
FoI Freedom of Information
G6/G7 Grade 6 and Grade 7 (civil service grades)
GDP Gross domestic product
GE General election
GMPP Government Major Projects Portfolio
HR Human resources
HS2 High Speed 2 railway project
IT Information technology
JSS Job Support Scheme
LBTT Land and buildings transactions tax
LGBT Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
LGB+ The Annual Civil Service Employment Survey (ACSES) invites civil servants to record their sexual orientation as ‘Heterosexual/straight’, ‘Gay or Lesbian’, ‘Bisexual’ or ‘Other’. Our use of the term LGB+ refers to staff who report belonging to one of the last three groups. The term ‘LGBT+’ is not used because this data refers only to sexual orientation. The ACSES does not collect data on the gender identities of civil servants.
LTLC Long-term limiting condition
MoS Minister of State
MP Member of Parliament
NDPB Non-departmental public body
ODP Outcome delivery plan
OSCAR Online System for Central Accounting and Reporting
PACAC Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee
PM Prime minister
Q (Q1 etc.) Quarter
R&D Research and development
SCS Senior civil service/ senior civil servant
SEB Socio-economic background
SEO/HEO Senior executive officer/Higher executive officer (civil service grades)
SoS Secretary of state
SR Spending review/Spending round
STEM Science, technology, engineering and mathematics
VAT Value added tax
WPQs Written parliamentary questions


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