Whitehall employs almost two-thirds of a million people, official government figures disclosed on Friday – but the total seems likely to soon fall.
According to what Downing Street said was the first snapshot of the size of the Whitehall machine, central government directly employs 640,000 staff and another 20,000 consultants and temporary staff.
The figures were released as George Osborne, the Chancellor, prepares to lay down a tough limit in overall Whitehall spending in the next week’s Budget. It is bound to lead to substantial redundancies as departments are forced to slash expenditure.
Civil service unions said last night that the figures were being released as a softening-up exercise for deep job cuts.
By far the most heavily staffed central government department, with 67,520 civil servants, is the Ministry of Defence, where ministers want to cut running costs by at least 25 per cent.
The next biggest payrolls are at the Department for Work and Pensions (12,913 staff), the Foreign Office (4,432) and the Department for Business (3,707).
However, many more civil servants work for agencies that are at an arm’s length from central government.
The Jobcentre Plus network employs 88,299 staff, while the nation’s taxes are collected by the 82,852 employees of HM Revenue and Customs. Both organisations are certain to face pressure to find efficiency savings over the next year.
The National Offender Management Service, which runs the prison system, employs 50,826, while the Probation Service has 22,136 staff. The immigration service, now called the UK Border Agency, employs 25,442.
The legal system employs more than 28,000 people, with 19,962 in the courts service and 8,582 at the Crown Prosecution Service, which has already been earmarked for a cut of 16 per cent in its running costs.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea employs 5,992 staff, while 2,671 work for the Driving Standards Agency.
The figures also suggested that the total cost of consultants and other temporary staff was close to £2bn a year. The biggest bills were run up at the Ministry of Defence (1,193 staff costing £146m), the Department of Health (1,062 staff costing £265m) and the Home Office (1,062 staff costing £244m).
Slashing the cost of consultants will be a priority for ministers in their onslaught on public spending bills. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, admitted the figures were “a bit rough and ready”, but said: “We have to start gathering this kind of information straight away so we know what the total workforce of government really is.
We advocate that all consultants should be given contractual notice and made to reapply for any continuing work with a hard nosed commercial approach made to decisions made. All Quangos to be put through an added value test and if found wanting to be closed. Civil Service salaries frozen for a minimum of 2 years. If they don’t like it let them leave – it won’t happen except in isolated incidents. The inflation linking of pensions to be broken for all public service employees and realistic retirement ages set consistent with the private sector.
Tuesday will be interesting to put it mildly.
Author: Chris Slay
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