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Civil service cuts will be deeper than under George Osborne’s austerity

New analysis by the TUC reveals that plans by Boris Johnson’s government to cut 91,000 civil service jobs will be deeper than deepest point of George Osborne’s programme of cuts in the last decade.

The analysis looks at civil service staffing levels relative to the UK population. And it finds that if the proposed cuts go ahead the number of civil servants relative to UK people will fall below the lowest point while David Cameron was Prime Minster and Osborne Chancellor.

Year

Civil servants per 10,000 people

2010 (actual)

76

2016

59

2021

70

2025 (projected)

56


The reduction from 76 civil servants per 10,000 people in 2010 to 59 in 2016 was a 22% to civil service staff.

The reduction now being planned from 70 civil servants per 10,000 to 56 will be a 20% cut, but starting from a lower level, and therefore reaching a lower point.

The cuts under George Osborne set a record for the smallest civil service since the Second World War. If these cuts go ahead, they will break that record.

What do civil service staff do?

The UK has just over 475,000 full-time equivalent civil servants. They work in government departments and many government agencies. This includes:

  • 56,000 staff in the Ministry of Defence, whose work has been intensified by Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine and the need to protect the UK from new security threats such as cyber sabotage.
  • 64,000 staff in HMRC who administered the furlough scheme and who protect honest taxpayers and public services by preventing and detecting tax fraud.
  • 96,000 staff in justice services, including courts, prisons, legal aid, fraud detection organised crime prevention, and victim support who protect the nation, bring criminals to justice and support victims.
  • 84,000 work and pensions staff who make sure that low-income households, disabled people and pensioners get the essential support they need to be fed, housed, warm and safe.
  • 33,000 home office staff who process passport claims, give safe haven to refugees from wars such as the conflict in Ukraine, and make sure businesses and services like the NHS have visas for the skilled workers they need.
  • Agencies that employ smaller numbers of civil servants, but that do vital work protecting the safety and interests of the public, including the Health and Safety Executive, Ofgem, Ofwat, Food Standards Agency and the Coastguard Agency.

Where will the cuts be made?

The government has not yet said where the cuts will be made, but ministers have been instructed to start identifying staff cuts of up to 40% in some departments immediately.

The TUC says that there are no easy places to make cuts without consequences that will harm UK families and businesses, and that some services may have to be stopped altogether.

There could be less resilience if a future pandemic takes place and less security against attacks on our allies or cyber-attacks on the UK by hostile countries like Russia.

There could be less safety for UK families from fraud and crime, unsafe public places and workplaces, and dangerous ingredients or hygiene standards in food production and services.

And there could be backlogs and delays to essential support like disability benefits and universal credit, or the issuing of vital documents like passports, driving licences and work visas.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady yesterday said:

“They said we would build back better. But the Conservative government has changed its tune. Now it’s cut back harder – with cuts that go even deeper than George Osborne’s.

“It’s like Russian roulette. We don’t know which central government services will take the hit. But if these damaging plans don’t change, we know there will be harm to families and businesses that depend on services.

“Osborne’s cuts made the nation less resilient when we were hit by the pandemic, because he scrapped staff responsible for emergency planning and public health. The price was too high. We cannot make the same mistake again.”

Mike Clancy, General Secretary of Prospect, yesterday said:

“Areas of the civil service and its agencies are already struggling with increased duties following Brexit and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We have seen imports going unchecked because of a lack of capacity and an increasing mismatch between the size of the armed forces and the vital civilian support staff who help them to operate effectively.

“Cuts of this magnitude will have a huge impact on institutional knowledge, the balance of experience within the workforce, overall capability in vital areas and ultimately will leave the country less secure. The government must think again.

“It is also unclear whether existing funded vacancies will be filled, further reducing capacity.”

FDA Assistant General Secretary Steven Littlewood yesterday said:

“We are still dealing with the consequences of the cuts leading up to 2016 in areas like the justice system, where there remains a historically large backlog of cases. It’s clear from the TUC’s research that in terms of providing services to the population, the government proposals actual go beyond where we were in 2016 and will lead to the lowest number of civil servants per head since World War Two.

“Given the new responsibilities the government has post-Brexit for areas like borders, customs and agriculture it is impossible to see how it can provide the services it currently is with the proposed job losses. The government needs to be honest about what services it would cut if it reduces numbers.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka yesterday said:

"Making cuts will only make things worse, make waiting lists longer for those seeking passports and driving licences, make telephone queues longer for those with tax enquiries.

“We shall fight for every job in the civil service. Not just on behalf of our members, but on behalf of every member of the public who relies on the services they provide.”

Editors Note’s

Analysis by the Institute for Government has found that number of civil servants reached its lowest level since the start of the Second World War in 2016 following the cuts made by David Cameron’s government. The currently proposed cuts would bring the number below that in 2016, setting a new record for the smallest number of civil servants since the start of the Second World War.

 

Original article link: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/civil-service-cuts-will-be-deeper-under-george-osbornes-austerity

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