Boris Johnson’s plans to slash the number of civil servants by 91,000 – around 20% – within three years, will leave Whitehall unable to handle the huge extra workload caused by Brexit, independent experts and unions have warned the government.
They say such a reduction would leave the state too small to cope with the added responsibilities taken on by officials in Whitehall since the UK left the EU, including in areas of trade, agriculture, immigration and business regulation.
This weekend the TUC releases figures showing that the planned cuts would mean the ratio of civil servants to members of the UK population would fall beneath the low recorded after former chancellor George Osborne’s ruthless austerity drive, when government departments were told to pare back numbers to achieve savings of up to 40% after the 2010 general election.
The TUC figures show that for every 10,000 UK citizens, the number of civil servants fell from 76 in 2010 to 59 in 2016, the year of the Brexit referendum. By last year, in order to deal with the extra workload from planning and implementing Brexit, the numbers had risen again to 70 for every 10,000 UK citizens.
However, if the three-year target to cut numbers by 91,000 were achieved, the TUC says the number of civil servants would drop to a new low of just 56 per 10,000 by 2025 – despite the extra demands placed on government from Brexit, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
Cabinet ministers and the permanent secretaries of all government departments have been given until the end of June to model scenarios involving cuts of 20%, 30% and 40% in the numbers of civil servants working for them. The overall reduction of 91,000 is highly unlikely to be shared equally, meaning some parts of government will be asked to cut by more than 20% and some by less.
The difficulties of managing, let alone making a success of Brexit while slashing the size of the state are highlighted by separate figures from the Institute for…
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