England's eastern regions hit hardest by civil service staff cuts

Written by Tamsin Rutter on 16 August 2018 in News
News

IfG explainer reveals more than 30% fall in number of civil servants in east of England, the east Midlands and the south east since 2010

Angel of the North, near Gatesehead. The North East is one of the regions most reliant on civil service employment. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Four regions on England's east coast have been hit hardest by cuts to civil service numbers since 2010, with London proportionally least affected by government efforts to reduce the size of the civil service, an analysis has revealed.

The civil service populations of the east Midlands and the south east fell by more than 30% between 2010 and 2018, and by 35% in the east of England. The next biggest percentage reduction was in Yorkshire and the Humber.

By contrast, the number of civil servants in London decreased by 9%, the smallest percentage decrease of any of the UK's 12 regions, according to a crunch of ONS data by the Institute for Government think tank.

Meanwhile the capital has gained an additional 5,000 civil servants in the past year, a larger uptick than any other region except the south west, despite the 2017 Conservative manifesto pledge to make the civil service less London-centric, and the plans outlined in the 2018 revised Government Estates Strategy to move thousands of officials out of the capital.


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Of the 430,000 people employed by the civil service, 83,500 of them are based in London – 30,000 more civil servants than any other UK region.

Gavin Freeguard, head of data and transparency at the IfG, said this seemed to be driven by an increase of nearly 2,300 at the Cabinet Office and rises at the Department for Exiting the European Union, the Department for International Trade, the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in particular.

The north west of England has the next biggest share – just over 50,000 civil servants, three-fifths of whom work at executive officer grade or below – followed by Scotland, the south west and the south east. The east Midlands has the smallest number of civil servants, at less than 20,000, more than 50% of whom work in operational delivery.

The explainer stated: “Throughout the northern regions of England – the north west, north east, and Yorkshire and the Humber – and in the Midlands, around half of the civil service workforce is focused on operational delivery.

“A significant portion of DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] civil servants handle operational delivery work – such as the running of tax and benefits offices and job centres – and are accordingly well represented throughout the regions in on-the-ground administrative roles.”

The think tank on the regional presence of various departments, describing DExEU and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as “extremely London-centric” and DWP, MoJ and HM Revenue and Customs as having a more even spread across the UK. There is a concentration of Department for International Development staff in Scotland, while the majority of civil servants in Wales work for the Department for Transport and almost half of those in the south west, where GCHQ is based, for the Ministry of Defence.

The Home Office has the most London-based civil servants of all departments.

Northern Ireland and the north east have the greatest reliance on civil service employment of all regions, with 14.4 and 10.9 in every 1,000 residents, respectively, a civil servant. In Wales the figure is 10.5, the next largest.

The IfG also pointed out that there are “more civil servants in Scotland and Wales working for Whitehall departments than for the Scottish and Welsh governments”.

The explainer is based on the latest release on civil service employment data from the Office for National Statistics.

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Tamsin Rutter
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Tamsin Rutter is senior reporter for Civil Service World and tweets as @TamsinRutter

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