From the timeline of a cross-civil service headcount reduction plan to outsourcing rules, here's what the latest leak reveals


Senior officials have been told to model reductions of 20%, 30% and 40% to their departmental headcounts, to help the government meet the PM's goal of cutting 91,000 civil service jobs over the next three years. Internal guidance sent by the Treasury and Cabinet Office to departments sheds some light on what they will be considering, and the ways in which they might make the cuts.

Here are 10 things the guidance tells us.

A concrete plan to cut jobs should take shape in the autumn

Perm secs have been told to send in their submissions modelling the proposed cuts by 30 June. They will be scrutinised during July and August, with specific departmental targets and a civil-service wide plan to be completed in September or October. But the memo does not give an expected date for publication, saying only that the plan and targets will need to be signed off by the Efficiency and Value for Money Committee before going public.

Every department must model 40% cuts to their staff

The memo tells departments to set out options for achieving three scenarios: 20%, 30% and 40% cuts to their civil service headcount, based on the number as of 31 March 2022.

No civil servants will escape scrutiny…

While the cuts are ostensibly to reverse a “temporary” increase in the civil service workforce since 2016 to address Brexit and the pandemic, the memo warns: “There are no civil servants or groups of civil servants that are exempt from these returns regardless of the work they are undertaking or whether their function was undertaken outside the civil service in 2016, or is a new sovereign function.”

…but other public servants are exempt

Civil servants working in executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies are in scope – but other public servants employed in these organisations are not, even if they work alongside civil servants.

Some work will need to be “deprioritised”

“As far as possible, departments should aim to mitigate any adverse impacts on the delivery of public services and wider government priorities. However, it is recognised that in some instances departments will need to consider reprioritisation,” the memo says. “Departments will be expected to evidence they have considered all possible efficiencies and reduction of lower priority programmes and commitments.”

Departments may consider compulsory redundancies

Departments must assess the extent to which they might need to use voluntary exit schemes or redundancies to help reduce numbers. They are expected to fund any exit schemes from their existing budgets as far as possible, but submit a business case to the Cabinet Office and Treasury “if all options for reprioritisation of existing funding are exhausted”. However, the memo warns departments to bear in mind that creating voluntary exit schemes “may reduce natural attrition”.

Departments don’t have to freeze recruitment altogether

However, they will need to demonstrate they have “robust workforce controls in place to minimise recruitment” but allow them to fill skills gaps. While it is ultimately up to perm secs and HR directors to decide exactly what these controls will look like, they are expected to cover the creation of new roles; new external recruitment; and the use of contractors and consultants. There must also be "appropriate ministerial oversight" of new jobs, recruitment campaigns and external contractors and consultants.

Jobs currently being advertised could be withdrawn

Departments have been told to review live external recruitment campaigns and determine which should continue. They should also consider whether temporary promotions should be extended for a short period “until their future workforce structure has stabilised”.

Departments can consider outsourcing

…but they cannot simply replace civil servants with consultants. The guidance says departments can “consider outsourcing options”, but only if doing so would save money and improve outcomes. Crucially, it adds: “Outsourcing must not be considered purely for reclassification purposes.”

Departments can look to automation to cut jobs

Digital transformation is “essential to delivery of the scale of efficiencies required”, according to the memo. Departments have been told to work with the Central Digital and Data Office to assess the cost and feasibility of delivering extra automation and digitisation projects over the next three years that could enable them to deliver services with fewer people. They could look at transforming corporate services such as IT support and onboarding, and external services such as in-person processing of passport applications.

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