Civil servants set to bear the brunt of Autumn Statement cuts

Further cuts and reforms in Whitehall could save an extra £10bn by 2017/18, George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement earlier today. But where are the cuts coming from?

By Sarah.Aston

03 Dec 2014

“Administration costs in Whitehall are already down 40% over this Parliament. Today my right honourable friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office is publishing a plan for a further £10bn of efficiencies,” the chancellor of the exchequer said.

Presenting a comprehensive list of government proposals to make this saving, the ‘Efficiency and Reform in next Parliament’ plan sets out proposals around the government’s digital services, use of office space, delivery of major projects, procurement processes and operational delivery that will be made over the current Parliament and into the next to further reduce Whitehall administration costs.

However many of the changes mentioned are already being implemented across the civil service and the paper acknowledges that “future savings will be more difficult to achieve”.

Amongst proposals already in place is the push to create a “government as a platform” with more digital services and increased support from the Government Digital Service for civil servants.

Created in 2011, the GDS’s executive director of digital Mike Bracken told CSW back in October that much of the streamlining of the government’s online presence has already taken place.

Similarly, plans to reduce the government’s use of offices through the creation of “Civil Service hubs” is not a new one and in October, the government’s estate strategy outlined proposals to move half of London-based civil servants away from Whitehall to Surrey.

So where will an extra £10bn savings come from?

One area the government will make savings is through the completion of “the transformation of its “back office” shared services” and the margining of several back office into “Two Independent Shared Service Centres.”

As reported last month, the government has announced plans to transform their IT and back office contracts which has resulted in many back office civil servants at the Ministry of Justice being offered voluntary exit plans.

Osborne’s announcement that public sector pay will continue to be restrained into the next Parliament following a £12bn saving is another area likely to wield results.

The chancellor also announced the government will push forward to complete pension reforms, which is likely to contribute to the £10bn target. 

Responding to the Chancellor’s final Autumn Statement of this Parliament, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman said: “The chancellor made it clear that for hard-working public servants, the next Parliament will feel very much like this one: further cuts in departmental spending at the same pace and a continuation of pay restraint until at least 2018, if the deficit is indeed dealt with by then.

“At a time when pay levels for senior grades in the civil service are around half those of equivalent private sector roles, the chancellor makes clear that those tasked with delivering further cuts in public spending to balance the economy are the very people being excluded from the benefits of that success.”

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