MoD recruitment curb to last 18 months and cut headcount by up to 3,000

Minister confirms plan to leave civil service roles unfilled to fund armed forces pay increases
Ministry of Defence Main Building in Whitehall. Photo: Yau Ming Low/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

27 Jul 2023

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that recruitment controls will be in place for the next 18 months as part of plans to reduce its workforce by up to 3,000.

On July 10, the ministry paused all but essential recruitment for a month, and said it would look at ways to manage financial pressures over the following year-and-a-half.

Following reports that this could mean a recruitment freeze until March 2025, and the MoD headcount falling by up to 3,000, a defence minister has confirmed the department’s plan.

In answer to a parliamentary question, minister Andrew Murrison said: “The Ministry of Defence has recently commenced a temporary recruitment pause. Following this pause, over the next 18 months we will control the recruitment of civilian staff, with certain positions not being filled.

“We anticipate that the Defence civilian workforce will decrease through natural attrition by around 2,000 to 3,000 posts over this period.”

Murrison, who is minister for defence people, veterans and service families, said the ministry is “currently modelling how the reduction in civil servant headcount will contribute to the financial challenges the department is facing”.

“Our civilian workforce is crucial to protecting our nation and supporting our Armed Forces, and we are committed to having an agile workforce with the right skills, whilst maximising value for the taxpayer,” Murrison added.

There are currently around 60,000 (full-time equivalent) roles in the MoD, as of official department statistics from April 2023, an increase of 740 from the year before. A 3,000-staff reduction in staff would be a 5% drop in the civilian workforce.

The plans follow the government’s decision to agree a 5% plus £1,000 consolidated pay rise for the armed forces this year, a boost of around 9.7% for junior soldiers, sailors and aviators and around 5.5% for more senior ranks.

In comparison, delegated grade civil servants in the ministry will receive a 4.5-5% average pay rise of 4.5% pay rise plus a £1,500 unconsolidated cost-of-living payment, while senior officials will receive a 5.5% pay award plus 1% for pay anomalies.

Armed forces minister Heappey said earlier this month the department plans to fund the armed forces pay rise include the civil service recruitment freeze, which ends on August 4, and “some other things that…we've had to look at as being less important than making sure that our people are looked after, whilst they and their families are going through a cost of living crisis”.

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