Equality and diversity jobs to be reviewed in job cuts drive

Hunt says breaking down barriers to diversity should be "everyone’s job, not a box to be ticked by hiring a diversity manager"
Jeremy Hunt speaking at Conservative Party's 2023 conference. Photo: PA/ALamy

By Tevye Markson

03 Oct 2023

Equality and diversity jobs in the civil service could be under threat as part of plans from the Treasury to bring down headcount to pre-pandemic levels.

In Jeremy Hunt’s announcement yesterday that expansion of the civil service will be "frozen" at its current level ahead of headcount being cut to pre-pandemic levels, he said equality and diversity initiatives would be one of the first areas targeted.

“Smashing glass ceilings is everyone’s job, not a box to be ticked by hiring a diversity manager,” the chancellor said.

Following his speech at the Conservative Party conference, the Treasury confirmed in a press release that there will be a “value for money audit” of equality, diversity and inclusion spending in the civil service.

The audit will be part of the government's public sector productivity review, with findings and actions to be announced by the chancellor this autumn, the Treasury said.

When Hunt announced the Public Sector Productivity Programme in June, he hinted at a probe of civil service equality, diversity and inclusion roles.

Referring to a review by think tank Conservative Way Forward which found 10,000 public sector workers are focused predominantly on EDI initiatives, Hunt said in June: “Breaking down barriers for disadvantaged groups should be everyone’s responsibility, not something you tick a box to achieve at further cost to taxpayers.”

Scrapping diversity roles was a policy favoured by former prime minister Liz Truss. In August, Truss said diversity and inclusion roles in the civil service – of which she claimed there were at least 326 in government departments – “distract from delivering on the British people’s priorities”.

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