Government departments using 30% more temporary staff

ONS statistics also show staff numbers across the civil service have grown for the second quarter in a row

Civil service headcount now stands at 423,000. Credit: Pixabay

Staff numbers in central government departments rose in the three months to June 2017, according to the latest official statistics, as the civil service also increased its use of casual workers by 30% over the same period.

The Office for National Statistics quarterly measure of UK public sector employment – which shows a snapshot from June 2017 – found that there are now 423,000 civil servants in total.

Numbers have been steadily decreasing from a peak of 566,000 in June 2005.

But for the second quarter in a row, the civil service has seen a rise in headcount, increasing by 4,000 (1%) between March and June – and by 7,000 (1.7%) in the year to June 2017. 


Some 392,950 staff were working in central government departments as of June 2017, up on the previous quarter by 1,880 people.

By far the biggest percentage increase in staff over the quarter – more than 60% – was at the Department for Exiting the European Union, which was employing 340 people in June, up from 210 in March.

The new department is growing rapidly as Brexit negotiations get underway, with many staff being recruited from outside the civil service.

The Department for International Trade – which is also beefing up ahead of Brexit – and the Office for Standards in Education also significantly increased their staff headcounts over the quarter, from 1,060 to 1,220 at DIT, and from 1,520 to 1,730 at Ofsted.

Some departments have seen a drop in staff numbers, notably the Department for Communities and Local Government, where headcount fell by 7% to 1,990 from 2,160 in March 2017.

DCLG also saw one of the biggest percentage increases of all government departments in its use of temporary and casual staff – employing 140 temps in June 2017, up by 600% from just 20 in March 2017.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office saw a similar rise: in March 2017 it had 10 temporary staff, and in June it had 70 – also an increase of 600%.

The FCO lost 50 permanent staff over the same period. The ONS bulletin explains that around 40 Foreign Office employees were transferred to FCO Services, a trading fund of the department, at the beginning of April.

The total increase in the use of temps across central government departments was around 30%, from 4,150 in March to 5,430 casual staff working in June 2017.

The Home Office, which has the largest number of temporary workers of any government department, significantly increased its use of them in June this year, up by 77% from 930 in March to 1,650 in June.

The Departments for Education, and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, are also employing many more casual staff: 280 temps worked at DfE in June, up from 90 in March; and 280 at Defra, up from 100.

The education department also had 50 fewer permanent staff as of June.

CSW is awaiting comment from several government departments.

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