NICS lifts recruitment freeze to fill hundreds of vacancies

Around 900 roles could be filled that are "essential" to deliver services, replace staff who have left and respond to new demands
Stormont. Photo: Mieneke Andeweg-van Rijn/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

24 Oct 2023

The Northern Ireland Civil Service has lifted a freeze on recruitment so it can fill hundreds of vacancies.

The NICS put recruitment on pause in February after civil servants were asked to find 10% in budget cuts, but the Department of Finance has now asked departments to submit their vacancies for general service roles. The decision was made by the DoF permanent secretary following talks with perm sec colleagues.

The Department of Finance said it is "essential to fill vacancies to deliver services, replace staff who have left and respond to new demands".

NICS is proposing to fill around 900 vacancies, according to the BBC. The NICS is also expected to launch a new recruitment competition for administrative officer roles, while every Stormont department is being asked to assess the “affordability” of all of its posts.

Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris set a budget for the Northern Ireland Executive in April in the absence of devolved ministers. Stormont’s power-sharing government collapsed in February 2022 amid a dispute over the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol, with the NICS charged with running the day-to-day since then.

NICS head Jayne Brady said in the summer that departments had “reached the limit” of what could be delivered after making £1bn of “challenging” budget cuts. She said there remained unfunded pay pressures of £571m and outstanding decisions on other pressures – valued at £437m – still to be taken. NICS civil servants were asked to make 10% in deparmental budget cuts

A DoF spokesperson said: “A temporary pause on general service allocations was put in place in February 2023. Departments have been asked to submit general service vacancies to NICSHR, including approval of funding, to be included in the next allocation exercise.

“It is essential to fill vacancies to deliver services, replace staff who have left and respond to new demands. Each department must assess the affordability of all its posts.

"Departments have now been asked to review the number of vacancies to be filled with approved funding so numbers can be confirmed. Each department must assess the affordability of all its posts.”

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