What is the civil service and how many civil servants are there in the UK?

·2-min read
The Department for Work & Pensions is one of the biggest departments in the civil service. (John Stillwell/PA) (PA Archive)
The Department for Work & Pensions is one of the biggest departments in the civil service. (John Stillwell/PA) (PA Archive)

The government plans to cut up to 91,000 civil service jobs to return to 2016’s staffing levels within three years.

The BBC reported that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case made the announcement in a letter to civil servants.

The government may free recruitment or enforce compulsory redundancies as part of the plan, with the aim of saving money.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has defended the planned cuts, saying that extra staff were brought in to deal with Brexit and the pandemic.

But what is a civil servant and what kind of roles could be at risk?

What is a civil servant?

Civil servants work for the civil service, which directly provides services to people across the UK in a number of ways. The jobs that civil servants do include paying benefits and pensions, running employment services, and issuing driving licences.

Civil servants also include analysts, lawyers, and economists, who work on policy development and implementation.

Civil servants work across various government departments, such as the Cabinet Office, Department for Education, Department of Health and Social Care, Department for Transport, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVLA), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Ministry of Defence, and the Office for National Statistics, just to name a few.

Although civil servants often work in central government departments, they are politically impartial. The Prime Minister is the Minister for the Civil Service, and he is responsible for coordinating and managing the service.

Jobs that are not a part of the civil service include government ministers, members of the British Armed Forces, the police, officers of local government or NDPBs of the Houses of Parliament, NHS employees, or staff of the Royal Household.

How many civil servants are there in the UK?

As of the end of December 2021, there were 475,020 full-time equivalent civil servants, according to the Institute for Government.

Around 69% of civil servants work for the five largest departments in the civil service: the DWP, the Ministry of Justice, HMRC, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office.

The size of the civil service decreased by 19% between 2010 and 2016, but since the EU referendum in 2016, numbers have risen every quarter.

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