National Audit Office warns over UK civil service cuts

By on 08/06/2015 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Sir Amyas Morse comptroller and auditor general of the UK's National Audit Office

The British government has failed to plan properly for the implications of past and future cuts to civil service staffing, the public spending watchdog has warned.

The National Audit Office – an independent Parliamentary body in the UK responsible for auditing central government departments, government agencies and non-departmental public bodies – said 90,000 jobs were cut from 2010 to 2014, saving £2.29bn from the annual wage bill.

But it said the recruitment freeze had created a “generational gap” which could cause a serious skills shortage.

The government said it was working to ensure the civil service was “more skilled and diverse”.

The NAO report published on 5 June examined government departments’ progress in reducing staff numbers and costs.

Its analysis – centred on HM Revenue and Customs and the transport, international development and defence departments – found that there was a mixed picture of success.

And it warned that proper strategies were not in place to implement future cuts to civil service staffing levels, driven by government plans to cut the financial deficit.

NAO head Amyas Morse said: “Not enough planning has gone into making sure that, over the longer term, the reductions already made and any required in future are sustainable and do not damage the delivery of public service.

“The centre of government must do more to help departments meet these challenges, including managing the heightened risk of a shortage of vital skills.”

The report said that the significant reduction in civil service jobs since 2010 – from 492,000 to 405,000 – had substantially reduced the annual wage bill by £2.29bn, to £11.13bn.

But it said this was achieved mainly by restricting recruitment, which had created a “generational gap”.

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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