The government’s overhead


    I have been asking questions of departments to see how they are getting on with their plans to cut the government overhead.

     So far I have only had two replies. The Overseas Aid Department tells me they have increased their staff from 2357 in 2010 to 2512 now, a net increase of 155. They have recruited 327 new people to replace leavers as well as grow the staff numbers. The Climate Change Department has also boosted its staff from 1036 in 2010 to 1286 today, a net gain of 250. They have recruited 435 people.

     I will keep you posted when I find out how the bigger departments are getting on with the cuts.

     Meanwhile, yesterday’s figures for tax revenues, spending and borrowing confirmed the analysis of this site that tax revenues are suffering badly from tax saturation. Taxes on income and wealth fell 3% this April compared with April 2011.  Total tax rose just 1%. Current spending continued to rise in cash and real terms, as in the Red Book. It was running 3.8% higher in cash terms in April 2012 compared to April 2011.


        The Home Office staff numbers are down by 16.4%, Treasury by 13.5%, Health by 11.3%, Justice by 10.3% and Transport by 8.5%.  Culture etc is up by 3.5% to cater for the Olympics. These are two year figures for the changes.

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  1. Robert K
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    These are astonishing figures.
    I saw that Steve Hilton reckoned that Whitehall could be run by 4,000 people, the same as during the Empire. Instead, we have two non-function departments employing almost that many.
    I have an increasing sense of being trapped in a swamp of bureaucracy.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Did you read the STOP PRESS though?

  2. oap
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    I was about to describe these two departments as birds of a feather. On reflection, squander bugs sounds more appropriate.

  3. zorro
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Such good news that these essential government functions are experiencing staff increases. I mean they contribute so much to our economy and security. So glad that the army, police and border staff are being cut……I mean we can definitely secure the border by employing inexperienced staff with a day or two’s trsining for the next few months and beyond. Hopefully, that will include lots who have only just been paid off two years salary and now being paid big expenses to cover shortfalls……Excellent modelling and contingency planing……

    Good to see government getting its priorities right…..


    Really good to see government getting priorities

  4. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    I gather Michael Gove has a team of over 250 working on Free Schools (mainly secondaries opening in areas where we have declining numbers of students).

    And no-one working on the coming crisis in Primary school places for which we need to build over 400 more schools. He’s leaving that to the LAs (what LAs?).

    But please correct me if I’m wrong.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      And why, Rebecca, do we need to build 400 more primary schools? Given that the typical English family is hardly replacing itself.

      • Winston Smith
        Posted May 23, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        Yes, we must not mention mass immigration.

        • Muddyman
          Posted May 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

          Speak only of ‘British’ – England or English are forbidden words.

        • zorro
          Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

          Could such incompetence by the governing powers be accidental?


      • Tad Davison
        Posted May 23, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

        Perhaps we’re not catering for ‘the average English family’, but much larger ones from elsewhere.


      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted May 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        Here’s some government info on the issue backofanenvelope

        • backofanenvelope
          Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

          Come on Rebecca! Migrants, be they Polish Catholics or Muslim Pakistanis, are YOUNG! They will have lots of children. Hence the need for 400 new primary schools.

  5. Pete the Bike
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    No surprises there. Parasitic government continues to grow and is slowly killing it’s host. I wonder at what point people will realise it, maybe not until too late.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted May 25, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Guessing a Tory government would stave off that fateful day – for a little longer than any other ?!
      Guessing this ConDem government will edge us closer to the precipice – a little quicker ??!!
      Guessing Liebore governments have always intended such consequences – comrades ???!!!

  6. lifelogic
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Well, the Climate Change Department can clearly be abolished. As to Overseas Aid I would have thought 20 good people would surely be sufficient and then have more aid to do some good with.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      I read in the telegraph that “‘Socialist’ Vince Cable not fit for office, says Adrian Beecroft”. I wonder what he thinks of Cameron?

      He concludes that the economy will grow by five per cent less than expected – the equivalent of more than £50 billion – because of the Government’s failure to push through radical reform of employment laws.

      Then there is the high energy, the bloated state sector, the over taxation, the lack of vision, all the other mad regulations and the lack of banking – so perhaps £500Billion of growth lost in all.

      I am sure the unemployed are all very grateful.

      • uanime5
        Posted May 24, 2012 at 12:25 am | Permalink

        Given the levels of growth and private sector jobs that were supposed to be created by firing large numbers of public sector workers I doubt there’s any truth behind this 5% figure.

        The unemployed are unemployed because they lack the skills or work experience to get the available jobs, or are undercut by immigrants. So making it easier to fire employees won’t help the unemployed.

        • lifelogic
          Posted May 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

          It is not firing people in the state sector that creates jobs it is leaving more money with the private sector. In fact taxes have risen, the banks are not lending, demand is low and the state sector is still growing and not even a positive smaller state vision.

          How can the private sector grow given this?

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      Every worker in the climate change department must surely be costing the loss of about circa 1000 jobs in the real world.

      Are they all proud of the great achievements of their new religion I wonder?

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      In relation to your STOP PRESS
      “The Home Office staff numbers are down by 16.4%, Treasury by 13.5%, Health by 11.3%, Justice by 10.3% and Transport by 8.5%. Culture etc is up by 3.5% to cater for the Olympics. These are two year figures for the changes.”

      Well good at last but: were these real or just a renaming and shuffling exercise of department responsibilities. If real what was the average pay off (3 years and a large pension enhancement perhaps?). How much tax payers cash was thrown at it? How are all the 6? new quangos (in the Queens speech) getting on with their staff/logos/posh new offices, consultants and the like.

  7. Stewart Knight
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Why does the OAD need virtually anyone, let alone 2500+?!!

    Cameron really is wet isn’t he and Government grows at its core.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Why? To give interesting jobs to friends and relatives of the powerful perhaps, to provide good photo ops for Cameron on his trips, to show the Tories are not so nasty, to help with UK population indoctrination program, to entertain dodgy overseas politician /visitors, perhaps? …………

      Or perhaps just because they can get away with it as there are no real democratic controls in place.

  8. Alex
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    “The Overseas Aid Department tells me they have increased their staff from 2357 in 2010 to 2512 now, a net increase of 155 …. The Climate Change Department has also boosted its staff from 1036 in 2010 to 1286 today, a net gain of 250.”
    Now imagine you are a small business owner who has to go in to work today and lay off staff due to high taxes and excessive regulation. You read the figures above. Will you be voting Conservative next time?

    • RB
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Try being a small business owner who ran his own business for over 10 years and in 2009 jacked it all in and made 3 staff redundant because of the ludicrous ever increasing costs of running the business against ever decreasing turnover in a financial meltdown. At year end looking at the acounts, everyone else having been paid, and saying did I just work 80 hours a week in the last year for “that”? Someone who then spent 10 months trying to get a job (as a graduate, post graduate and member of a number of professional bodies with 20 years experience in his profession). My financial world imploded between 2008 and 2010. I now work 3 1/2 days a week – all I could find after 300+ job applications facing rampant age discrimination. Almost everything I worked for for over 25 years is almost gone. My pension is trashed – so bad that I no longer bother contributing to it at all and the forecast is grim. My retirement will now be a travesty of what I planned. Skint, unable to pay energy costs, council tax, and living expenses, whilst my in laws on final salary public sector pensions still take four or five holidays a year in their retirement and complain when they notice that their numerous investments arent going great guns. And for my kids it will be even worse.

      UKIP for me.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted May 23, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        I have every sympathy. We saw the slogans many years ago, ‘Labour still isn’t working’ which was true, so why in God’s name does this coalition follow their pathetic example?

        You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. You can call yourself a Tory, but if your policies are the same or even similar to Labour, you’re Labour!

        What happened to ‘clear blue water’?

        Good housekeeping, efficiency, and value for tax-payers money used to be core Conservative values, so what changed?


        • lifelogic
          Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

          What happened to ‘clear blue water’?

          It all leaked out when Cameron put his caring, sharing, pro EU, fake green, big state, tax borrow and waste agenda to the country against the useless Mr (some bigoted woman) Brown and managed somehow to lose.

      • nicol sinclair
        Posted May 23, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        RB: You provide a very cogent argument. We are buggered… Well and truly. And it doesn’t seem to matter a jot as to whom one votes for (apart, perhaps, from UKIP)

        Apart from a few exceptions, politicians by-and-large are a bunch of charlatans.

        Go on! Moderate me.

  9. MajorFrustration
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Based on this info the Government really have lost it – assuming they had it in the first place. With two years in one does wonder/doubt whether they know whats going on. Expect that back bench members will sit on their thumbs and do nothing – “I was only following orders” “not me Guv”

  10. Acorn
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    That’s more like it JR, you are at your best when you use that big brain of yours to root out the buried bad, for us taxpayers, news.

    The thing is have you alienated this new Gong issuing committee manned by the Whips. Surely you have put in enough hours to qualify for a “Sir” by now? There must be loads of stupid ideas we the people never hear about. Examples of the “executives” obsession with micro-managing every minute of our existence. Planet Westminster has Paul Flynn’s “Shove Dave’s daftest Idea”.

  11. Manof Kent
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Surely time to bring in a National Insurance employers surcharge on all public service jobs to at least slow down recruitment.
    Most of the public service job losses are due to happen just before the election I believe?
    Fat chance of that ever coming to pass.

  12. John Ward
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Amusing to hear the Left’s robotic reference to cuts when the total Coalition spend is higher than ever.
    The ‘Osborne Cuts Strategy’ is the greatest misnomer in history: it wasn’t Osborne’s idea, it was Hiltons; there haven’t been any cuts to total spend; and it is a gesture not a strategy.
    £13bn saved plays £76.7bn spent on pointless QE by Mervyn King. This is a strategy?

  13. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    For crying out loud, is nobody in charge and insisting that numbers must be cut at least at the rate of natural wastage?

  14. English Pensioner
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    The status of our Mandarins depends on the size of their department and the number of people that they employ, and there will never be any cuts if it is left to them.
    When the company where my daughter works was forced to make staff cuts, they simply introduced a “No replacement without approval at board level” policy. Managers had to explain in detail why the post was required and why they could not reallocate the work to existing staff. As my daughter explained to me, no one was fired, some staff were moved to different work, unnecessary work was discontinued, and she didn’t actually think anyone was working any harder.
    In many organisations, particularly within government, unnecessary work is done because it “has always been done that way”. Typical of that policy is our GP’s surgery. I can now e-mail for repeat prescriptions, but one of the receptionists still prints them out and copies them into a book “for the record”.

    • StevenL
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      Yes, you can have one city council dept managing fine with one admin officer, and in another city council, the same dept, of the same size, doing the same work ‘needs’ 3.

      The truth is that no manager wants to sack or otherwise inconvenience their friends of 20 years.

      • English Pensioner
        Posted May 24, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        Typical of two local hospitals which were “merged” (they are 20 miles apart). Previously each had a Chief Finance Office, now they have the two existing posts and an Executive Chief Finance Officer. Presumably the same happened with other departments like Purchasing and Maintenance.
        Medical staff were cut by having specialities at one hospital only.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      The maddening thing here is that, way back after the election, our host explained in detail that this was the way to trim the Civil Service.
      Guess what…….

  15. David John Wilson
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Weren’t these departments supposed to cut the numbers of stakk employed by 10% or more ? Shouldn’t the responsible minister be brought to account by the house of commons?

  16. RDM
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I bet the DWP has increased its staff count? The Jobcentre has increased the number of staff interviewing me to two every week, and one every fortnight. Before it was one every fortnight! They are all younger then me, with less Work experience, and the real problem is obvious. There are no jobs to apply for!

    Given the number of startup opportunities there are, just think how many jobs could have been created! I’m someone who could create tens , if not hundreds, of high tech jobs! When are they going to fix the Banking System? We can’t just cut everything, there needs to be a Framework in place that supports Risk takers, whether they have collateral or not. We now need to start creating an Enterprise culture, fast!



    • sjb
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink


      Mr Redwood pointed out in his blog entry of 6 January 2011 how: “[t]he [I]nternet allows enterprising people in China, India and similar countries to start up a business with relatively little capital, and to gain immediate access to the worldwide market. ”

      If you scroll down the replies, you will see my suggestion of giving accelerated receipt of benefit to unemployed graduates who wish to give self-employment a try.

      btw, if anyone has authoritative figures, I would love to know how many of the 300,000 unemployed graduates in January 2011 are still signing-on.

    • outsider
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

      How frustrating. Organising more seedcorn money for new business really is one of the big problems in the UK. No easy answer. Frankly, banks should not be in the business of providing risk capital. But they could be a lot more active in sponsoring networks of people who can, business clubs, angels, local solicitors, investment consultants, local chambers of commerce and the like. And if banks could see third parties having the confidence to put up seedcorn risk capital, they might be more inclined to provide working capital to back contracts on non-penal terms as well as the usual stocks and business assets.

  17. rose
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I liked the PM’s reference just now in the H of C to what he’d been taught in business – that going back to your best and biggest customer would secure you your best deal. He is a politician now, and his best and biggest customer is surely the conservative interest, not the liberal one.

  18. lifelogic
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Only two replies? Well perhaps the other departments are far too understaffed to be able to reply.

    In my experience most government departments do not reply or if they do they have clearly not bothered to read the letter they are replying to.

  19. Atlas
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    … so many in the Climate change Department!…

    Crickey, I wish that number were involved in doing an Independent Assessment of the Science. Now that would save billions for the country.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      It is a religion – science is just the ruse. It is what BBC/libdem type people like to believe and what suits the big state that is what will always be pushed.

      Go to recycle your bottles and old Guardians/Independents in the Prius and you will go to heaven in the after life. Do it on a push bike and you will go to an even higher level of heaven (but perhaps rather sooner looking at the accident statistics).

      Do not do it and you will be blown up in a Richard Curtis ‘exploding schoolchildren’ video.

  20. lojolondon
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    On a totally different note, the Coalition are united in their plan to remove the ‘uman rights laws from Britian – see the article below.

    The GOOD news is that this means the ECHR cannot instruct Parliament to follow EU law and deliver votes to prisoners.

    The BAD news is all this was said before Cameron and Klegg were in power, when they were still promising things to get elected and it seems that something has changed since then….

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Personally I think, on balance, people in jail should to be allowed to vote. It can do little harm and might do some good for some of them to consider the issues and it would cost very little. It would be good for MPs to go to prison sometimes too visiting or sometimes as residents.

      But clearly it is something for parliament to decide. Cameron needs to get out of the ECHR or shut up. By all means let our courts consider and learn from some of its judgements.

      Cameron is clearly using this as a pathetic way of showing he is not a Europhile when he clearly is one from top to toe. It won’t wash with anyone who looks at his actions. Also he may end up paying to compensate prisoners.

    • uanime5
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 12:32 am | Permalink

      The bad news is that the courts won’t obey the Coalition because Parliament has passed the Human Rights Act and until Parliament removes it the courts will remain bound by Human Rights law. So expect more prisoners suing the state for denying them their right to vote and the courts having to accept all these cases.

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        Indeed so what is Cameron going to do just pretend to have a fight is seems!

  21. Paul Danon
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Thank you. Will we eventually have a total on net growth/shrinkage number for Whitehall staff-numbers?

    Reply: I hope so

    • zorro
      Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      The Coalition had a chance to reestablish what needed to be done efficiently by the state when they won the elections. Instead they have cut arbitrarily instead of focusing resources on what a government should be obliged to provide for its citizens – defence – border control – rule of law.

      Instead we have an increase in DECC and OAD. I pity anyone who voted for this government thinking that they would carry out what they claimed that they wanted to do….


      • zorro
        Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        Do they not see that if you don’t make proper efforts to control immigration there are massive social costs down the road….?


      • zorro
        Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        sorry when they stitched up their agreement after the hung Parliament…getting ahead of myself there.


    • lifelogic
      Posted May 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      Cuts now, after the pay off, will save nothing before the next election it is simply too late.

  22. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    We simply cannot afford government expenditure to increase in real terms – and preferably not in cash terms. Overall, the reduction of numbers in the various ministries seems to be about 10%. It is clear that we also need a public sector pay freeze – including the ending of automatic annual increases – until public sector pay falls into line with private sector pay. And we should suspend the index linking of all benefits that are paid for not working.

  23. Dan H.
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Given that Britain has a structural deficit and needs to be saving money, why do we have an overseas development agency at all? Such an agency is charged with giving British taxpayers’ money to non-British people who don’t pay tax, or contribute directly to us at all; there is no reason for politicians to want to give money away like this.

    Secondarily, we are currently (due to a decade of maladministration under Labour) looking at an energy shortfall. Given that we now easily have a large enough sample size of windfarms and solar installations to be able to predict how useful the existing ones and proposed will be for supplying power (hint: terms like “bloody useless” and “not cost effective” come to mind here), should we not be looking at known-effective solutions instead? Nuclear reactors supply power cheaply, consistently and predictably. Windfarms supply power expensively, unpredictably and may, if the wind exceeds a certain speed, drop from full output to zero in minutes.

    Under the nuclear non-proliferation treaties, we have a duty to limit the number of nuclear weapons in the world. The safest way to do this is to use the plutonium we produced for these weapons as reactor fuel; if we also build rapid breeder reactors and a fast-neutron reactor (or even just a particle-accelerator facility to produce energetic neutrons) then we can set up a long-term self-sustaining power generation system that will sustain our power needs for centuries, and will with the help of fast-neutron reactors (which destroy long half-life “sludge” by breaking it up into much lighter, shorter half-life elements) minimise our waste storage needs.

    The future is nuclear, and if the EU prevents us from building the nuclear reactors we need because they are deemed subsidies to private industry, then we either build them as publicly-owned infrastructure, or simply tell the EU to get lost on the matter; this will have very few repercussions for us beyond a certain amount of shouting as the EU has bigger issues on its plate right now.

  24. sm
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Are these staff numbers inclusive of the thousands offpayroll?

    If these are not the easier straightforward cuts what are?

  25. Bob
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Well done MR. Redwood for exposing your own party’s ineffectiveness in handling the budgetary problems. Keep it coming, and hopefully we can be rid of this so called Prime Minister before too much more damage is done.

    BTW, I heard on LBC radio today (J Hartley Brewer) that any schools with no record of racist incidents are rebuked for failing in their duty, as it is assumed that there must be such incidents in every school.

    Another sign of too many public sector workers with too much time on their hands.

  26. Bishop Hill
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    The bureaucracy is out of control.

  27. fox in sox
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Dear John,

    Be careful of the figures on job cuts in some departments. Some have laid off permanent staff but now give block grants to “third sector” organisations to continue the same work. Not cuts, just sleight of hand. Do a bit more digging.

  28. uanime5
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Give the higher levels of unemployment, low growth / recession, and wages falling in real terms it is any surprise that the amount of tax revenue is falling. Perhaps this is evidence that Plan A isn’t encouraging the expected levels of growth.

  29. Robert Taggart
    Posted May 25, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Why the need for the continued existence of DfID ?
    Put it back where it belongs – the FCO.
    Result ? = economy of scale + all the FCO budget could be counted towards that 0.7% ‘goal’ – assuming it does not surpass it ?
    Yes, much of that 0.7% would be spent on administration here in Blighty – charity begins at home !

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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