The Taxpayers Alliance published a study showing that civil service numbers rose by 101,440 between 2016 and 2023. This was an increase of 24% and a bigger increase in numbers than the total strength of the British army. There has been a particular growth in top grades and the higher salary policy oriented posts, with 2,050 paid six figures and 195 paid more than £150,000.
In 2021-2 44,220 people left the civil service, or 8.6% of the headcount. 69,400 new people were recruited. This demonstrates that a decision to freeze recruitment can make a substantial difference quite quickly to overall numbers and to payroll costs. Ministers running such a scheme should be looking for considerably more than the 0.5% productivity gain suggested in the Chancellor’s speech,. given the large 7.5% fall in productivity since 2019.
Of course senior departmental managers should put cases to Ministers to allow external recruitment where a job is crucial and the skills are lacking in the current workforce on the departure of a key member of staff. In most cases there will be plenty of talent in the civil service to find an internal promotion. In many cases the departure of a staff member to retire or go elsewhere will trigger a review of whether that role can be abolished, amalgamated with another or allow the removal of some other role when the person is pro0motoed or moved into the key role.
The Chancellor has proposed £1bn of savings . As the typical cost of employing a person is around £50,000 taking benefits and direct costs on top of salary that equates to around 20,000 fewer posts through natural wastage. This is half the level that could be accomplished in the first year of the programme.