Civil Service employment surges as Brexit looms closer

Office for National Statistics figures released this week show that there were 11,000 more civil service posts in March this year than March 2017 (a 2.6% rise) and an increase of 3,000 employees since December.

The numbers reveal that Government employment was now at 430,000, a rise of 14,000 since the end of 2016.

Many of the roles had been created at the six government departments considered now to be the busiest. They were the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU), the Home Office, HM Revenue and Customs and the departments for international trade (DIT); business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS); and environment food and rural affairs (Defra).

The DExEU had grown from employing 50 people in late 2016 to 700 by end of March this year and DIT had added 800 Brexit roles over the same period.

Defra, headed by Michael Gove, which estimates that 80% of its work is framed by EU legislation, is another department heavily involved in Brexit planning.

According to Civil Service World, Defra is looking to have filled 1,200 new full-time equivalent EU departure posts by the end of September with the Home Office projected to take on 1,500 extra staff in the same period. HMRC is seeking to employ between 3,000 and 5,000 new staff by March 2019.

The overall public sector employment figure also rose, to 5.36 million, up by 10,000 on the figure for December.

The most recent peak Civil Service employee numbers was between September 2004 and June 2005 when about 566,000 people were employed in government departments. In June 2016 the number of staff was its lowest since the Second World War at 384,260.

According to the Institute for Government, Brexit was clearly the primary but not the only driver behind the rises. It’s Whitehall Monitor for 2018 notes that numbers at more senior grades of the service had been rising “since before the EU referendum. With staff numbers at the most junior grades continuing to fall, most departments have a greater percentage of their staff in more senior grades compared with 2010. The Civil Service is also older than it was in 2010, although the percentage aged under 30 is starting to rise, and new departments such as DExEU, are much younger than others.”

The number of central Government employees overall – including teachers and other staff at academy schools, NHS workers and Civil Service – grew by 25,000 in the first quarter of this year, in contrast to the continuing trend of job losses in local government. Figures for councils showed there were 15,000 fewer jobs in March 2018 than last December and a fall of 65,000 (3.1%) between March 2017 and March 2018.

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