Government departments have been asked to review their headcount in a three-year spending review that could mean the loss of thousands of civil service jobs.
According to a report in The Times, the Treasury has asked cabinet ministers and permanent secretaries to look at their day-to-day budgets and identify where they could be cut.
They have been told that headcount, which has grown year-on-year since the Brexit referendum in 2016, is “unsustainable and needs to be significantly reduced”, according to a senior government source.
Between 2010 and 2016 the size of the civil service fell by 19%, from 470,000 officials to 384,260. This was its lowest level in more than 60 years.
In the past year, figures show that the number of civil servants increased by more than 30,000, or 7.2%. More than two thirds of job cuts made during the coalition years were reversed.
The Cabinet Office took on a number of staff after the Department for Exiting the European Union was disbanded, while transport, education and the Treasury have also recruited in big numbers.
Civil service unions have been told, according to The Times, that the reduction in headcount would happen through not re-recruiting for roles when officials leave them.
A number of central government departments are also due to relocate, after the government committed in its March 2020 budget to move 22,000 civil service jobs out of London by the end of the decade. This will also likely see the loss of some staff.
The government’s next major spending review will cover its budget for the next three financial years, and is expected to happen in October.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak indicated in March that public spending would rise by 2.1% each year over the three years, but this includes a 3.9% annual budget increase for the NHS.