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Slash and Burn

June 15, 2022 9:25 AM
By Roy Wood

People in suits

The government's plans to cut the number of civil servants by 91,000 - around 20% - within three years, will leave Whitehall unable to handle the huge extra workload caused by Brexit, particularly in areas of trade, agriculture, immigration and business regulation.

For every 10,000 UK citizens, the number of civil servants was 76 in 2010 but had been cut to 59 by 2016. However, because of the extra workload from planning and implementing Brexit and Covid, there were 70 in 2021. The new plan would see just 56 by 2025.

The difficulties of managing, let alone making a success of Brexit while slashing the size of the state are highlighted by the Institute for Government thinktank, which says that, since 2016, the Home Office has added 8,400 staff, many of whom are managing the new immigration policies and processing visas from the EU for the first time.

Both the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have seen their staffing levels increase by 5,000 since 2016, as they have taken on the regulatory and policy roles previously performed by EU officials.

The OBR has calculated that the economy will, in the long term, be 4% lower as a result of Brexit. Some will say that is a price worth paying for our wonderful new freedoms (!?). But the functions previously performed by the EU (and new ones created by Brexit) still need doing. The planned reductions are ideologically driven and will have a major negative impact on many sectors.

Liberal Democrats have pointed out that setting an arbitrary target and forcing departments to meet it, regardless of the consequences, makes absolutely no sense. This is no way to run the business of government.