One expert said that reducing the number of civil servants to pre-Brexit numbers does not make sense because the British government has a greater responsibility now than it did when it was an EU member.
Boris Johnson has instructed departments to consider how to return the civil service workforce to 2016 levels, and reduce the workforce by nearly 90,000.
Downing Street has suggested that staff swelled during Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, claiming they are no longer needed.
But Sam Friedman, a senior fellow at the Institute of Government, said changes in policy and governance would require additional staff.
“It seems that what they did was say ‘what’s the lowest point and let’s get back to that level’ without taking into account that they are doing a lot more things than before,” he said. me.
“There are a lot of things we’re doing now because Europe isn’t doing it for us, so you can’t just say we can go back to pre-Brexit, because our governance and our responsibilities have changed.”
Mr. Friedman gave the example of border control officials with more responsibility for monitoring arrivals into the UK, or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which handles import and export control.
These two matters were dealt with by the European Union when the United Kingdom was a member.
He added that other aspects of governance have changed in recent years, such as the increase in the number of academic schools controlled by the central government rather than local authorities, which requires more manpower in the management of education.
“There are all kinds of things that are changing and that require more civil servants from us,” Friedman said.
When Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic were ranked 10th, they were still “real-time problems”, the spokesperson said: “We’ve practically gone through the pandemic now and are in a very different stage than we are in the past two years.”
“Likewise, in Brexit there is obviously still some work to do in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol and a few other areas, but we have Brexit and a significant number of staff being called upon to work on this. They play is no longer needed within the civil service.
Downing Street said it was “important for the civil service to make sure that we are as efficient as possible and that there is no duplication of work.”
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