The delivery of essential strands of public policy is threatened by cuts to the civil service, Prospect has warned, after official figures showed staffing at its lowest level since the second world war.
The Office for National Statistics says the number of civil servants has fallen by almost 140,000 in a decade, to 398,000.
Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of Prospect, the union representing scientists, engineers, specialists and managers across government, expressed alarm at the news.
“While these figures will provide red meat to idealogues on the right, more thoughtful commentators will be asking themselves what this means for the delivery of essential strands of public policy – and importantly the safety and security of citizens,” he said.
Members working in areas such as the Ministry of Defence, the Met Office, Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, energy, agriculture and health make a fundamental contribution to keeping the public safe, supporting communities and businesses and protecting and enhancing quality of life.
Graham continued: “The past ten years have been marked by crude headcount reductions in the civil service. In some key areas these crude reductions have resulted in the need to draft in expensive consultants and contractors – which makes no sense from a taxpayers’ perspective and masks a dangerous depletion in skills and capacity.
“These cuts have been made in the name of austerity – and for some have been an ideological opportunity to ‘roll back the state’. Prospect believes there is the need for an informed debate about the provision of public services. The public sector is often portrayed by its critics as an amorphous whole. In reality it is often there to defend, support and enhance what we feel to be most dear to our way of life.”