The Spending Review revealed an intention to reduce the number of ‘non-frontline’ civil servants back to pre-pandemic levels – but the Treasury is yet to define how such a distinction will be made
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It is unclear whether government’s digital, data and technology profession could be facing a reduction in headcount, after the Treasury has said it does not yet have a definition of who is be considered a “non-frontline” civil servant
Last week’s Spending Review revealed the government’s intention to cut back the number of officials employed in these roles to pre-pandemic levels, as part of wider plans to reduce departments’ operational budgets by 5% over the next three years. These savings can then be “reinvested into priority areas”.
“The government can reduce non-frontline civil service headcount to 2019-20 levels by 2024-25, helping to fund increases to frontline roles”, according to the Budget and Spending Review. “This will mean a more productive and agile civil service, taking advantage of new ways of working to continue to reduce inefficiencies and deliver better outcomes for the public.”
When asked by PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World for more information on the plans, the Treasury said that there was not yet a full distinction between frontline and non-frontline roles that could be shared, but that frontline posts were “operational staff”. Highlighted roles in this category include prison officers, Department for Work and Pensions work coaches, and court staff.
There is, as yet, no clarity on the extent to which the 17,000 civil servants that form the DDaT profession might be considered frontline.
The size of departments’ collective workforce of technologists has grown strongly in recent years – even while the wider civil service was shrinking markedly. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of people employed by central government fell from almost 530,000 to fewer than 420,000. During the same period, the number of IT and digital professionals increased from 7,810 to 11,860.
This figure has increased even more rapidly since then, as the civil service headcount has expanded back to 452,830 full-time staff to support the demands of first Brexit and latterly coronavirus response.
But despite this increase in resources, reports still frequently conclude that government continues to suffer from digital skills gaps.