Digital is ‘essential’ to civil service job cuts plan, departments told

Written by Beckie Smith and Sam Trendall on 13 June 2022 in News

Memo to finance and HR chiefs advises ministries to work with CDDO to assess potential tech projects

Credit: mliu92/CC BY-SA 2.0   Image has been cropped and edited

Departments have been advised that digital transformation will be crucial if they are to achieve the prime minister’s target of cutting 91,000 civil service jobs over the next three years.

As part of Boris Johnson’s plan to shrink government’s headcount back to pre-Brexit-referendum levels, departments have been told to model workforce reductions of 20%, 30%, and 40%. This assessment – which must be signed off by the relevant secretary of state and completed by 30 June – must also include consideration of the potential need to include voluntary and compulsory redundancies in order to reach the number of job cuts requested by ministers.

Last week, a memo jointly sent by the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury providing advice on for departmental HR and finance directors on how to go about preparing their assessment.

The guidance encouraged them increased use of automation tools and other digital transformation schemes will be “essential to delivery of the scale of efficiencies required”. 

Departments must therefore work with the Cabinet Office’s Central Digital and Data Office to assess how overhauling internal functions, such as IT service support and onboarding, and external functions, such as in-person processing of applications from citizens for documents or services, could support their workforce planning.

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Officials should work with the CDDO to assess the cost and feasibility of delivering extra automation and digitisation projects over the next three years to support the cuts programme, according to a separate document setting out technical guidance for departments’ submissions.

Departments are also advised that they can consider outsourcing arrangements, but cannot simply replace civil servants with consultants. The guidance says departments can “consider outsourcing options”, but only if doing so would save money and improve outcomes. 

“Outsourcing must not be considered purely for reclassification purposes,” the memo said.
The document cautions departments that they may also need to reprioritise the delivery of services and projects to achieve the desired efficiencies.

“As far as possible, departments should aim to mitigate any adverse impacts on the delivery of public services and wider government priorities,” it said. “However, it is recognised that in some instances departments will need to consider reprioritisation. Departments will be expected to evidence they have considered all possible efficiencies and reduction of lower priority programmes and commitments.”

HR and finance bosses are advised that “there are no civil servants or groups of civil servants that are exempt from these returns – regardless of the work they are undertaking”.

Read more about this story in coverage by PublicTechnolgy’s sister publication, Civil Service World.


About the author

Beckie Smith is deputy editor for PublicTechnlogy sister publication Civil Service World. She tweets as @beckie__smith.

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