The coalition government failed to meet its pledge to cut the number of civil servants, new figures show.
There were 406,140 civil servants employed across government departments in the first quarter of this year – a slight increase on the back end of 2014, and a 15 per cent reduction since 2010, according to the Institute of Government.
But that falls short of the 23 per cent cut promised in 2012, which would have taken the total headcount down to around 380,000 in full time employment.
On a departmental basis there is a huge discrepancy in the numbers. At one end stands the Department for Work and Pensions, which employs (along with associated organisations) 81,310 staff.
At the other end is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – frequently at the top of the list when the discussion around cutting whole departments resurfaces - which employs just 570 people.
The Ministry of Justice, HMRC and Ministry of Defence all employ more than 50,000 civil servants.
Meanwhile, reductions in some of the arm’s-length bodies reporting to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – particularly Companies House and the Land Registry – mean it has dropped below the Department for Transport to become the seventh-largest division.
Other than this, the relative size of departments has remained unchanged since Q4 2014.
Those jobs that have been cut back have come through “minimising recruitment rather than redudancy”, the Whitehall Monitor said, resulting in a proportionate increase among older staff, which could increase the risk of skill shortages.
The Monitor quoted a recenty National Audit Office report as saying: “Not enough planning has gone into making sure that, over the longer term, the reductions already made and any required in future are sustainable and do not damage the delivery of public services.”
The Institute of Government report added: “These figures take us up to the immediate pre-election period when attentions were turned towards preparing for an uncertain future. What is clear is that most departments have managed to significantly reduce their staff numbers since 2010. As Whitehall prepares for the spending review in the autumn, the question is how much further they will be required to go.”
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "The Civil Service has shrunk by 22 per cent since 2010 which saved taxpayers £2.4bn in 2014 alone. We are committed to making savings where possible whilst ensuring that taxpayers get the best possible service."