Reducing civil service staff back to pre-Brexit numbers is illogical because the UK Government has more responsibility now than it did when it was a member of the EU, an expert has said.
Boris Johnson has instructed departments to consider how they can to return Civil Service workforce numbers to 2016 levels, reducing the workforce by about 90,000.
Downing Street suggested the number of employees was inflated during Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, arguing these were no longer required.
But Sam Freedman, a senior fellow from the Institute for Government, said that changes to policy and governance required additional staff.
“It looks like what they have done is say, ‘what is the lowest point it has reached and let’s just go back to that level’ without taking into account they are doing a lot more stuff than they were,” he told i.
“There is a bunch of stuff we are doing now because Europe is not doing it for us, so you can’t just say we can go back to before Brexit, because our governance and responsibility has changed.”
Mr Freedman gave the example of border control staff having increased responsibility to monitor arrivals in the UK, or the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs taking over control of imports and exports.
Both of these things were managed by the EU when the UK was a member.
Other aspects of governance have changed in recent years, he added, such as the increased number of academy schools, which are controlled by central government rather than local authorities, requiring more manpower in the Department for Education.
“There are all sorts of things changing that require us to have more civil servants,” Mr Freedman said.
When it was put to No 10 that Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic were still “live issues”, the spokesman said: “We’ve come pretty much through the pandemic now and we’re in a completely different phase than we have been over the last couple of years.
“And similarly, on Brexit there’s there’s obviously still work to be done in terms of the Northern Ireland protocol and a few other areas, but we have got Brexit done, and a large number of the staff that were brought in to work on that the roles that they were fulfilling are no longer needed within the Civil Service.”
Downing Street said it was “important for the Civil Service to make sure we’re as efficient as possible and there’s no duplication in our work”.