DWP workforce could shrink by more than a third
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) could see its staff numbers cut by more than a third in the next five years, according to senior civil servants.
It was noted, though, that if Labour won the election the staff reduction would be less but still substantial, with 20,000 full-time equivalent employees facing the axe.
The Institute for Government (IfG) has also released a report – Reshaping Government – which examines the impact of structural reforms on government effectiveness.
It argues that rushed departmental changes often leave little legacy beyond enormous “disruption and a large bill for the taxpayer”. It adds that although reforms can work well when built around clear business needs – the 2001 creation of the Department of Work and Pensions is an example – they are often carried out too fast and for the wrong reasons.
A report in the Financial Times says it has been estimated that of DWP’s 83,000-strong staff, about 30,000 employees responsible for welfare payments and pension policy could lose their jobs if a Conservative government takes power.
Discussing the kind of structural reforms often necessitated by such drastic cuts, Tom Gash, the IfG’s director of research, said: “When money is tight, there can be no justification for ill-thought-through restructuring that costs millions and helps no one.
“The next government must seek genuine reform of Whitehall – and that doesn’t mean chopping and changing departments. It means dealing with Whitehall’s inability to focus on long-term priorities and its weakness in co-ordinating policy across departments.”
IfG makes four main recommendations, including the PM to be required to produce a supporting business case and a clear estimate of costs before implementing changes; Parliament should scrutinise and vote on substantial restructures; the cabinet secretary should develop specific capabilities at the centre to advise on structural change and governance; and the government should explore and develop collaboration across departments without structural change.
Ian Watmore, the former Permanent Secretary of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills – founded in 2007, and merged with another department just two years later – commented: “Machinery of government changes should only be considered when the end result is truly strategic; when the business case is compelling in the long term; and when the short- to medium-term dips in performance and increases in cost are properly understood.
“If all three of these are not in place then I would say: No, think about it hard; and then say No again. I strongly welcome the recommendations of the IfG report.”
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