Shiny Arse Civil Servants


SDSR 2015 announced that the MoD civil service personnel would be reduced by 30%.

Unfortunately, the civil service is saddled with a reputation of being shiny arsed Sir Humpries long overdue for the chop, but NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH and I get fed up of the right wing press labelling them as such.

Civil servants in the MoD support the armed forces; they are vehicle mechanics at Army Reserve Centres, scientists at DSTL or contract managers at Defence Equipment and Support.

I have defended civil servants many times about this over the years, a 2009 post about Daily Mail outrage at Civil Servant Herrick medals, Liam Fox attacking the civil service in the run-up to the election and SDSR 2010, and something about focussing on quality of civil servants, not numbers, for example.

In light of the latest SDSR, thought I would have a wade into the always brilliant Defence Statistics output and try and present the numbers in graph form.

Before the graphs, it is important to note that this is a very quick and dirty look at the numbers. Consistency in reporting from 1975 is difficult to obtain because the reporting methodology changes but the graphs show UK Service Personnel v UK Civilian Personnel, they exclude FTRS and Gurkhas in the most recent years, defence trading funds and locally entered personnel such as those employed in Germany or Canada.

In addition to these caveats (including the simple fact that I am not a statistician so a health warning is included FoC) the numbers show a steady decline in both numbers but a clear divergence in the proportion of uniform v civilian as a result of various reviews and a number of step changes as a result of changes to the operating model. The transfer of Royal Ordnance Factories in 1985 resulted in 18,000 personnel disappearing from the numbers, Royal Dockyards another 16,000. Until 1994, the MoD’s numbers also included GCHQ, in 2001 DERA was sold to QinetiQ and in 2008, following the merger of DARA and ABRO, 1,000 personnel were transferred to Vector Aerospace.

The trend is clear though, MoD civil servants are an increasingly small percentage of MoD personnel.

The 2015 figures are from the October personnel bulletin so not the full year.

The first graph show total numbers

UK Regular v Civil Service Graph 1

This final graph shows the percentages of the total.UK Regular v Civil Service Graph 2

This might actually be misleading in some regards, the civilian personnel are still there, just that they are in the private sector, whether that is for recruiting, network management, research or managing Army diggers.

With a further 30% reduction, the overall effectiveness of the MoD will inevitably suffer as a result of a dogmatic right wing that thinks the private sector is automatically better, clearly, for some activities, it is not, especially functions that do not have mass in the civilian world. However, for some, it is an established means of reducing costs, organisations all over the world do it. The trick is to get it right, in the right areas.

The MoD should be in the business of maximising efficiency and whilst there are no doubt always room for savings across both military and civilian populations, protecting its civil servants with their specialist knowledge and not slashing and burning for ideological reasons should be top of the list.

As I said yesterday, the real challenge in SDSR 2015, is people.

Hope that is useful, looking at you Daily Mail.


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