Capacity crisis in the Civil Service

Posted on: May 11th, 2017

In written evidence to the Public Accounts Committee’s Inquiry on the capacity of the civil service submitted in April we expressed grave concern that a much reduced civil service, faced with the additional demands of Brexit, will be asked to do a job that it is simply not resourced to deliver. Commitments in the election manifestos will further increase the pressure.

There is a real danger that civil servants will have to cut corners, with the institution as a whole suffering a serious loss of motivation and morale as it is castigated for the failures in policy and delivery that will inevitably follow.

We suggested a number of steps that could help to limit the damage:

• A “clearing the decks” initiative with all departments putting forward proposals for cutting, scaling back or delaying initiatives already in the pipeline.
• Consistent application of best practice rules and guidance to the remaining business with enhanced scrutiny to ensure that this is being done.
• Strenuous efforts by Departmental Boards and Non Executive Directors to avoid overstretch through the accumulation of new demands.
• Greater transparency through self-assessment of departmental capability reported to the Cabinet Office and high-level peer reviews by departments of each other’s capacity.
• A refocusing of the PAC’s work to concentrate more on the ability of departments to deliver the totality of the demands placed upon them.

The full submission can be seen on the PAC’s website at:

All Select Committees have now ceased to exist until after the General Election but our evidence remains on the table and we have every expectation that consideration of this key topic will resume in the first Session of the new Parliament.