Embargoed: 00:01 Thursday 15th December 2022
With strikes grinding Britain to a halt, new TPA research puts pay demands in context, with the public sector growing in size every quarter for four years.
The pandemic only partly explains the growth in headcount of 426,000 since September 2018.
- The DVLA, which sent people home on ‘paid special leave’, reportedly doing little or no work, attempted to go on strike at the end of last year and have added 170 to their headcount since the first lockdown in March 2020.
TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) analysis of new employment data has outlined that there are now 426,000 more people working in the public sector than in September 2018. This increase is greater than the total number of employees at Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket chain.
With public sector strikes grinding Britain to a halt, the analysis reveals that public sector headcount has ballooned in size to 5.8 million, making excessive pay demands even more unaffordable.
Several failing quangos have seen their numbers of bureaucrats boom. For instance, the DVLA’s headcount increased by 170 between March 2020 and September 2022. The UK Statistics Authority - which includes the Office for National Statistics that produced the data - has seen its own workforce increase by 22 per cent in the same time period.
The civil service headcount has increased by 77,000 since September 2018 - nearly the size of the British Army (79,380 in July 2022).
The TaxPayers’ Alliance is calling on the government to control public sector headcount numbers by winding down functions and scrapping unnecessary non-jobs.
- There are now 426,000 more people working in the public sector than in September 2018. That is significantly bigger than the number of employees at Tesco (more than 345,000), Britain’s largest supermarket chain.
- Headcount in the public sector in September 2022 was 5.769 million. This has increased every quarter since September 2018.
- In relative terms, employment growth in the public sector continues to outpace that in the private sector: civil service employment grew at a rate four times faster than the private sector between September 2021 and September 2022.
- The headcount in ‘public corporations’ – which includes train operating companies in England, Scotland and Wales – remains 25 per cent above their March 2020 level (before their effective re-nationalisation), at 197,000 in September 2022.
- The plan to reduce civil service headcount by 91,000– which was abandoned in October 2022 – was far from being realised. Instead, public sector headcount in England increased by 16,000 between March and September 2022, roughly the same period between when the policy was announced and when it was scrapped.
- Some public sector organisations have seen substantial increases, with the UK Statistics Authority increasing its headcount by 22 per cent to 5,890 between March 2020 and September 2022.
- Relative to the NHS, the civil service has grown at a higher pace during the pandemic and since. Total headcount increased by 13 per cent in the civil service between March 2020 and September 2022. In the NHS, it rose by 9 per cent.
- Employees of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – responsible for the issuance of drivers’ licences – attempted to go on strike at the end of 2021. This is in spite of hundreds of employees reportedly undertaking no work and being placed on ‘paid special leave’, leading to substantial backlogs in applications. Between March 2020 and September 2022, their headcount increased by 170 to 6,440.
- Employees of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency – responsible for driving tests, among other roles – are undertaking strike action in December 2022 and January 2023. This is despite heavy restrictions on driving tests taking place for almost two years in the UK during the covid-19 pandemic. Between March 2020 and September 2022, their headcount increased by 100 to 4,870.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:
“Taxpayers are seeing the impact of the public sector employment boom.
“This huge hiring spree is out of control and causing a cost of government crisis, leading to unaffordable pay demands while doing little to improve services on the ground for the taxpayers footing the bills.
“Ministers must get a grip on the burgeoning bureaucracy by winding down functions and scrapping unnecessary non-jobs.”
TPA spokespeople are available for live and pre-recorded broadcast interviews via 07795 084 113 (no texts)
Investigations Campaign Manager, TaxPayers' Alliance
24-hour media hotline: 07795 084 113 (no texts)
Notes to editors:
Founded in 2004 by Matthew Elliott and Andrew Allum, the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) campaigns to reform taxes and public services, cut waste and speak up for British taxpayers. Find out more at www.taxpayersalliance.com.
TaxPayers' Alliance's advisory council.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance has warned of a spiralling cost of government crisis. The briefing note can be found here.
The headcount of the public sector as a whole has increased every quarter since September 2018.
The Tesco headcount can be found here.
- The size of the British Army can be found here.