Hundreds fewer Bedford civil servants compared to five years ago

Influential senior officials are the most difficult to move further afield

By Clare Turner
Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 3:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 3:10 pm

Hundreds fewer people are working for the civil service in Bedford than five years ago, despite large rises elsewhere across the UK.

The Government has pledged to move more of its bureaucrats away from the capital to help “level up” the country and bring those who help run it closer to the communities they serve.

But new data shows the workforce has grown more rapidly in London than anywhere else across the UK, with the Institute for Government saying influential senior officials have historically been the most difficult to move further afield.

The Government has pledged to move more of its bureaucrats away from the capital to help “level up” the country

Cabinet Office figures show there were around 780 civil servants in Bedford at the end of March – a decrease of 260, or 25 per cent, from five years ago.

That is despite the civil service swelling by 3.9 per cent across the UK over the period, to 456,400 workers.

Across the East of England, however, the workforce shrank by 11.2 per cent – the largest drop of any English region.

London saw a growth rate of 16 per cent, with its civil servant headcount now making up around a fifth of the UK total.

The figures include civil servants working for government departments, agencies, and non-departmental public bodies in both the UK and regional governments, where they help to develop and implement policies.

In March, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged to relocate 22,000 civil servants from London by 2030.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove recently said that moving government decision-making away from the capital would help “reflect the full diversity of our United Kingdom”.

The Institute for Government says there are some signs dominance is beginning to shift away from the city, with the biggest growth in civil service employment seen in the South West of England in the last year.

But Sarah Nickson, a researcher at the group, said higher-ranking officials – who tend to be more concentrated in London – have been harder to budge in the past.

She added: “Senior policy jobs are the kind that are needed to shift the dial on decision-making.

“And even once jobs have been relocated, you need a sustained effort to keep them there, and stop them shifting back to London.”

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "Decision makers should be close to the people they serve and we want to see opportunity fairly distributed across the country.

"These statistics show there are now more civil servants than last year in Scotland, Wales, the Midlands, the South West, the North West and Yorkshire and Humberside.

"But we are not complacent and will continue our work to make sure the civil service represents the whole of the UK, which is why we’ve committed to relocating civil service roles out of central London."