The UK Government’s decision to cut 90,000 civil servants from its payroll will be to the benefit of management consulting firms and not the public, says a Bayes Business School expert in leadership.
Dr Amanda Goodall cited the decision, proposed to help fund tax cuts and support the cost-of-living crisis, as one that will ‘dearly harm’ the public and result in longer wait times for important services and less qualified managers in senior positions.
The Prime Minister is planning to scale back the number of civil service jobs to around a fifth of the 475,000 strong workforce, to numbers that existed pre-Brexit. The decision is reported to be expected to save around £3.5billion a year.
Dr Amanda Goodall, a Reader in Leadership at Bayes Business School and renowned expert in relationships between leaders, managers and organisational performance, said the result could be extended waits for passports, and negative impact on health and social care performance.
“Are these cuts going to help people get their passport renewed? Will they assist Britons access much needed NHS services or get an ambulance a little sooner? Will it help support the many children’s education dramatically slowed through covid? No.
“Our social infrastructure is crumbling, and the government wants to take the foundations away – which is what the civil service in this country are. They need to be fully supported and properly resourced. They are the experts in social policy execution, not the politicians.”
Dr Goodall believes the result of cutting back in civil service posts is an inevitable turn towards expensive private management consulting firms, and consequently a downturn in effectiveness from those often without the necessary expertise. She highlighted the Covid-19 test and trace system, led by former management consultant Dido Harding, which was found by a Westminster spending watchdog, of spending ‘unimaginable amounts of taxpayers’ money with no evidence of any measurable difference on the progress of the coronavirus pandemic’. The total was £37 billion.
“Make no mistake, cuts from the civil service will result in eye-watering sums for private management consulting firms,” said Dr Goodall. “Speak to any public health professional in the UK and they will bemoan the problems they had in trying to deal with the army of management consultants handed jobs during the pandemic. As if they could possibly know anything about public health.”
“Additionally, management consulting firms cost the tax payer huge sums, as made evident by the pandemic and spending of £2.5 billion to consultants in 2020-21 alone. Imagine how much further this money would go if it were spent instead on in-house experts, which is what civil servants are. Consultants only have generalist knowledge, yet they charge many, many multiples of what civil servants are paid.”
Dr Goodall’s warnings come following criticism by former Cabinet Office and Treasury minister Lord Agnew, who said while in post that consultants provide ‘poor value for money, that infantilises the civil service by depriving our brightest people of opportunities to work on some of the most challenging, fulfilling and crunchy issues’.
Agnew’s letter highlighted the ‘unacceptable’ failure to develop the right skills among civil servants, and Dr Goodall concluded: “If we let our civil service die it will cost the British public dearly. You will have to wait a year to get your passport, at least – because what do management consultants know about passports? Oh, and add a couple of noughts to the price because these firms are expensive.”