No silver bullet for MoD as it axes another 7,000 jobs

Last week, it was military jobs; this week, it's civilians.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
Somehow, we doubt there will be many workers at the Ministry of Defence who can muster the enthusiasm to raise a salute to MoD permanent secretary Ursula Brennan, who it’s emerged is planning to axe another 7,000 jobs among its civilian staff to cut costs. In a letter seen by the Guardian which will be sent to all staff, she explains that the cuts are necessary to keep costs down. Fair enough – although there does seem to be some debate over the way the MoD has gone about this. There’s a sense that it’s been rather snuck in through the back door.

It doesn’t sound like the MoD was particularly keen for anyone to find out about this: while Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced last week that 7,000 military jobs were set to be axed between 2015 and 2020, he didn’t say anything about civilians. The civilian side probably thought the worst was over: in last October’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, Fox said 25,000 posts would be cut. But with the extra redundancies, it’ll bring the number of jobs at the MoD down by about a third over the next nine years, dropping to 53,000 civilian jobs by 2020.

Obviously, unions and officials have already taken the opportunity to get in some vociferous whining about not being consulted, etc. But the fact is that the MoD is heavily over-spending: a few months ago, it emerged that the department had spent £1bn more than it should have over the course of just one year. By 2015, that could apparently reach £10bn. Which is serious money where our paperclip-counting Government is concerned.
 
In the letter, Brennan says she hopes most of the job losses can be achieved by ‘natural wastage, with compulsory redundancy only being used as a last resort’. High hopes, indeed – although considering that civil servants tend to stay in their jobs for as long as possible, the screams of workers being torn from their posts may yet echo from MoD buildings up and down the nation.

What’s becoming increasingly clear, though, is that with three wars to fight (the Afghan conflict, for example, is estimated to have cost £17bn), there’s no easy solution for defence over-spending. Officials argue that that £1bn extra is because the Government was too hasty in its original cost-cutting measures. Whatever the cause, don’t expect this to be the last we hear of it.

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