Defra cuts down 900 staff members in one year
Former environment secretary Liz Truss accepted a further 15% cut to the department’s budget over five years in autumn 2015, though civil society groups and committees of MPs have issued warnings over the potential effects this could have.
According to Defra’s latest statistics report, published last week, the department has lost over 900 members of staff in the past year. In 2016 Defra had 21,964, compared to 22,875 in 2015.
Over 200 staff involved in ‘water and flood risk management’ were laid off, despite the sensitivity of their work, given the widespread flooding seen in recent years, and the government’s claims to be spending record amounts on flood protection and prevention.
Government reports, including those of the EFRA Committee, which oversees the department’s work, have highlighted low morale amongst Defra staff and a lack of confidence in the department’s leadership in recent years.
Last week’s report promises that Defra executives will be taking workers views into greater consideration and “reaching out” to employees through ‘town hall’ style events and online sessions.
The report notes that Defra only has a limited pool of workers with commercial experience or who are tech-savvy, and warns that “There will also be challenges to retaining the right skills and experience as overall staffing levels are reduced.” ■