The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is Whitehall’s second worst performer for staff retention, disrupting policy development and delivery of projects, a new report from the Institute for Government has found. .
The report Moving On: The costs of high staff turnover in the civil service said that only the Cabinet Office suffered a higher turnover.
Including staff who move between departments the MHCLG lost almost a quarter of its workforce last year, a rate that was “very high compared to other civil services and to comparative parts of the private sector”.
Percentage of staff who leave each department
The problem was most acute in London where the high concentrations of civil service posts created opportunities for people to move.
Regional civil service offices had the opposite problem of limited opportunities meaning “workforces are more likely to be stagnant”.
High turnover even affected permanent secretary level, where the average tenure was just two years and nine months, less than twice that of the notoriously unstable profession of football manager.
The IfG said excessive turnover cost the civil service up to £74m each year in recruitment, training and lost productivity and that this “harms Whitehall’s ability to make policy [and] disrupts the implementation of policy in major projects”.
It gave the example of the implementation of Universal Credit, which went through five senior responsible owners in less than a year “for a variety of reasons including poor workforce management”.
There were also examples of a loss of expertise, and the IfG urged departments to create ‘policy expert’ roles, in which officials would be encouraged to stay for longer than normal.
It called on the government to introduce targeted pay progression throughout the civil service by 2021 and require permanent secretaries to publish key workforce data annually.
A government spokesperson said: “Figures show that more than half of civil servants feel a strong personal attachment to the department in which they work - but there is always more to do to support our workforce. That is why we are developing measures to address turnover when it is higher than expected, including introducing pay and career development incentives.
“The Brexit negotiations are a priority for the government and we will continue to deploy staff with specific expertise, from across government, to achieve the best result.”
The statement said MHCLG’s annual staff survey had shown 82% were interested in their work, 83% felt a sense of personal accomplishment, 51% a strong attachment to the organisation and 72% would recommend it as a great place to work.