Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Civil Service

Cabinet Office written statement – made at on 14 May 2024.

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Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

"The Government has a plan to deliver a brighter future for Britain, with long-term economic security and opportunity: where hard work is always rewarded; where ambition and aspiration are celebrated; where young people get the skills they need to succeed in life; where families are supported, where those who have worked hard all their lives have the dignity they deserve in retirement; and, with security at home and abroad.

The Civil Service is crucial to the delivery of that plan. We want to cut waste and inefficiency so civil servants can better support our frontline services. In that light, this Government wishes to ensure that all public spending on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (‘EDI’) is proportionate, meeting all statutory requirements, and represents value for money.

Last October, and re-affirmed by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement, the Government commissioned a review of EDI expenditure across the Civil Service, to identify current spend on roles and activities, and to understand whether existing expenditure is effective and efficient.

The review found that across 95 Civil Service organisations total EDI expenditure for the 2022-23 financial year was £27.1 million. We do not believe that this represents value for money.

We have also been informed by the Inclusion at Work Panel's report from March 2024 which found that many employers want to ‘do the right thing’, but are implementing EDI initiatives without an evidence base, and many do not know the impact these initiatives are having or whether they represent value for money. In a growing number of cases, particularly relating to positive discrimination and protected beliefs, the report found that EDI interventions are proving to be counterproductive.

In response to these findings, today the Cabinet Office is publishing the Civil Service EDI Expenditure Guidance. This includes an end to all external spending on EDI activity, unless cleared and authorised by Ministers. In addition:

  • There will be centralised EDI guidance for departments and Arm’s-Length Bodies and EDI learning will be regulated through the Civil Service Learning Framework unless authorised by Ministers through the spend control.

  • Standalone EDI roles will also cease to exist outside of HR as Secretaries of State and Permanent Secretaries are expected to consolidate them into existing HR teams.

  • Diversity content included in Civil Service job adverts will also be standardised to ensure diversity policy is clearly and consistently shared. This will enable civil servants to focus on their specific job role and on delivering for the taxpayer.

Support for disability will be excluded from these changes, recognising the particular needs of disabled staff. As set out in the Government’s National Disability Strategy (2021) and the Disability Action Plan (2024), we will continue to support them and give them the help to achieve their goals and excel.

We are also publishing Guidance on Diversity and Inclusion and Impartiality Requirements. This meets the commitment made in Action 62 of the Inclusive Britain Report.

The guidance makes clear that civil servants must not allow their personal political views to determine their actions or any advice they give related to diversity and inclusion in any part of their employment. This includes when carrying out government duties, such as developing policy, or engaging in learning and development or participating in staff networks. It will ensure civil servants can carry out their work while retaining the confidence of Ministers and the public, and uphold the political impartiality required by the Civil Service Code.

Further guidance on diversity staff networks will follow, and we will seek to publish additional data on historic spending to assist transparency in this area. We will also consider how such best practice can be embedded across the public sector.

We want to ensure that everyone has the equal opportunity to go as far in life as their ambition will take them. As set out in the Inclusive Britain report, lack of opportunity should not be seen through the prism of identity politics. We do not believe that any group is less intrinsically capable than any other – we know that while ability is spread across the country that has not always been the case when it comes to opportunity.

That is why we have already moved over 18,000 roles out of London, including to new offices across the United Kingdom. Diversity in the civil service should never just be measured in terms of race or sex; it should also be about background and differences of opinion – and, above all, merit.

Increasing social mobility and ending geographical inequalities are core to levelling up. It is essential that we mirror this ambition across the Civil Service to ensure that those developing and delivering our policies reflect and draw upon the widest range of experiences and skills that exist across the populations we serve.

Copies of the associated guidance will be placed in the Library of both Houses, and published on gov.uk."