Public sector reforms must consider workforce impact

A stack of coins

The Scottish Government needs to act quickly to deliver services differently. But it needs to support its workforce to manage this change, rather than simply doing more with less.

The Scottish budget and workforce numbers have grown significantly since devolution. But Scottish Government projections suggest it cannot afford to pay for public services in their current form.

In addition, pay deals agreed for 2022/23 and 2023/24 were £1.7 billion more than initially planned and these pay rises are locked into future budgets.

The Scottish Government has begun working with its public bodies to better understand how workforce reforms will impact services. But it needs better data on the size, cost and skillset of the workforce in over 100 of its public bodies to help support this process.

Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland, said:

Significant reform of the public sector – including its workforce - is needed to protect services over the long term.

That means better workforce planning and wider changes to how staff work within and across organisations.

An approach to reform purely focused on controlling workforce numbers will not address workforce pressures and is unlikely to balance the public finances.