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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

The Civil Service

The Civil Service carries out the practical and administrative work of government. Civil servants are politically impartial employees, who carry out the policies of the government departments under the control of elected ministers. Find out more about the Civil Service and how to apply to be a civil servant.

The role and management of civil servants

Civil servants are servants of the Crown - in effect, they work for the UK government, the Scottish Government and the National Assembly for Wales. The Crown's executive powers are exercised by government ministers, who answer to the appropriate Parliament or Assembly. There is a separate Northern Ireland Civil Service.

The duty of civil servants

The Civil Service has no separate constitutional personality or responsibility. The duty of a civil servant is to the minister in charge of the department where they are serving. A change of minister does not involve a change in staff.

The Civil Service Code states the role and responsibilities of civil servants. It was introduced in 1996 and revised in 1999 to take account of devolution. The Code includes an independent line of appeal to the Civil Service Commissioners on alleged breaches of the Code.

As Minister for the Civil Service, the Prime Minister is responsible for central co-ordination and management of the Civil Service. He is supported by the Head of the Home Civil Service, who chairs the Civil Service Management Board.

The Cabinet Office oversees the management of the Civil Service. Day-to-day responsibility is with departments and agencies, and with the Scottish Government and the National Assembly for Wales.

Where civil servants work

About half of all civil servants provide services direct to the public. These include paying benefits and pensions, running employment services, staffing prisons, issuing driving licences, and providing services to industry and agriculture.

Around one in five are employed in the Ministry of Defence and its agencies. The rest are divided between central administrative and policy duties, support services, and services that are largely financially self-supporting, such as those provided by the Royal Mint.

About 80 per cent of civil servants work outside London.


The Civil Service Commissioners are responsible for ensuring that recruitment to the Civil Service should be on merit and based on fair and open competition.

The Commissioners, who are independent of government, produce a mandatory recruitment code and audit the recruitment policies and practices of departments and agencies to ensure that they comply.

They also approve appointments through external recruitment to the Senior Civil Service, and hear and determine appeals in cases of concern about propriety and conscience under the Civil Service Code.

Additional links

Nominate someone for an honour

More than 2,500 Britons are honoured each year with orders such as the OBE or the MBE - anyone can make a nomination

Diamond Jubilee

Find out what's happening, and how you can take part

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