15 Jul Key Takeaways from the Foreign Office’s 2018-19 Departmental Accounts
Foreign Office funding remains volatile.
While the FCO’s core budget (administration and programme budget) increased last year (2018-19) by £107 million -taking it back to its 2014-15 level- it is forecast to be cut by £62 million in 2019-20.
The amount of funding the Foreign Office has to spend at its discretion continues to fall.
After accounting for peacekeeping, grants to the British Council and international organisations, and earmarked funding the FCO receives from cross-departmental pots, the amount of funding the FCO has to spend at its discretion last year stood at just 41.9%. This compares to just four years ago (2014-15) where discretionary funding stood at over half of the total FCO budget (55.5%).
The Foreign Office is increasingly reliant on cross-departmental pools of funding.
The Foreign Office’s total departmental budget is set to increase by £207 million (7.9%) this year. However, the bulk of this new money is ODA funds from cross-departmental pools of funding (namely the Conflict Prevention Programme and Prosperity Fund Programme) which the FCO must annually bid for and comes with specific rules around what it can be spent on. The inclusion of cross-departmental funds has a distorting effect on the FCO’s departmental budget.
The Foreign Office is set to receive an additional £261 million this year from the Prosperity Fund and the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund.
Cross-departmental pools of funds are forecasted to account for 28.5% of the FCO’s total departmental expenditure this year, compared to five years ago where it stood at just 7.8% of total FCO spending.
Foreign Office staff numbers have increased and returning FCO UK manpower to its 2010 level.
The Foreign Office has increased its UK staff in the last year by 464. This includes 181 overseas posts and 283 new staff based in Whitehall.
The Foreign Office has increased its use of locally employed staff.
The number of locally employed staff working in UK diplomatic posts has increased by 232. This reflects the first substantial increase in locally employed staff for several years.
Locally engaged staff account for over 61% of the FCO’s total manpower, demonstrating the FCO’s continued reliance on them to protect diplomatic capabilities and fill overseas posts.
The Foreign Office continues to split its domestic and overseas staff unevenly.
The Foreign Office continues to deploy a lower number of UK staff abroad than its French and German counterparts. Currently 1,972 staff (39%) are posted abroad and 3,083 staff (61%) are posted in Whitehall.
Despite this imbalance, things are improving with the percentage of UK staff posted abroad has risen by 2% since 2014-15.
The Foreign Office has filled 696 of the additional 1,000 posts it has promised to create by 2020.
The Foreign Office has committed to deliver 1,000 new posts by 2020- roughly one third UK-based, one third overseas, and one third locally employed staff.
The Foreign Office has to fill another 101 locally employed roles, 50 UK based staff roles, and 152 overseas posts by the end of the year to meet this target.
The Foreign Office continues to omit important data from its accounts.
The Foreign Office has once again failed to provide a detailed picture of the geographic distribution of UK staff serving overseas and where new posts have been created, despite previously doing so in its accounts from 2012-13 to 2016-17.
This year’s accounts have also omitted useful data published on FCO staffing numbers broken down by grade, that has previously been published in every departmental accounts from 1993-94 to 2017-18.
All sourcing from:
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report and Accounts 2018 to 2019: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/foreign-and-commonwealth-office-annual-report-and-accounts-2018-to-2019
and previous BFPG analysis in the report “Running out of Credit”: https://bfpg.co.uk/2019/06/running-out-of-credit/