The head of the UK’s 450,000-strong civil service has quit, amid plans to reform the way it works.
But what is the civil service anyway and what changes does the government want to make?
What is a civil servant?
Civil servants are responsible for carrying out government policy. Running prisons, issuing driving licences and providing benefits and state pensions – to name a few examples – are among the jobs that they do.
There are currently 24 ministerial departments, which are headed up by cabinet ministers. These departments, including the Treasury, the Home Office and the Department for Education, are often collectively called “Whitehall” – a road in Westminster which contains a number of government buildings.
In addition, there are a further 20 departments which don’t have their own minister – such as the Food Standards Agency and the Charity Commission – but are still staffed by civil servants.
Departments can come and go. For example, on 17 June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the…