A brave new Britain? The future of the UK’s international policy Contents

Annex 1: Analysis of FCDO resources by the House of Commons Scrutiny Unit

1)Some contributors to this inquiry cited reductions in the budget and staff numbers of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO, as it was before the 2020 merger with the Department for International Development (DFID) to form the FCDO) as the reason for a sense of diminished impact abroad. In line with most UK Government Departments, the FCO saw significant budget reductions between 2010–11 and 2015–16 in its Resource Departmental Expenditure Limit (Resource DEL), which provides funding for the Department’s day-to-day expenditure. However, following the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, and the subsequent emphasis on Global Britain, funding once again began to rise in real terms. Planned expenditure in 2020–21 is now 18% higher in real terms than in 2010–11, as set out in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: FCO day-to-day expenditure (Resource DEL) since 2010–11,73 compared with other UK Government Departments

Source: Scrutiny Unit analysis of UK Government Departmental Expenditure

2)The Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s 2019–20 Annual Report and Accounts provides a breakdown of the Department’s budget, including plans for 2020–21.

Figure 2: The Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Resource Departmental Expenditure Limit in Real Terms,74 2008–09 to 2020–21

Source: The Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Annual Report and Accounts 2019–20, July 2020

3)This shows that, although the overall Departmental budget has increased over time, this is driven to a large extent by increases in the cross-Whitehall Prosperity Fund (PF) and Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF); and a significant increase in the Department’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget. The Department’s non-ODA budget has approximately halved from over £1.4 billion in 2010–11 to around £700 million in 2019–20, in real terms.

4)In terms of staff resource, this is difficult to assess this over time as the way staff numbers are presented in the Department’s accounts are not consistent year-on-year, and are in some cases approximate. Figure 3 sets out an estimate of the Department’s headcount between 2010–11 and 2019–20. Total staff includes all staff based in the UK, based in the UK but located overseas, and locally engaged staff located overseas.

Figure 3: Foreign & Commonwealth Office staff located overseas

Financial Year

Total Staff75

UK-based staff located overseas76

Locally-engaged staff overseas77

2010–11

13,286

Figure unavailable

8,500

2011–12

13,261

1,876

8,685

2012–13

14,336

1,886

9,500

2013–14

13,809

1,751

9,200

2014–15

13,600

1,654

9,200

2015–16

12,563

1,546

8,268

2016–17

12,865

1,620

8,366

2017–18

12,537

1,745

7,946

2018–19

13,233

1,971

8,178

2019–20

13,751

1972

8,488

Source: House of Commons Scrutiny Unit analysis of Foreign & Commonwealth Annual Report and Accounts 2010–11 to 2019–20

5)While the overall headcount of those employed by the Department has varied over time, after 2010 there was an initial downward trend in the number of UK-based staff located overseas. UK-based staff located on overseas missions fell 18% between 2011–12 and 2015–16 before beginning to increase again in line with additional expenditure associated with Global Britain and EU Exit. Locally engaged staff employed by the Department fell by 5% over the same period, and has remained at approximately the same level since. As of 2019–20 the number of locally engaged staff employed by the FCO has risen to a level roughly comparable with the number employed in 2010–11.

6)When looking at overseas staff numbers in the context of budget changes, it can be seen that while the Department’s overall budget has now recovered in real terms from previous budget cuts, there are a number of reasons why this may not have translated into increased sense of “on the ground” presence. For example:


73 Figures are expressed in 2018–19 real-term prices using March 2020 GDP deflators. Figures for 2010–11 to 2019–20 are outturn, and 2020–21 figures are planned expenditure. Pre 2015–16 figures have removed funding attributed to the BBC World Service, which became independent of the FCO that year.

74 Figures show FCO Resource DEL in real terms (2019- 20 prices), using GDP deflators at March 2020. This chart shows Parliamentary funding at the start of the year, not end-year outturn.

75 Figures before 2015-16 are approximate estimates, based on the number of staff located in the UK and the number of staff located overseas. Figures also include UKTI staff.

76 Calculated using the ratio of UK-based staff located overseas, and applying this ratio to the number of UK-based staff stated in the Annual Report and Accounts.

77 Figures before 2015-16 are approximate.




Published: 22 October 2020