An MOD spokesperson said a new transformation initiative aims to improve "effectiveness and efficiency" (Picture: Crown Copyright).
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is making "little progress" towards a target to cut 30% of its civilian workforce and save £310 million by 2020, Whitehall's spending watchdog has warned.
Since defence chiefs promised in 2015 to cut 17,200 posts by next year, the number of civilian workers has in fact fallen by just 1,100 - and even rose by 220 over the 12 months to October 2018 - the National Audit Office (NAO) said.
The watchdog said the ministry has now accepted it will not meet its target of saving £310 million from civilian staff costs by next year and is seeking to pursue efficiencies as part of a wider transformation programme.
Costs in fact increased by £87 million between 2015/16 and 2017/18 and are expected to continue to rise in 2018/19, and the Treasury and Cabinet Office did not sufficiently challenge Ministry of Defence claims it was moving towards its target, the NAO said in a report.
The report added that, despite being aware since 2010 of "inefficient and inconsistent working practices", the MOD had not yet modernised roles performed by civilian workers, who include policy developers, analysts, doctors, engineers and commercial managers.
Between 2010 and 2015, the ministry met its target of reducing the civilian headcount from 85,900 to 58,200.
WATCH: "They have been slow to really understand the role civilians perform," said NAO's Richard Baynham.
But since 2015 the reductions have slowed, and the civilian workforce stood at 57,100 by October 2018, compared to 192,100 military personnel.
NAO auditor general Sir Amyas Morse said: "The department has been wrestling over how to manage its civilian workforce for many years, but working practices remain inefficient.
"Despite promising noises from the department, it is not clear to us that anything fundamental has yet changed.
"A lot now rests on implementing its modernisation plans successfully."
Labour MP Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said: "The NAO's report finds that the Ministry of Defence has made no real progress since 2015 in reforming its civilian workforce.
"It has missed its headcount reduction and savings targets, it doesn't have the information it needs to plan properly, and it is hampered by defence organisations working in silos.
"Added to this, defence organisations don't have enough skilled staff in some areas and have no clear plans to resolve this problem in the next five years.
"The department needs to get a grip urgently on the management of its civilian workforce to ensure it has the crucial skills in place to meet the UK's current and future defence needs."
An MOD spokesperson said they have "recently launched a new transformation initiative" which aims to continue to improve "effectiveness and efficiency".