What is the Public Sector?

The public sector is responsible for providing all public services in the UK, from the emergency services and healthcare, education and social care to housing and refuse collection.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 5.36 million people are employed in the public sector across the UK – accounting for 16.5% of all those in paid work. It’s a huge employment source.

What is the government and the public sector made up of?

In the UK, the Prime Minister leads the government with the support of the Cabinet and ministers.


Ministers are chosen by the Prime Minister from the members of the House of Commons and House of Lords. They are responsible for the actions, successes and failures of their departments.

Government departments and agencies

Departments and their agencies are responsible for putting government policy into practice.

Civil Service

The Civil Service does the practical and administrative work of government. It is co-ordinated and managed by the Prime Minister, in their role as Minister for the Civil Service.


Parliament is separate from government. Made up of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, its role is to:

  • look at what the government is doing
  • debate issues and pass new laws
  • set taxes

Local government

Councils make and carry out decisions on local services. Many parts of England have 2 tiers of local government: county councils and district, borough or city councils.

In some parts of the country, there’s just one tier of local government providing all the functions, known as a ‘unitary authority’. This can be a city, borough or county council – or it may just be called ‘council’. As well as these, many areas also have parish or town councils.

Devolved government

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, devolved administrations are responsible for many domestic policy issues, and their Parliaments/Assemblies have law-making powers for those areas.

How does Understanding ModernGov work with the public sector?

Today, we have worked with over 80,000 professionals across thousands of organisations. From charities, local councils, universities, NHS Trusts, fire services, police forces and schools to government departments including the Cabinet Office, Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Defence.

We are driven by our values. We believe that when organisations are focused on developing employee skills and learning, they and their teams are more effective, productive and efficient.