Up to 91,000 civil service jobs could be axed as Cabinet looks to balance books

Published by Scott Challinor on May 15th 2022, 12:12am

Minister for government efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg has indicated that the government is seeking to return to 2016 levels of staffing as the government seeks to free up resources to tackle the cost-of-living.

Any plan to cut back on staffing could see up to 91,000 civil service jobs cut, as Rees-Mogg said that a saving of £3.75 billion per year was a “realistic” aim as the government sought to take “control of budgets”.

Rees-Mogg said: “We're actually going back to the level we had at 2016, so it's not a question of doing less of, it's doing things more efficiently.

“We've taken on quite a number of additional staff - indeed 91,000 - to deal with Covid and some of the consequences of Brexit. Those two issues are now fading therefore we can get back to the numbers we previously had.”

There were 384,000 civil servants employed in 2016, a number which has gradually risen to 475,000 at the end of 2021 as the UK prepared for Brexit.

Rees-Mogg said that the government was hoping “natural departures”, which could total up to 38,000 per year, would be where the cuts would come and that large-scale redundancies would not be required.

Any mass cuts would likely be a time-consuming process and Rees-Mogg remained tight-lipped on which government departments could see jobs offloaded, saying that the individual secretaries of state and quangos were responsible for how their departments are resourced.

When quizzed on what the money saved could be put towards, Rees-Mogg said that such decisions would be down to the chancellor.

He added: “It's not about doing less; it's about working more efficiently and saving taxpayers' money.”

Speaking in Stoke-on-Trent during a visit to the city on Thursday, prime minister Boris Johnson has given ministers a month to come up with a realistic plan to streamline the civil service and said that it was necessary to “cut the cost of government to reduce the cost of living.”

Johnson hinted that freed up funds could go towards tax cuts for people, saying: “Every pound the government pre-empts from the taxpayer is money they can spend on their own priorities, on their own lives.”

A spokesperson for the government added that the Cabinet had been “clear that the civil service does an outstanding job delivering for the public and driving progress on the government's priorities”, but added that with rising costs, the public “rightly expects their government to lead by example and run as efficiently as possible”.

However, the FDA civil service union has criticised the plan as “ill thought-out” and could seriously hamper the civil service's capabilities.

General secretary Dave Penman said the government would be left facing a choice over “what the reduced civil service will no longer have the capacity to do” and that several government services could face delays.

Penman added: “Without an accompanying strategy, these cuts appear more like a continuation of the government's civil service culture wars - or even worse, ill-thought out, rushed job slashes that won't lead to a more cost-effective government.”

Penman also suggested that Rees-Mogg’s hopes that natural departures could form the basis of large-scale cuts was foolhardy and would take many years to reach the necessary numbers.

Elsewhere, the Labour party has also taken aim at the government’s plans for civil service cuts, instead calling for an emergency budget to be held which would provide more direct intervention for the cost-of-living crisis.

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

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Authored By

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
May 15th 2022, 12:12am

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