'We'll do better, not less': Mogg defends civil service bloodbath as 90,000 jobs face axe

13 May 2022, 06:31 | Updated: 13 May 2022, 09:28

Jacob Rees-Mogg backs plans to slash civil service jobs
Jacob Rees-Mogg backs plans to slash civil service jobs. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson's plan to slash civil service jobs by a fifth will see the Government do better, not less, Jacob Rees-Mogg has insisted.

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The Prime Minister believes slashing the size of the state could help ease the financial burden on households as he demands ideas from ministers about how to help squeezed Brits.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for government efficiency, was asked on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast whether already problematic public services, like passports, would be affected by cuts to Government.

"Having taken on an extra 91,000 staff since 2016, do you and your listeners feel public services that they receive directly have got any better?" he said.

"We've had a terrible problem with DVLA, thought that was partly working from home, partly strike action.

"This is why it's about government efficiency. Numbers are part of this but of course we need to be issuing passports more effectively."

He added: "Advancing the introduction of technologies to make things happen more swiftly and more efficiently, it's not about doing less, it's about doing what we do better, and at lower cost."

There are about 475,000 civil servants, the largest amount since 2010 – and a new target of cutting 91,000 jobs over two years has been set.

The Daily Mail estimated this could save about £3.5 billion a year, based on the average civil servant salary of £28,100, with National Insurance contributions and pensions adding a further £10,000 in costs.

"We have got to cut the cost of government to reduce the cost of living," Mr Johnson told the newspaper.

"Every pound the Government pre-empts from the taxpayer is money they can spend on their own priorities, on their own lives."

Boris Johnson wants to slash the size of the state
Boris Johnson wants to slash the size of the state. Picture: Alamy

The plans have been opposed by the FDA union for civil servants, which accused the Government of chasing headline grabbing news.

Meanwhile, senior mandarins responded to Mr Rees-Mogg's much-publicised demands they return to the office by saying work is no longer a place.

Mr Rees-Mogg told Nick: "I think it's quite an extraordinary thing to say, it's a very privileged thing to say – for people in manufacturing, work is a place, for people cleaning work is a place, for security work is a place, for millions of people across this country work is a place.

"The idea that civil servants should swan off abroad to do their job is slightly giving the game away, that this isn't about efficiency, this is about lifestyle.

"Unless of course the FDA means that they'd like us to go for offshoring, but I'd be very surprised if a left wing trade union thought the answer to problems was sourcing cheaper labour overseas – then they have set a peculiar hare running, I think."

The news follows Mr Johnson's insistence to LBC's Nick Ferrari on Wednesday that he was not out of touch with normal Brits, who are facing soaring energy bills and inflation in the shops.

He was unable to tell Nick what the price of a pack of nappies was or what the energy price cap is set at, and would not be drawn on how he was economising.

Read more: Rees-Mogg criticised over 'demeaning' notes left for WFH civil servants

"I wake up every day thinking about what we can do to help people through this period, just as we helped people through Covid," he said.

Mr Johnson also refused to rule out a windfall tax, demanded by Labour, on the profits of energy giants, raising money that could help people with the financial squeeze.

The Government will try to make savings by allowing staff to leave and freezing recruitment.

Jacob Rees-Mogg told cabinet members in the Stoke cabinet meeting that compulsory redundancies may be needed
Jacob Rees-Mogg told cabinet members in the Stoke cabinet meeting that compulsory redundancies may be needed. Picture: Alamy

However, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the government efficiency minister who has been sharply critical of civil servants working from home, argued during Thursday's cabinet meeting in Stoke that compulsory redundancies may be needed.

Technology such as artificial intelligence and videoconferencing could also allow for fewer employees.

Read more: Civil servant's security passes to be tracked in Whitehall to stop staff working from home

Read more: Civil Servant blasts Jacob Rees-Mogg over 'horrific' return to office plan

Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA civil servant union, said: "Ultimately they can cut the civil service back to 2016 levels, but they need to decide what the civil service must then stop doing as a consequence.

"Will the Passport Office be cut back? Or the Dept of Health and Social Care?

"Unless they’ve got a serious plan, it's either another headline-grabbing stunt or a reckless slash-and-burn to public services without a thought or care about the consequences."