Plans to drastically reduce civil servant headcount edged closer to fruition with an order from the Prime Minister yesterday to cut departments by a fifth.
Boris Johnson is reported to have told ministers at an away day that they must return civil servant numbers to those of 2016, reducing overall headcount by a fifth overall.
There are currently around 475,000 full-time staff in the civil service, so this would mean cutting 90,000 or more jobs to reach this target.
Johnson told the Daily Mail that “we have got to cut the cost of government to reduce the cost of living”.
“Every pound the government pre-empts from the taxpayer is money they can spend on their own priorities, on their own lives,” he said. Departments must now draw up plans for how they will save costs.
Civil service jobs
A government spokesperson said that it was “clear that the civil service does an outstanding job delivering for the public and driving progress on the government’s priorities.
“But when people and businesses across the country are facing rising costs, the public rightly expect their government to lead by example and run as efficiently as possible.”
Johnson’s comments echo a call earlier this year by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for government efficiency, to reduce the size of the civil service workforce.
Rees-Mogg has been outspoken on his desire for civil servants to return to the office, leaving a note on staff desks saying “sorry you were out… I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon”.
Dave Penman, general secretary of civil servants union the FDA, said there was “a huge lack of detail” in what the government had revealed so far. Tweeting about the comments, he asked: “Are ministers serious about what the consequences of these cuts would be? Are they really saying they won’t replace people who leave in the Border Force or the MoD?”
There is a huge lack of detail in what the government has announced in the Daily Mail. As I said to @AnnitaBBC, are ministers serious about what the consequences of these cuts would be? Are they really saying they won’t replace people who leave in the Border Force or the MOD? pic.twitter.com/ik8FEz8nyn
— Dave Penman (@FDAGenSec) May 13, 2022
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public sector workers union PCS added: “Cuts have consequences. Not just on those whose jobs are being sacrificed to throw red meat to the dwindling number of Conservative voters, but on everyone who relies on the services our members provide.
“The government complains about longer delays for passports and driving licences at the same time as sacking the people who are working so hard to clear the backlog.
“Let’s be clear, this is not about efficiency. This is about the Prime Minister trying to create a smokescreen to detract from his utter shambles of a government.”
Serwotka accused Johnson of pointing the blame for the cost of living crisis on public sector workers “who kept the country running throughout the pandemic”, and said strike action would be discussed at the union’s conference in 10 days’ time.
“Our members will not be the scapegoats for a failing government,” he said.