Civil service unions have warned new prime minister Rishi Sunak that he does not have a mandate to make large public spending cuts that would cost the jobs of civil servants.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of PCS – the civil service’s biggest union – said that Sunak should formally cancel a 20% headcount reduction proposed for government departments and their agencies, and implement a cost-of-living pay rise for officials.
Meanwhile, Mike Clancy, general secretary of civil service managers and engineers union Prospect, warned there was no public or party endorsement for any plan that involved axing public spending. He said: “Rishi Sunak takes office with tens of billions of pounds of public spending cuts expected to be announced next week.”
He urged the prime minister to reassure the public and public servants that “they will not pay the price for recent incompetent governance and bring stability such that the UK is seen as a place to invest.”
Civil service jobs
Serwotka added that Sunak should also stop the “inhumane plans to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda,” and to go to the electorate if he wanted to implement new policies.
“We need a general election now and, until this happens, we will continue fighting back by encouraging our members to vote ‘yes’ in our upcoming strike ballot,” Serwotka said.
Amy Leversidge, assistant general secretary of public-sector leaders’ union the FDA, said she was pleased that Sunak had mentioned that he intended to lead with “integrity”, taken by commentators to be a side-swipe at former prime minister Boris Johnson. However, she urged him to appoint a new independent adviser on ministerial standards as a successor to Lord Christopher Geidt, who resigned in June.
“We want to see an end to the culture of attacking the impartiality of the civil service, and a move to valuing our dedicated and hardworking civil servants by treating them with dignity and respect,” she said.
“This is against the backdrop of uncertainty around jobs, with the announcement of cutting 91,000 civil servants looming in the background, real terms pay cuts and the uncertainty of the upcoming Treasury announcements on public spending.
“Civil servants are dedicated to public service and will always work incredibly hard for the country, but morale is at an all-time low.”
Previous prime minister Liz Truss fell foul of the civil service unions by suggesting that civil servants were woke and antisemitic in widely condemned comments in August when standing for the leadership. Also in August, plans were announced by the government to cut civil servants’ redundancy payments and to alter pension terms.