Boris Johnson has drawn up plans to cut up to 90,000 civil servants – equivalent to a fifth of the size of Whitehall – to reduce government spending.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister told Cabinet ministers to cut department headcount during his holiday in Stoke-on-Trent.
Johnson told the Daily Mail that reducing the number of Whitehall staff would save money that could be used to help the public. “We have to cut government costs to lower the cost of living,” he said.
“Every pound the government takes away from taxpayers is money they can spend on their own priorities, their own lives.”
The civil service has grown by around 25% in recent years, employing around half a million people to deal with the operational complexities of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic. Growth has been particularly rapid in London, despite ministers’ pledge to move civil servants out of the capital.
Johnson has ordered ministers to propose job cuts for their departments within a month.
“The prime minister and ministers have made it clear that civil servants provide the public with excellent jobs and drive progress on government priorities,” a government spokesman said. “But when people and businesses across the country are facing rising costs, the public is rightly Expect their government to lead by example and operate as efficiently as possible.”
The Financial Times revealed in December that the government had drawn up plans Civil servants fell by 49,000bringing it back to pre-pandemic levels.
At the time, the cuts focused on the “number of non-frontline civil servants,” excluding operational roles such as running prisons and paying benefits.
The new plan to cut 90,000 jobs will bring the size of Whitehall back to pre-Brexit levels in 2016, saving about £3.5bn a year.
Efficiency Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg told BBC Radio 4 today The two problems of Brexit and the coronavirus are now “fading”.
Each department will make its own recommendations, he said. “We need fewer civil servants and each department will be responsible for devoting its resources,” he said.
The minister told Sky News separately it was the government’s responsibility to use taxpayer money correctly.
“It’s about doing things right. It’s about effective governance and recognizing that every penny we spend on taxes has to come off the hard-working people.”
Rees-Mogg described the idea of 90,000 cuts as “realistic but relatively unambitious”. He said, given that up to 38,000 public servants leave Whitehall each year, the easiest way to cut staffing levels is to freeze hiring.
But Prospect Alliance secretary Mike Clancy described the proposals as “heinous acts of vandalism” to the UK public service.
“These layoffs come against the backdrop of substantial pay cuts in effect,” he said. “The deep cuts to public services since 2010 have often proven to be a costly mistake. These proposals risk doubling down on mistakes.”
The FDA civil servants union described the announcement as “another high-profile stunt, or a reckless slash and burn of public service.”