Unions Slam Government Plans to Cut 90,000 Civil Service Jobs

© AP Photo / Matt Dunham / Jacob Rees-Mogg, now Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency Secretary, leaves a cabinet meeting on September 7 2021Jacob Rees-Mogg, now Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency Secretary, leaves a cabinet meeting on September 7 2021
Jacob Rees-Mogg, now Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency Secretary, leaves a cabinet meeting on September 7 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.05.2022
The government took on more than 90,000 extra staff to administer its response to the coronavirus lockdown — while civil servants worked just two days per week in their Whitehall offices to avoid spreading the bug.
Civil Service trade unions have slammed Downing Street plans to cut more than 90,000 civil service jobs created during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The First Division Association, which represents senior civil servants, and the larger Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) both attacked the announcement by Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg on Friday.
Rees-Mogg told Sky News that cutting 91,000 posts out of 475,000 was merely a way to get government "back to normal" after hiring "extra people for specific tasks" during the pandemic. The government has claimed the moved would save £3.5 billion per year.
He said the cuts could be achieved by a freeze in recruitment, since 38,000 staff were already leaving government departments every year. But he said more "efficiencies" could be gained through automation and technology.
The minister denied the cuts were a return to the years austerity from 2010 under former prime minister David Cameron, adding: "what is being done is getting back to the efficiency levels we had in 2016."
"The only bit that is ideological is that we should spend taxpayers' money properly and not wastefully," Rees-Mogg said. "It's about doing things properly. It's about governing effectively and recognising that every penny we take in tax has to come off the backs of people working hard."
The minister admitted to LBC Radio that the Conservative government had hired the extra staff in the first place, but added: "What we want to do is to ensure that government is operating as efficiently as possible."
FDA General Secretary Dave Penman said the move was "either another headline-grabbing stunt or a reckless slash-and-burn to public services."
The swelling ranks of Whitehall bureaucrats since 2016 was needed to "deal with the consequences of two unprecedented events – Brexit and the COVID pandemic," he insisted.
"To govern is to choose and ultimately this government can decide to cut the civil service back to 2016 levels, but it will also then have to choose what the reduced civil service will no longer have the capacity to do. Will they affect passports, borders or health?" Penman asked.
"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," PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka echoed in a statement. “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."
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Speaking to LBC Radio, FDA Assistant General Secretary Steven Littlewood called the job cuts plan a bid by the government to launch a "culture war".
It was the unions' second run-in with Rees-Mogg in less than a month. In April the minister incurred their wrath when he said civil servants should end the lockdown work-from-home culture and come back to their Whitehall desks.
The minister caused mirth and anger from different quarters when he left notes in departmental offices reading: "Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon."
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