Cost of living: Plan to cut 90,000 civil servants not a return to austerity, says Jacob Rees-Mogg | Political news

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Jacob Rees-Mogg said plans to cut more than 90,000 civil service jobs to free up billions of pounds for measures to ease the cost of living crisis do not match the return of austerity .

During a day away with cabinet ministers in Stoke-on-Trent on Thursday, the Prime Minister asked Cabinet ministers to report back within a month on how they can reduce the size of their departmental workforce at 2016 levels.

The move would mean a reduction of around a fifth of the workforce of 475,000 people, which the government says would save around £3.5billion a year.

Speaking to Sky News on Friday, the Minister of Brexit Government Opportunities and Effectiveness Jacob Rees Mogg said the government was trying to get the civil service ‘back to normal’ after hiring ‘additional people for specific tasks’, including covid and Brexit.

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Asked whether cutting the number of civil servants is a return to austerity, Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “I don’t think it’s because what’s being done is getting back to the levels of efficiency that we planes in 2016”.

He said the easiest way to cut staff is “to freeze recruitment” because “up to 38,000 people leave the civil service each year”.

Mr Rees-Mogg added: “But there will be efficiencies that you can achieve in certain departments through increased automation, increased use of technology, which all sensible companies will do with perfectly reasonable ambition. and sensible.”

He continued: “The only thing that is ideological is that we should be spending taxpayers’ money properly and not wasting it..

It’s about doing things right. It’s about governing effectively and recognizing that every penny we take in taxes has to come from the backs of hard-working people. »

The announcement was described as “either another headline-grabbing stunt or a reckless attack on public services” by the head of the civil servants’ union, the FDA.

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Prince Charles said the government’s priority was to “develop and strengthen the economy and help alleviate the cost of living”.

It comes as Mr Johnson faces pressure to do more to deal with the cost of living crisis, which has seen inflation soar to its highest level in three decades – with Tory MPs pushing for tax cuts and Labor accusing him of being “out of ideas”.

The Prime Minister told the Daily Mail, which first reported the planned cuts, that the civil service had become “bloated” during the pandemic.

He added: “Every pound the government takes from the taxpayer is money he can spend on his own priorities, on his own life.”

The announcement appears to flesh out a comment the Prime Minister made during the Queen’s Speech debate earlier this week, when he spoke of the need to ‘cut government costs’.

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ITV News reported that the prime minister and the chancellor met on Monday to start drawing up the plan, which would include a ban on filling vacancies without special permission from ministers.

A government spokesman said: “The Prime Minister and ministers are clear that the civil service is doing an outstanding job of serving the public and advancing government priorities.

“But when individuals and businesses across the country face rising costs, the public rightly expects their government to lead by example and operate as efficiently as possible.”

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Civil service unions are already at odds with ministers, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, who are trying to pressure civil servants who have worked from home during the pandemic to return to offices in Whitehall.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, tweeted: “Ultimately they can bring the public service back to 2016 levels, but they have to decide what the public service should then stop doing as a result.

“Will the passport office be downsized? Or the Department of Health and Social Care?

“Unless they have a serious plan, this is either another headline-grabbing stunt or a reckless burning of utilities without thought or concern for the consequences.”

A Labor spokesman said: “The Cabinet has said it will focus on the cost of living crisis facing families across the country.

“Instead of putting in place an emergency budget, they have chosen to let workers down once again with unnecessary rhetoric and a lack of action.”

Amid the discussion of civil service efficiency, Mr Rees-Mogg was told he had arrived for his morning tour alongside a handful of advisers.

Asked if all were needed, he replied: “They don’t all work directly for me. They work in the Cabinet Office – and two are my special advisers.”

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