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Jacob Rees-Mogg Insists Cutting 90,000 Civil Servant Jobs Isn't A Return To Austerity

Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested a hiring "freeze" could be used to cut staff numbers

2 min read

The Prime Minister has asked ministers to draw up plans for cutting more than 90,000 civil servant jobs to free up billions in government spending.

The staff cuts, which are equivalent to around a fifth of the entire civil service workforce, would see staffing return to 2016 levels and save the government an estimated £3.5bn which they say could be used to ease the cost-of-living crisis.

Speaking on Friday, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for government efficiency, said the move was an attempt to get staffing levels "back to normal" after "extra people" were brought on to deal with Brexit and the Covid pandemic.

He told Sky News the easiest way to cut numbers would be to implement a hiring "freeze" as almost 40,000 civil servants leave their roles each year.

But he added there would be "efficiencies that you can get in some departments through increased automation, increased use of technology, which is something that all sensible businesses will be doing... a perfectly reasonable and sensible ambition."

He said: "The only bit that is ideological is that we should spend taxpayers' money properly and not wastefully.

"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."

But Rees Mogg denied the move marks a return to austerity. "I don't think it is, because what is being done is getting back to the efficiency levels we had in 2016," he said. 

The government has claimed the move would save around £3.5bn and comes as ministers face increasing pressure to provide additional cash to families struggling to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said new steps were required because the civil service had become "swollen" during the Covid pandemic.

"Every pound the government preempts from the taxpayers is money they can spend on their own priorities, on their own lives," Johnson said. 

But the move was heavily criticised by civil service union, the FDA, who said the plans were "either another headline-grabbing stunt or a reckless slash-and-burn to public services".


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