Boris Johnson's plan to axe 91,000 civil service jobs branded 'reckless slash and burn'

Boris Johnson told top Tories to cut the number of Whitehall officials by a fifth as he desperately scrambles to free up cash to ease cost of living pressures

Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to axe up to 91,000 civil service jobs in a desperate bid to free up cash to tackle the cost of living crisis.

The Prime Minister is said to have told top Tories that the number of Whitehall officials should be cut by a fifth to bring the civil service to 2016 levels within a few years.

Unions blasted the move as a “reckless slash and burn” to public services and warned hard choices would be needed if the staffing levels are significantly reduced.

Labour said the Government had resisted calls for an emergency Budget and was instead focusing on “pointless rhetoric”.

The size of the civil service has swelled to around 475,000 since 2016, as officials were brought in to cope with challenges such as Brexit and the Covid pandemic.

Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has been engaged in a war on Whitehall


Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Top Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed that mass job cuts would not amount to a return to austerity, telling Sky News: “I don’t think it is because what is being done is getting back to the efficiency levels we had in 2016.”

He said a freeze on recruitment would help cut numbers, as some 38,000 people each year leave the civil service but each minister would be responsible for their own department.

The Brexit Opportunities minister suggested the move could save in the region £3.6 billion per year, with reports suggesting this could be put towards tax cuts.

Mr Rees-Mogg has been embroiled in a war on Whitehall and was widely criticised for leaving passive aggressive notes on civil servants desks.

The paper note read: “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.”

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA, a union for civil servants, said: “Unless they’ve got a serious plan, it’s either another headline-grabbing stunt or a reckless slash-and-burn to public services without a thought or care about the consequences.”

The Government is under huge pressure to help hard-up families struggling with the cost of living, as Brits face tax hikes, soaring energy bills, and rising inflation.

But the PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are resisting calls for a windfall tax on oil and gas giants to raise funds.

FDA general secretary Dave Penman said the expansion of Whitehall since 2016 was necessary to “deal with the consequences of two unprecedented events – Brexit and the Covid pandemic”.

“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?” he said.

“Without an accompanying strategy, these cuts appear more like a continuation of the Government’s civil service culture wars, or even worse, ill-thought out, rushed job slashes that won’t lead to a more cost-effective government.”

Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union said: “This proposal represents an outrageous act of vandalism on our public services.

“Through Brexit and then the pandemic we have never been more reliant in peace time on our civil service.

“Our members are highly skilled and there is a real risk to government delivery from losing their vital expertise.

“They are vital to what the Government want to do whether that is levelling up or pandemic recovery.

“For them these cuts to jobs come on the back of significant real terms cuts in pay.

“The big cuts to public services since 2010 have often proved an expensive error, these proposals risk doubling down on the mistake.”

A Labour spokesman said: “Instead of implementing an emergency budget they have chosen to let down working people once again through pointless rhetoric and lack of action.”

A Government spokeswoman said “the public rightly expect their Government to lead by example and run as efficiently as possible” as the nation faces rising costs.

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