UK minister hints work-from-home civil servants could face job cuts

By on 04/07/2022 | Updated on 05/07/2022
A portrait of UK government minister Jacob Rees-Mogg
Photo Chris McAndrew reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

The UK government’s minister for efficiency has hinted that civil servants still working at home could be at increased risk of losing their job as departments plan to make cuts to 91,000 posts.

Jacob Rees-Mogg told The Sun newspaper late last week that “people will no doubt draw their own conclusions as to whether they think they ought to be in the office when an organisation is reducing numbers” in light of plans reduce the civil service by around 20%.

The plan was announced by Cabinet Office minister Rees-Mogg and prime minister Boris Johnson in May as part of plans to reduce the civil service to the size it was in 2016. Rees-Mogg said that the size of the service grew due to the pressures of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic, which were “now fading”.

He added: “Therefore, we can get back to the numbers we previously had.”

However, a host of former senior officials have told Global Government Forum that the reductions would hinder the delivery of frontline services and hit the civil service’s ability to recruit.

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Departments had to submit plan for an up to 20% reduction in staff numbers last week, with methods likely including a recruitment freeze. Rees-Mogg has now hinted that officials working from home could also be at risk.

Rees-Mogg has been at the forefront of efforts to get civil servants back into the office, including writing to UK cabinet ministers urging them to get more of their officials into the office, but the plan has been opposed by some other ministers who have questioned why the government is “measuring bodies behind desks” rather than focusing on efficiency.

His comments come after reports in The Times that departments were considering whether they could avoid the need for headcount reductions by reclassifying some staff as public – rather than civil – servants. According to the paper, the Ministry of Justice made the case that prison and probation officers, who number around 50,000 and count as civil servants, should be reclassified as public servants in the same way as police officers are accounted for in the public sector job statistics.

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

One Comment

  1. Kelly White says:

    I now work from home on almost a permanent basis and I say with all honesty that the lack of the normal office interruptions and noise allows me to be far more productive. This comment by Rees-Mogg shows a lack of trust in those that work from home – thinking they are shirking their responsibilities. This says more about people like him and what they would do given the chance. They need to stop measuring others by their own standards.
    And cutting the number of Civil Savants is probably beneficial to the public. As with most government bodies they suffer from Parkinson’s Law. Most of them only got the jobs through cronyism, particularly the top jobs. So no they don’t need to cut numbers from the front line. Cut the burgeoning upper posts that provide no added value to public services other than crony self service. And lets not forget that these civil servants are taking their salary home in a handcart, not to mention the size of their pensions; you can include Boris and Rees-Mogg in that. They are not value for money. If they take the cuts from top down they will save a considerable amount of public cash and may even be able to offer a decent wage to those at the pit face, which would reduce the amount of skilled workers leaving and make it easier to recruit. They should start with DEFRA Human Resources because I’ve yet to hear about even one that has the skills to do the job properly. They create more trouble than they are worth at the cost of excessive time, money and work related mental health issues

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