The Brexit opportunities and efficiency minister has said that axing 91,000 civil servants is “perfectly reasonable”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the MP for North Somerset, told Sky News that Whitehall had “taken on extra people for specific tasks… but now we’re trying to get back to normal”.
He said cuts would be made from arms-length bodies and scrapping any “duplication”.
“There are many savings that come from that. Therefore you have to make sure people are being used as efficiently as possible.”
Rees-Mogg denied the proposed cuts marked a return to austerity, arguing: “I don’t think it is, because what is being done is getting back to the efficiency levels we had in 2016. That’s a perfectly reasonable and sensible objective. The only bit that is ideological is we should spend taxpayers’ money properly, not wastefully.”
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Quizzed by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme over what he wished there was “less of”, he said it was not “a question of doing less of” certain things, but of “doing things more efficiently”.
He said that in the wake of Brexit and the Covid pandemic, “ we can get back to the numbers we previously had. We can also automate and use technology more, so you can have processes more efficiently carried out.”
He explained that “each department” would be consulted on potential cuts and that the Home Office for example, “may decide” the Passport Office currently experiencing record backlogs may not require cutbacks, but that other areas could.
Pressed on whether the Department for International Trade could see staff cuts, Rees-Mogg went on: “They’ve rolled over the treaties, so that part of their work has been successfully completed. There is always work to be done. The issue is are you doing it efficiently, and do you have the right people?
“Overall the civil service needs fewer people and that will be something that is down to every department. I don’t believe you will find any department that is working at 100 per cent efficiency… The Passport Office needs to be more efficient, that is probably having better technological solutions and a degree of better planning for the flows. We need fewer people across the civil servants.”
Responding to the prime minister’s intentions to cut 90,000 civil service roles, John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Taxpayers need to see serious efforts to trim Britain’s bloated bureaucracy.
“With the pandemic now behind us, government must get back to business as usual and wind down the Whitehall commitments which are costing taxpayers a fortune.
“Slashing unnecessary waste and inefficiency will ease the burden and unlock tax cuts to put money back in people’s pockets.”
Commenting on the news, TUC deputy general secretary Paul Nowak said: “The government is yet again treating the civil service with contempt.
“Civil servants are key workers who keep this country running.
“They deliver vital services, collect taxes, help people back into employment, regulate medicines, negotiate trade deals and thousands of other things that bind society together.
“We all rely on civil servants to get on with our everyday lives.
“It is shameful that the Prime Minister is throwing them under a bus to distract from the government’s failure to deal with the cost of living crisis.”