Department of Energy and Climate Change to lose 200 jobs

The department, already one of Whitehall’s smallest, will struggle to develop a green policy, critics warn

Mark Leftly
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 14 November 2015 22:17
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd speaks in House of Commons
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd speaks in House of Commons

The Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, will get rid of one in eight of her civil servants in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), reigniting criticism that the Government is neglecting the fight against climate change.

Stephen Lovegrove, the permanent secretary at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), has told MPs that 200 staff will leave through a “voluntary exit scheme”. At 1,600 staff, DECC is already one of Whitehall’s smallest departments, and the redundancies have sparked accusations that the Government will struggle to develop effective green energy policy.

In July, Ms Rudd cut renewable energy subsidies, which have led to job losses in the solar industry. A letter leaked last week revealed she has also warned cabinet colleagues that the UK will be nearly 25 per cent short of its clean energy target for 2020.

The jobs cull also comes ahead of this month’s United Nations climate change conference in Paris, which has been billed as one of the most important summits on tackling carbon emissions in history.

The United Nations climate change conference is set to take place in Paris later this month

Chancellor George Osborne has asked all but a handful of protected departments to make spending cuts of up to 40 per cent so he can meet his pledge to balance the country’s books by the end of this parliament.

DECC is the first department to spell out the job losses that will occur as a result. The wider cuts across Whitehall will be revealed in the CSR, announced alongside the Autumn Statement on 25 November. The department was also one of the first four to agree its CSR settlement with the Chancellor. The others were Local Government and Communities, the Ministry of Justice and the Treasury itself.

Mr Lovegrove told the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee: “Clearly, in today’s environment we are very conscious of the need to make a contribution to general deficit reductions, so we will be scaling back the number of people in the department. We currently have 1,600 people in the department and we have a voluntary exit scheme going on at the moment, which is designed to remove about 200 heads from the department.”

But a spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services union, which represents civil servants, said: “This is a textbook example of how the Tories cut first and ask questions later. Time and again these kind of arbitrary cuts have proved unworkable, and in this case shows just how little regard the Government has for properly tackling climate change.

Jeremy Leggett, the green energy entrepreneur behind Solarcentury and the charity SolarAid, said: “An unsolved mystery for me is whose advice the Government is listening to in its tragic flogging of the debt‑drenched shale and nuclear horses, and its perfidious treatment of clean-energy investors and solar companies.

“One can only hope two things – that there were officials in DECC prepared to advise against this doomed sham of an energy policy, and that they are not now disproportionately represented in the 200 civil servants forced to join the jobless thousands in the solar industry.”

In a speech this week, Ms Rudd will say: “I inherited a department where policy costs on bills had spiralled ... Subsidy should be temporary, not part of a permanent business model.”

A DECC source insisted there was no “direct link” between the redundancies and the department’s ability to undertake its energy work. “Energy security is our number one priority,” added the source.

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