Inside Westminster

Boris Johnson’s pledge to slash civil service jobs is an old chestnut – and almost certainly won’t happen

Again, the PM’s priority is to placate Tory MPs to survive rather than doing what the country needs, writes Andrew Grice

Friday 13 May 2022 15:16
<p>Boris Johnson has pledged to cut 91,000 civil service job</p>

Boris Johnson has pledged to cut 91,000 civil service job

The government is thrashing around as it tries to convince the public it is tackling the cost-of-living crisis. Its latest big idea is Boris Johnson’s pledge to cut 91,000 civil service jobs, one in five of the total.

It’s an old chestnut and it almost certainly won’t be delivered; when ministers have to decide what to stop doing in their departments, they will shy away from it. Many of the extra Whitehall posts created since 2016 are due to Brexit. The environment department, now responsible for agriculture policy rather than the EU, has taken on 4,500 extra staff. The new Department for International Trade has recruited 2,000: will they be sacked when the government is desperate to strike trade deals around the world?

A recruitment freeze will eventually provide some savings and some officials taken on during the Covid emergency can probably be let go. Ministers argue, as Jacob Rees-Mogg did during a round of media interviews on Friday, that it is “not about doing less, but doing it more efficiently” and denied a return to austerity. But there is a danger ministers make the civil service less productive if this latest move forms part of their silly culture war against working from home.

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