Tens of thousands of civil servants in the UK are set to be laid off by the government in order to save money, a senior minster says.
Speaking to Sky News on Friday, Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg said the government was trying to get the civil service “back to normal” after taking in “extra people” to deal with the UK’s departure from the European Union and the pandemic.
“I know it sounds eye-catching, but it’s just getting back to the civil service that we had in 2016,” Rees-Mogg, said, confirming media reports that 91,000 Whitehall jobs were to go.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already asked cabinet ministers to report back within a month on how they can reduce the size of their departmental workforce to the 2016 levels.
Confirming the number of lay-offs, Johnson told the Daily Mail newspaper, “We have got to cut the cost of government to reduce the cost of living,” adding that civil service had become “swollen” during the coronavirus pandemic.
Firing more than 90,000 employees, which equals 20 percent of the entire civil service, would save about 3.5 billion pounds a year, according to the British prime minister.
Rees-Mogg said the new measures were targeted at the civil servants who worked remotely from home even after the coronavirus restrictions were lifted across the country.
“Up to 38,000 people a year leave the civil service, so the simplest way to do it is to have a freeze on recruitment,” he said.
He also stressed that the government should spend taxpayers’ money “properly and not wastefully, adding that, “It’s about governing effectively and recognizing that every penny we take in tax has to come off the backs of people working hard.”
The head of the civil servants’ union FDA described the government’s new plan as “either another headline-grabbing stunt or a reckless slash-and-burn to public services.” Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, tweeted, “Ultimately they can cut the civil service back to 2016 levels, but they need to decide what the civil service must then stop doing as a consequence.”
The development comes amid an unprecedented increase in the cost of living in the UK, after the country’s economy unexpectedly shrank in March, marking a weak end to the first quarter of a year.
In a report on Thursday, the British Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) had fallen by 0.1 percent from February, due to a slump in car sales that was caused by supply-chain problems.