LONDON (CU)_As households across the United Kingdom struggle with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to come up with plans to slash civil service jobs by a record level. The move, aimed at freeing up billions of pounds for tax cuts, was discussed during an away-day with cabinet ministers in Stoke-on-Trent on Wednesday.
The Prime Minister told his top team to come up with a plan and report back within a month on how to slash departmental workforces to 2016 levels. This implies a reduction of about a fifth, or more than 90,000 civil service jobs. The government said the details of the plan, which is expected to save about £3.5bn a year, would be set out in due course. The news comes at a time when inflation has jumped to its highest level in three decades, and PM Johnson faces increased pressure to do more to address the cost-of-living crisis.
According to the British leader, the civil service had become “swollen” during the pandemic. “Every pound the government pre-empts from the taxpayer is money they can spend on their own priorities, on their own lives,” he told the Daily Mail, which first reported the planned cuts. The announcement appears to be in line with the comment made by the Prime Minister during the Queen’s Speech debate on Tuesday, when he spoke of the need to “cut the cost of government”.
“The PM and ministers are clear that the civil service does an outstanding job delivering for the public and driving progress on the government’s priorities. But when people and businesses across the country are facing rising costs, the public rightly expect their government to lead by example and run as efficiently as possible,” a spokesperson for the government said.
The head of the civil servants’ union described the job cuts as “either another headline-grabbing stunt or a reckless slash-and-burn to public services”, pointing out that the Passport Office or Department of Health and Social Care might suffer as a result. “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. Will the Passport Office be cut back? Or the Dept of Health and Social Care?” Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, tweeted. “Unless they’ve got a serious plan, it’s either another headline-grabbing stunt or a reckless slash-and-burn to public services without a thought or care about the consequences.”