Saturday, May 14, 2022

Boris Johnson’s plan to cut 91,000 public sector jobs is a ‘challenge’, the Defra boss tells staff

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In an email to staff seen by i, the Defra boss says cuts “require a prioritization of what we can do and deliver” as Jacob Rees-Mogg claims it’s “not about doing less” .

Seen in an email to staff by ITamara Finkelstein, undersecretary of state for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said the plans would “require prioritization of what we can do and deliver”.

A senior official said Boris Johnson’s plans to cut 91,000 public sector jobs represent a “significant challenge” which will mean some functions will be cut.

Her comments appeared to challenge the claim of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Minister for Brexit Chances and Government Efficiency, that cutting public services by a fifth was “not a question of doing less” but of “doing more efficiently”.

Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments were dismissed by Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, which represents officials, who said the government must “decide what the reduced civil service will no longer be able to do”.

“Will they affect passports, borders or health?” he said.

Ms Finkelstein’s email to staff seemed to support Mr Penman’s assessment that the downsizing would reduce the effectiveness of the public service.

It said: “This will be a significant challenge on top of the commitments we have already made under the spending review.

“It will certainly require a prioritization of what we can do and deliver, as well as changes in the way we work.”

Ms Finkelstein told staff she acknowledged the announcement was “concerning” but stressed that the three-year timeframe would allow the department “to best manage the reduction”.

It came as ordinary officials said I They believed the move was an attempt to distract attention from the government’s political problems, including the Partygate scandal.

Add to that low morale as wages have not kept pace with inflation.

One official said: “It’s another slap in the face to hard-working officials across the country who have been keeping this government running while politicians get mad and break their own rules.

“Is it any wonder morale is so low and so many talented, experienced employees choose to leave themselves?”

Mr Johnson is said to have told his cabinet that the public service should be cut by a fifth during a day away with ministers in Stoke-on-Trent as his government comes under heavy pressure to ease the pain of soaring prices

Sources familiar with Mr Johnson’s cabinet talk said he had told ministers to bring public services back to pre-Brexit and pre-pandemic 2016 levels in the coming years.

Their number is said to have since grown to 475,000 full-time jobs.

The Prime Minister told the Daily Mail: “We need to cut government costs to bring down the cost of living.”

He suggested using the saved billions for tax cuts, saying: “Every pound the government is withholding from taxpayers is money to spend on their own priorities, on their own lives.”

Mr Johnson wants a hiring freeze to begin across Whitehall soon, with the abolition of all vacancies unless approved by ministers.

Ministers are expected to come back from their departments within a month with plans to achieve the cuts.

Me Penman said: “Without an accompanying strategy, these cuts look more like a continuation of the government’s culture wars in the civil service or, worse, ill-conceived, hasty job cuts that will not result in more cost-effective government.”

A Labor Party spokesman said: “Instead of setting up an emergency budget, they have chosen to let working people down again through pointless rhetoric and inaction.”

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