Cost of living: Civil servants reminded of 'financial lifelines' as cab sec admits 'people are worried'

"We benefit ourselves from the very schemes and support packages that we have helped to put in place," Simon Case says

The cost-of-living crisis will make the autumn “challenging”, civil services bosses have said, in a memo acknowledging staff will be “worried”.

The internal memo reminds officials they may be eligible for some of the “financial lifelines” they have been tasked with putting in place.

“Into the autumn, the rising cost of living, fuelled by increasing energy prices, means a challenging period for many people. We know it is hard, and we know people are worried,” cabinet secretary Simon Case and civil service chief operating officer Alex Chisholm wrote.

“As ministers have acknowledged, it is impossible to shield everyone from the full impact of the global economic pressures. Nevertheless, civil servants have played a crucial part in devising and delivering financial lifelines for the public since the beginning of the pandemic and more recently, in this time of increasing inflation and household bills,” they continued.

“As taxpayers, and citizens, we benefit ourselves from the very schemes and support packages that we have helped to put in place.”

The top brass then gave a list of “achievements” from the last few months – topped by the Help for Households campaign, which pulls together information on benefits, targeted support schemes and cost-saving deals offered by businesses. The list also included the Covid vaccine rollout; Ukraine visa schemes and humanitarian aid; and the opening of the Elizabeth line.

“We should continue to take great pride in the work we do. It remains vital to people's lives and the smooth running of society… These are just a few of our achievements, alongside the wider support we provide to people in the UK and across the world,” Case and Chisholm wrote.

The Help for Households website, linked in the email, highlights cost-of-living support such as a £150 council tax rebate for most households and a £400 energy-bill discount, along with long-running programmes such as Universal Credit.

The website also has an “offers and discounts” section that lists deals from businesses, such as discounted meals for under-16s at supermarket cafes; frozen schoolwear prices at M&S; family tickets on various bus services; and free delivery by Amazon to pick-up locations.

Two days after the memo landed in civil servants’ inboxes last Friday, consultancy Auxilione predicted energy prices could hit £6,000 a year from next April. Inflation is now forecast to hit 18.6% early next year.

It comes after one in 12 civil servants said they had used foodbanks in a recent survey. Nearly one in ten of the 12,000 people who responded to the PCS poll reported signing up to Universal Credit, while many others said they earned just above the threshold for benefits.

PCS is preparing to ballot its members next month on a national strike over pay, pensions and planned mass job cuts. The union is demanding a 10% pay rise, a £15 living wage and a job-security guarantee.

Case and Chisholm did not address the calls for industrial action, but urged civil servants to continue their hard work as they emerge from a “period of transition” caused by the Conservative Party leadership race and the ending of the “peak phase” of the Covid pandemic.

“Our work as civil servants continues, delivering services for the public, supporting ministers and preparing for the new team,” they said.

“The civil service is 167 years old this year, and as the current custodians, it is the duty of all of us to ensure that it continues to be viewed as a global leader in the delivery of services to the public,” they added.

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