Civil service trade unions have slammed Jacob Rees-Mogg’s “bizarre” announcement of plans to cut a quarter of Cabinet Office staff via a newspaper column.
The head of the civil service’s biggest union has urged the government efficiency minister to stop “political posturing” and “fulfil his obligations as a minister and discuss any proposals he has for change with the trade unions”, after the pledge appeared in the Telegraph last week.
Several paragraphs into a paywalled opinion piece, Rees-Mogg wrote that his department would be “leading by example” in the government’s drive to cut 91,000 civil service jobs by 2025. The promised 25% reduction in headcount would “be an opportunity for significant reform as well as savings”, he said.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said there was “no justification” for the proposal, which he said was “clearly driven by political posturing with regard to the Tory leadership election”.
“These figures have been plucked out of the air,” he said, referring to both Rees-Mogg’s latest comment and the plan for mass job cuts across the civil service.
“His increasingly bizarre interventions in relation to the civil service have no basis in reality. Instead of making baseless statements behind a paywall to the Telegraph, he needs to fulfil his obligations as a minister and discuss any proposals he has for change with the trade unions,” Serwotka said.
“Instead of posturing, he should be turning his attention to dealing with the real problems faced by the civil service, namely chronic under-resourcing and a cost-of-living crisis that is seeing more and more people slipping deeper into in-work poverty on his watch,” he added.
There have been no formal announcements about how the 91,000 planned job cuts will fall across each government department. The Cabinet Office declined to answer CSW's questions about Rees-Mogg's column, saying the minister's words "speak for themselves".
Rees-Mogg has faced a backlash in recent months to his criticism of civil servants – which has included his recent assertions that “too much flexitime will keep civil servants from the office and from doing their best work” and that officials are being offered “woke folderol” instead of practical learning and development opportunities.
He has also vocally opposed remote working and even took to leaving notes on empty desks that read “I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon” during visits to government buildings – a move labelled “Dickensian” by fellow cabinet minister Nadine Dorries.
Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of Prospect, urged ministers to “end their relentless attacks on those working for them and get a grip on the challenges facing the country”.
Responding to Rees-Mogg’s Telegraph column, he said: “It’s very telling that this zombie government is refusing to take decisions to help people get through the cost-of-living and energy bills crises, but is happy to announce it is axing the jobs of committed public servants.”
Serwotka added that Rees-Mogg’s “ludicrous pronouncements” vindicate PCS’s decision to ballot its members on industrial action next month over pay, pensions and working conditions.
The Cabinet Office declined to comment.
Truss to 'slim down bloated Cabinet Office and No.10'
The column was published ahead of reports that Conservative Party leadership candidate Liz Truss wants to “slim down” both No.10 and the Cabinet Office, which she considers “bloated”.
A source told The Times that the foreign secretary, whom Rees-Mogg is backing in the leadership race, wants the Cabinet Office to “become more efficient and focus on delivery” if she becomes prime minister next month.
Another insider involved in Truss's plans for government said: “There’s lots of discussion about changing the machinery of central government but if you do it, you have to do it on day one when you have most authority. Any longer and the machine will just kill it.”