Rees-Mogg pledges to cut 65,000 civil service jobs to get headcount 'under control'

New minister for government efficiency says he wants to fulfil Francis Maude’s legacy on civil service reform
Jacob Rees-Mogg

By Tevye Markson

21 Feb 2022

Jacob Rees-Mogg has outlined his plans to shrink the civil service by removing more than 65,000 civil service jobs.

In an interview this weekend, the new minister for government efficiency questioned whether the current civil service headcount is “providing value” for the taxpayer and pledged to fulfil former Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude’s legacy of reforming and cutting the size of the civil service.

He told The Times 65,000 jobs – around one in seven civil servants at the latest count – was the minimum number he wanted to see cut.

Under Lord Maude, the civil service shrank from around 470,000 full-time officials in 2010 to about 384,000 just before the 2016 EU referendum.

Maude’s 2012 Civil Service Reform Plan aimed to reduce the civil service headcount to 380,000.

But this reduction has since been completely reversed, reaching around 472,000 last year, largely due to Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ministers outlined plans in the autumn 2021 Spending Review to reduce the civil service headcount to pre-pandemic levels by 2023-24. Rees-Mogg said he is determined to get the headcount “under control”.

“Every person working for the civil service has to be paid for by the taxpayer,” he told The Times.

“So you’ve got to think, is this providing value? Is it doing something that needs to be done? Is it doing it in the most efficient way?”

Rees-Mogg referred to Ronald Reagan’s quote – “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, I’m from the government and I'm here to help” – hinting at his views of the role of government.

“What we should be saying to ourselves every day is are we making the lives of the British people better? And do we make them better by employing large numbers of civil servants?

“The answer is probably no because the British public helps pay for them. And so you’ve got to get it under control. And yes, there have been exceptional reasons why you’ve needed more in the last couple of years. But those reasons are coming to an end.”

Rees-Mogg, who was appointed minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency earlier this month in a government reshuffle, recently said he had been converted to civil service fandom in a wide-ranging interview with CSW, where he also shared thoughts on his infamous style guide and his desire for civil servants to think about parliament more.

In his Times interview, Rees-Mogg also expressed a desire to get rid of quangos, questioning whether they are “doing something that anybody needs to do”.

“Over recent decades, it was sort of thought that it was better to have high-minded, unelected people making decisions and taking them away from politicians who would make it for nasty, dangerous political reasons. I’m not sure that’s a good way to structure the way we’re regulated. I think accountability is fundamental to a functioning democracy.”

He suggested each quango should be analysed to decide whether it is “really necessary” and “if it’s not necessary, why is it there?”

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