Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tasked his ministers with cutting the number of civil service jobs to levels seen before Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in 2016, part of what the government said was a plan to deliver for taxpayers.
Johnson is trying to find ways to cut costs at a time when millions of people in Britain are struggling with increasing food and fuel bills, targeting a workforce that has increased to help navigate Brexit and the Covid-19 outbreak.
“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,” the spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.
“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.”
British newspaper the Daily Mail reported that the government planned to cut 91,000 jobs, or almost one in five public sector workers.
The Institute for Government, a think tank, estimated the savings to the public finances could be around 3.6 billion pounds (US$4.38 billion) a year.
In the current financial year, the government is expected to borrow around 99 billion pounds.
With the risk of Britain slipping into a recession rising, the government is under pressure to provide more support to households, who are facing rising costs for energy supplies and food. But the public finances are already stretched after a pandemic response that cost hundreds of billions of pounds.
Asked if the job cuts were a return to “austerity” measures, Britain’s minister for Brexit opportunities, Jacob Rees-Mogg, told Sky News: “I don’t think it is, because what is being done is getting back to the efficiency levels we had in 2016. That’s a perfectly reasonable and sensible ambition.”
“The administration, the negotiations, most of the work in relation to Brexit has been completed,” he said.