Jacob Rees-Mogg has said that plans to cut more than 90,000 civil service jobs in order to free up billions of pounds for measures to ease the cost-of-living crisis does not amount to the return of austerity.
During an away-day with cabinet ministers in Stoke-on-Trent on Thursday, the prime minister asked Cabinet ministers to report back within a month on how they can reduce the size of their departmental workforces to 2016 levels.
The move would imply a reduction of about a fifth of the 475,000-strong workforce, which the government says would save about £3.5bn a year.
Speaking to Sky News on Friday, Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg said the government is trying to get the civil service “back to normal” after taking on “extra people for specific tasks” including COVID and Brexit.
Asked if reducing the number of civil servants constitutes a return to austerity, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I don’t think it is because what is being done is getting back to the efficiency levels we had in 2016.”
He said the easiest way to cut staffing levels is “to have a freeze on recruitment”, as “up to 38,000 people each year leave the civil service”.
He added: “But there will be efficiencies that you can get in some departments through increased automation, increased use of technology, which is something that all sensible businesses will be doing perfectly reasonable and sensible ambition.”
Mr Rees-Mogg continued: “The only bit that is ideological is that we should spend taxpayers’ money properly and not wastefully.
“It’s about doing things properly. It’s about governing effectively and recognising that every penny we take in tax has to come off the backs of people working hard.”