Cabinet Office to lose one in four staff – but no detail yet on impact for digital agencies

Jacob Rees Mogg trailed 25% job cuts in a Telegraph article, which unions label as the minister’s latest in a series of ‘increasingly bizarre’ pronouncements

Credit: padrefilar/Pixabay    Image has been altered

The Cabinet Office is set to cut one in four jobs – but the department claims it cannot yet say how the workforce reduction might impact government’s core digital agencies.

The plan to enact a “25% reduction in headcount over the next three years” was publicised in an article written for the Telegraph last week by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for government efficiency and Brexit opportunities. 

Rees-Mogg has been among the most vocal proponents of ministers’ ambitions to cut the size of government by 91,000 jobs – equating to a 20% reduction overall. In exceeding this by five percentage points, the Cabinet Office will be “leading by example,” said Rees-Mogg, and providing “an opportunity for significant reform as well as savings”.

Figures published in May indicate that the Cabinet Office employs 10,000 staff – equating to 9,801 full-time equivalent positions.

In addition to the core department, the Cabinet Office also houses the Government Digital Service and the Central Digital and Data Office, as well as various other public bodies and executive agencies – including the Crown Commercial Service and the Government Property Agency.

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PublicTechnology asked the Cabinet Office how Rees-Mogg’s 25% target might be implemented across the department’s various units and arm’s-length bodies – in particular GDS and CDDO – and whether some areas might be impacted more than others. 

The department indicated that such detail could not be provided at the moment.

A government spokesperson said: “As people across the country are facing huge living costs, the public rightly expect their government to lead by example and to be run as efficiently as possible. Ministers have been tasked to draw up plans to return the civil service to its 2016 levels over the next three years and that work is ongoing.”

Elsewhere in his Telegraph piece, Rees-Mogg said that the Cabinet Office had – via a “tight control on spending and an emphasis on reducing fraud” – achieved savings of £3.5bn during the 2020/21 year. Measures now being taken by government will ultimately save an annual total of £5.5bn each year, according to the minister. 

“Our departure from the European Union necessitates a re-thinking of the British state,” he added. “This means going beyond ministers looking for fiscal trims and haircuts and considering whether the state should deliver certain functions at all.”

Rees-Mogg’s target for departmental job cuts – and the manner in which it was publicised – met with sharp criticism from the leaders of unions representing civil servants.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said that “these figures have been plucked out of the air” by the government efficiency minister.

“His increasingly bizarre interventions in relation to the civil service have no basis in reality,” he added. “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.”

Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of Prospect added: “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.”


Sam Trendall

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