White collar targets

Johnson calls for 91,000 civil service job cuts

UK government offices in Edinburgh (pic: Terry Murden)

More than 90,000 civil service jobs could be axed as Boris Johnson attempts to free up money to help those struggling with the cost of living.

The Prime Minister told ministers at a Cabinet ‘away day’ meeting in the Midlands yesterday to demand that a fifth of jobs in Whitehall and across the country are axed.

He told the Daily Mail: “We have got to cut the cost of government to reduce the cost of living.”

He said the Civil Service had become ‘swollen’ during the pandemic and more than 90,000 jobs had to go. The Civil Service embraces 250 organisations and has a payroll of 475,000, the highest level since 2010.

And he suggested the billions saved could be ploughed into tax cuts, saying: “Every pound the Government pre-empts from the taxpayer is money they can spend on their own priorities, on their own lives.”

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Ministers have been given a month to come up with plans to cut the size of the Civil Service by 91,000, potentially freeing up £3.5 billion a years. 

The PM’s chief of staff, Steve Barclay, is also investigating plans to use new technology, including artificial intelligence systems, to improve efficiency at struggling agencies such as the Passport Office and DVLA.

Mr Johnson has urged workers to get back to the office, saying: “There will be lots of people who disagree with me, but I believe people are more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas, when they are surrounded by other people.”

However, he said technology also had a major role to play in improving efficiency.

“Things like Zoom and Teams can increase productivity, rather than just be an excuse for people to stay at home.

“We should be asking ourselves, why does it cost so much for a passport? Often it’s because the cost has been jacked up over the years to support the cost of the organisation providing them. 

“What is the chief driver of those costs? Headcount. If we can do more with AI… potentially it could be cheaper.”

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson followed Chancellor Rishi Sunak in saying he would look at introducing a windfall tax on the profits of energy giants to help struggling families.

The FDA civil servants union warned the “ill thought out” proposal would not lead to a more cost-effective Government and could have impacts on passport processing, borders and health.


FDA general secretary Dave Penman said the expansion of Whitehall since 2016 was necessary to “deal with the consequences of two unprecedented events – Brexit and the Covid pandemic”.

“To govern is to choose and ultimately this Government can decide to cut the civil service back to 2016 levels, but it will also then have to choose what the reduced civil service will no longer have the capacity to do. Will they affect passports, borders or health?” he said.

“Without an accompanying strategy, these cuts appear more like a continuation of the Government’s civil service culture wars, or even worse, ill-thought out, rushed job slashes that won’t lead to a more cost-effective government.”

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