Jacob Rees-Mogg has defended Boris Johnson’s plans to slash the number of civil servants by 91,000.
The government efficiency minister said the government wanted to bring the Whitehall headcount back to where it was in 2016.
He said the extra staff were brought in to help deal with the pandemic and the “aftermath of Brexit”.
Rees-Mogg told Sky News: “I know it sounds eye-catching but it’s just getting back to the civil service we had in 2016… since then we’ve had to take on people for specific tasks.
“So dealing with the aftermath of Brexit and dealing with Covid, so there’s been a reason for that increase, but we’re now trying to get back to normal.”
The minister said there was currently too much “duplication” in Whitehall, and insisted most of the jobs could be lost by not replacing the 38,000 civil servants who leave the government every year.
He said: “What I’ve seen within the Cabinet Office, which is where I work and bear in mind each secretary of state will be responsible for is or her own department, is that there’s duplication within government, so you have a communications department and then you have within another department some people doing communications.
“So it’s trying to ensure that you use the resources that you’ve got rather than duplicating it bit by bit.”
Asked why the cuts were not being described as a return to austerity, he said: “I don’t think it is because what is being done is getting back to the efficiency levels we had in 2016.”
Rees-Mogg has previously angered civil servants by leaving notes on the desks of those not in the office in an attempt to discourage working from home.
They read: “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon. Wish every good wish.”
The drive has been branded “vindictive” by Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA representing senior civil servants, who said ministers were out of step with practice in the private sector.