Minister Slams Boris Johnson's Decision To Halt Civil Service Fast-Track Scheme

"It makes no sense to say the best and the brightest aren’t welcome to serve their country."
Greg Hands is the minister of state for business, energy and clean growth.
Greg Hands is the minister of state for business, energy and clean growth.
Michal Wachucik via PA Wire/PA Images

A government minister has hit out at Boris Johnson’s decision to halt a scheme which recruits the brightest young people to the civil service.

The Fast Stream graduate programme is being put on ice as part of plans to drastically reduce the number of civil servants by 91,000.

The scheme is being put on ice for at least 12 months from next year in a bid to bring the number of civil servants back to the same level as before Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

But energy minister Greg Hands made clear his opposition to the proposals on Twitter.

He said: “It makes perfect sense to control the size of government and ask why & where it has grown since 2016. It makes no sense to say, like this, that for one year, the best and the brightest aren’t welcome to serve their country.”

His comments come just weeks after former Tory leader William Hague also condemned the government plan.

“What the civil service really needs is fewer people overall with some very bright new ones, including those with the scientific and technical expertise of which it is desperately short,” Hague wrote in The Times.

“It needs more diversity of thinking and recruits who think outside the normal boxes, with less bureaucracy and more breakthroughs like those of the Vaccine Task Force.

“It needs more fast streamers if it is to be reinvented, but instead the government has opted for retrenchment.”

But a government minister told Civil Service World: “Our focus is on having a civil service that has the skills and capabilities to continue delivering outstanding public services, which is exactly why we have changed recruitment rules to bring in the very best talent and are investing in the professional development of our people.

“It is crucial that all aspects of taxpayer spending demonstrate efficiency and value for money. It was right to grow the civil service to deliver Brexit and deal with the pandemic, but we must now return it to 2016 staffing levels and have asked all government departments to set out how this might be achieved.”

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