Tory MP Accuses No.10 Of 'Spewing Out' Sensationalist Headlines Over Civil Service Cuts

Unions are threatening industrial action over plans to slash civil service jobs by 91,000.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson flanked by Britain's Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Simon Case.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson flanked by Britain's Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Simon Case.
WPA Pool via Getty Images

A Tory MP has accused No.10 of “spewing out” sensationalist headlines, after Boris Johnson demanded cuts of up to 91,000 civil service jobs.

Tobias Ellwood, a critic of Johnson, slammed the proposed cuts, saying it was “not about numbers” but about the “engine” driving policy.

He quipped that he was starting to think Downing Street had created a “Dead Cat Committee” - referring to a political strategy to divert media from failures in other areas.

The chairman of the commons defence committee, who previously submitted a letter of no confidence in the PM, tweeted: “I’m beginning to believe there’s a ‘Dead Cat Committee’ in No.10 spewing out a regular drumbeat of sensationalist headlines.

“It’s not about numbers, but outputs and productivity - the engine driving wider inspirational policy objectives that thematically sit together as a vision.”

Unions are also furious over the plans, accusing ministers of plucking figures off the “back of a fag packet”. Some are even threatening a national strike over the controversial plans.

Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East.
Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East.
Universal History Archive via Getty Images

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) is to hold an emergency meeting of its executive committee next week to discuss its response.

General secretary Mark Serwotka told PA that any job cuts would affect anyone relying on public services.

He said: “Our members will not be the scapegoats for a failing government. We have our conference in 10 days’ time. Taking national strike action is very much on the table.”

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union for senior civil servants, told Times Radio: “It’s back of the fag packet stuff. What they’ve done is they’ve taken what is the average salary in the civil service and multiplied it by 91,000 and that’s nonsensical because is that the people who are going to go?

“Where are the people are going to go? Are they more senior? Are they more junior? Which bits of the civil service are you going to cut? Does that apply equally to every department? So, again, these are just figures that are plucked out there for the headline.”

President of the TUC Mark Serwotka said: "Taking national strike action is very much on the table."
President of the TUC Mark Serwotka said: "Taking national strike action is very much on the table."
Leon Neal via Getty Images

TUC deputy general secretary Paul Nowak said: “The government is yet again treating the civil service with contempt. Civil servants are key workers who keep this country running.”

He said it was “shameful” that the prime minister was “throwing them under a bus” to distract from the government’s “failure to deal with the cost of living crisis”.

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect union, said the proposal represented an “outrageous act of vandalism on our public services”.

Jacob Rees-Mogg was sent out today to defend Boris Johnson’s plans to slash the number of civil servants by 91,000.

The government efficiency minister said they wanted to bring the Whitehall headcount back to where it was in 2016.

Boris Johnson is understood to have told ministers on Thursday that the service should be slashed by a fifth.

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

Ministers are expected to report back within a month with plans for achieving the cuts from their departments.

A government spokeswoman said “the public rightly expect their government to lead by example and run as efficiently as possible” as the nation faces rising costs.

Popular in the Community