Sunak bins 91,000 civil service job cut target, but ‘efficiency savings’ still to be found

Rishi Sunak has scrapped a government target to cut 91,000 civil service jobs, asking departments to instead find “the most effective ways to secure value and maximise efficiency within budgets”, according to an email sent to civil servants this week.

Rishi Sunak, on the day he was formally made prime minister. Image: Flickr

In an email seen by ENDS, the new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has written to civil servants telling them that the target introduced under Boris Johnson to cut 91,000 jobs within Whitehall is no more.

In the email, Sunak wrote: “I have a responsibility to ensure you have the skills, tools, and resources you need to be a modern civil service that reflects the people it serves. Together we must make sure that every tax payer pound goes as far as it can. 

“I do not believe that top down targets for civil service head counts reduction are the right way to do that. Instead, the chancellor and I will be asking every government department to look for the most effective ways to secure value and maximise efficiency within budgets so that we can use taxpayers money sustainably in the long term.”

The news comes as multiple government departments and agencies, particularly DEFRA, are facing threats of strikes from staff over poor pay, with unions and whistleblowers saying that under-resourced teams are preventing them doing their jobs effectively. 

In September, the head of FDA, the union representing senior civil servants, said that ministers “need to be honest with the public” that public sector cuts means that services will stop or be scaled back.

ENDS has reported extensively high levels of discontent at both the Environment Agency and Natural England this year, due to poor pay and cuts making their jobs impossible and working lives unsustainable.

Insiders at Natural England told ENDS in January that some staff were having to take second jobs to stay afloat, and internal churn meant that a loss of skills within teams was putting the government’s nature restoration ambitions at risk.

An Environment Agency whistleblower also recently explained in ENDS’ new documentary Severn: The poisoning of Britain’s Amazon, that he is no longer able to do the job he joined the agency to do and that river pollution is going unpunished. Earlier this year, another whistleblower said that staff at the agency are so overworked that officers are unable to regularly inspect waste sites