Jacob Rees-Mogg has declared war on civil servants who he says are choosing to work a ‘three-day week’ and stay at home when it’s sunny or there is a major sporting event on.
The efficiency minister has said the most popular days to work from home at Whitehall are Mondays and Fridays which he said was an indication people think the working week is shorter than it actually is.
It comes as the Prime Minister announced plans to axe up to 91,000 jobs over the next three years to save £3.5billion and give his under-pressure Government space for a pre-election tax cut for struggling families.
Boris Johnson also called for civil servants to return to the office and told the Daily Mail staff are ‘more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas’ when surrounded by colleagues.
Rees-Mogg has backed the plans to cut civil service jobs, with the Telegraph reporting that roles created for the pandemic will be the first to go.
He told the newspaper that one major department said its office attendance would be improved if only the ‘popular days’ were analysed.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has declared war on civil servants who he says are choosing to work a ‘three-day week’ and to work from home when it is sunny and there are sporting events on
Rees-Mogg has said the cuts will return civil service numbers to pre-Brexit referendum levels
He added: ‘Well, guess what – the popular working in the office days were Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
‘I do worry that the desire to take off Monday and Friday is an indication that people think that the working week is shorter than the reality is.
‘One can’t help but be suspicious about the desire to work from home on Mondays and Fridays.’
He told the Telegraph that, despite the fact we were now ‘living with Covid very successfully’ it does not seem ‘entirely satisfactory’ that some working environments have not returned to normal.
The cabinet minister also suggested that some workers were choosing to work from home when there were popular sporting events or if the weather was nice and urged senior civil servants to return to the office and lead by example.
The Brexit Opportunities minister has been one of the most vocal critics of the working from home culture in recent weeks.
Despite WFH guidance ending months ago, civil servants are slow to get back to the office
London ministries have been said to be less than half-full despite the efforts of Jacob Rees-Mogg to pry them from their spare rooms and kitchen tables.
Mr Rees-Mogg’s attempts to end WFH have so far included conducting spot head counts in offices at Whitehall and leaving notes on empty desks in a move which was branded insulting by unions.
The note, printed on government paper with Mr Rees-Mogg’s title, was left at empty desks and read ‘I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.’
His comments echo Boris Johnson’s call for workers to return to the office, months after the Government removed its Covid work from home guidance.
Taking a swipe at the out-of-office culture that has taken hold across Whitehall, he adds: ‘My experience of working from home is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.’
He claims staff are ‘more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas’ when surrounded by colleagues. He says: ‘I believe in the workplace environment.
A note (pictured) which was left on empty desks at Whitehall by Jacob Rees-Mogg who has been campaigning for civil service’s return to work and has recently started patrolling offices
‘And I think that will help to drive up productivity, it will get our city centres moving in the weekdays and it will be good for mass transit.
‘And a lot of businesses that have been having a tough time will benefit from that.’
In response to the news that a fifth of the jobs at Whitehall would be cut, union leaders threatened a mass walkout of civil servants.
The tough measure comes after ministers have spent months pleading with Mandarins to return to offices rather than working from home, with little or no effect.
Critics of ‘the blob’ have blamed a refusal to return to workplaces for a string of backlogs in departments struggling to recover from Covid crisis, including the DVLA and, more recently the Passport Office.
An extra 700 staff will be brought in to tackle the Passport Office ‘chaos’ that has left furious holidaymakers missing out on family events and vacations. But ministers have warned that even with the new staff its current 10-week target of processing applications is not ‘guaranteed’ ahead of summer holidays.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, the Prime Minister says full workplaces will lift productivity and revive town and city centres as he urged civil servants to get back to offices
Downing Street today would not rule out compulsory redundancies being part of the wider streamlining plan, but a spokesman said it is hoped many cuts can be done through ‘natural wastage’.
Mark Serwotka, head of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), said it would hold an emergency meeting of its executive committee next week, saying: ‘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.’
Mr Johnson also faced opposition from his critics within the Conservative Party. Former minister Tobias Ellwood accused ministers of setting up 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,’ he tweeted.
But Jacob Rees-Mogg said the PM’s decision to axe 91,000 posts within three years would simply take Whitehall numbers back to their pre 2016 levels, after they were swollen by the EU departure and Covid.