Chancellor Jeremy Hunt today announced a freeze on civil service recruitment and pledged to shrink the size of the state.
Hunt said he will freeze hiring and aim to eventually bring Whitehall numbers back below their pre-pandemic levels.
“We have the best civil servants in the world and they saved many lives in the pandemic by working night and day,” he said.
“But even after that pandemic is over, we still have 66,000 more civil servants than before,” he said
“New policies should not always mean new people. So, today I’m freezing the expansion of the civil service and putting in place a plan to reduce its numbers to pre-pandemic levels,” he added.
Hunt said the move to freeze civil service recruitment could save up to £1bn a year.
He suggested improving public-sector productivity levels could give him more room to cut taxes in the future.
“If we increase public-sector productivity growth by just half a per cent, we can stabilise public spending as a proportion of GDP,” he said. “Increase it by more and we can bring the tax burden down.”
Responding to the news, John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said it was a step in the right direction.
“The mandarin jobs boom is one of the key drivers of the cost of government crisis that is hammering taxpayers. With the size of the civil service frozen, the Chancellor should now look to find savings by winding down unnecessary roles,” he said.
But Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, told the Press Association: “With so many public services still on their knees post-Covid, it’s fantasy politics to suggest you can just get the same with significantly less resources.”
Earlier in the day, Hunt told GB News that there was “no short cut to tax cuts” despite growing calls from his party to reduce the tax burden.
“If I gave a big tax cut this year, it would be inflationary, because we’d be putting money in people’s pockets, which would boost up demand, which would ultimately mean prices would go up as well. So this is not the right time,” he said.
But former Prime Minister Liz Truss pressed ahead with her tax cutting agenda in a speech at the conference today, arguing corporation tax should be slashed to 19 per cent.
“I’m calling on the Chancellor at the autumn statement to put corporation tax back down to 19 per cent. And frankly if we can get it lower, the better,” she said.
The Chancellor also confirmed today that the government would raise the national living wage to at least £11 an hour from next April in a bid to make work pay.