Jacob Rees-Mogg has said that getting civil servants back into the office en masse will mean greater efficiency and less waste as he pushes to curb working from home in Whitehall.
The government efficiency minister said “it is my job to ensure the government estate is run efficiently and commercially … Empty offices are a cost to the taxpayer”.
Rees-Mogg has begun a Whitehall crackdown on working from home, which has seen him conduct physical headcounts in some departments.
A photo circulated social media earlier this week of a note he was leaving on empty desks, which read: “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.”
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Rees-Mogg said: “While the private sector seems to have come to a reasonable equilibrium on home working, parts of the public sector seem to act as if they are still in lockdown. Not only are vast central London offices sitting empty, the civil service is as large as it has been for many years.
“The world of working from home was touted as a way of making work more flexible and in tune with people’s lives. In some respects, it has had the opposite effect. Instead of being able to pop into someone’s office for a quick word, it has added an extra layer of bureaucracy.
“I am determined that this government grows the economy and reduces costs to British families, so we simply cannot carry the heavy burden of waste and inefficiency in the state.”
Government figures show that the Foreign Office, Department for Education and Department for Work and Pensions all had less than one-third of staff in the office in the week commencing 4 April.
The Department for International Trade topped the list with 73 per cent of its civil servants in the office.
Dave Penman, chief of the civil servants’ union FDA, hit out at the way Rees-Mogg is conducting his back to the office drive.
“That a minister would think it appropriate to leave such crass, demeaning notes for civil servants is testament to just how disconnected Jacob Rees-Mogg is from the business of government,” he told Sky News.
“Ministers should care about what is being delivered by the civil service, not where someone sits at a particular point in the day.”