Rishi Sunak vows Whitehall ‘shake-up’ and Civil Service job cuts

Former chancellor outlines plans to overhaul 'bloated post-Covid state' if he becomes the UK's prime minister

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, also plans to reduce the number of staff moving from department to department and would aim to ensure civil servants come from across the country and work from more areas outside London. Getty
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Rishi Sunak has unveiled plans to cut Civil Service jobs in a “shake up” of the “bloated post-Covid state” if he becomes the next British prime minister.

Senior civil servants would also spend a year working outside Whitehall if they want promotion, said the former chancellor.

Plans for the Civil Service include cutting the “back office” headcount; changing pay rewards from being based on longevity to performance; bringing back a version of the suspended fast-stream graduate recruitment programme; and championing the use of apprenticeships, the Sunak campaign team said.

The “bloated post-Covid state is in need of a shake-up”, said the Conservative Party leadership hopeful, as he committed to reforms to create a “leaner” and “truly Rolls-Royce service”.

When Mr Sunak was still chancellor, the government said it intended to reduce the size of the Civil Service by about 90,000 to return it to 2016 staffing levels.

But the Sunak campaign has not committed to a figure for changes to the total headcount.

As part of its plans, the Sunak campaign also said it would “tackle Civil Service groupthink” and deepen understanding of business by ensuring all senior civil servants spend at least a year of their career on secondments or external placements outside Whitehall or in industry before they can receive further promotion.

More senior civil servants would be required to spend time outside London under the plans, the Sunak campaign said.

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“As chancellor, I saw parts of the British Civil Service at its best, delivering world-class Covid support schemes in record time. But the bloated post-Covid state is in need of a shake-up so I will create a sharper, leaner civil service," Mr Sunak said.

“I’ll press ahead with cuts to back office Civil Service headcount, recruiting and retaining the brightest and best.

“I’ll strengthen civil servants’ experience beyond Whitehall, allow ministers to bring in more external expertise, and bring in performance pay so we have a truly Rolls-Royce service delivering for and accountable to the British people.”

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Mr Sunak also plans to reduce the number of staff moving from department to department and would aim to ensure civil servants come from across the country and work from more areas outside London. He said “generous” performance management payments would only be paid when objectives are met and said there was a demand for greater savings from quangos.

Mr Sunak’s leadership rival Liz Truss has already promised a “war on Whitehall waste”, but she abandoned plans to cut £8.8 billion ($10.6bn) from public sector pay outside of London after a backlash.

The foreign secretary said the proposal had been “misrepresented”, but nevertheless said she would not go ahead with regional pay boards.

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Updated: August 16, 2022, 4:55 AM
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