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Boris Johnson targets UK civil service to cut public spending

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Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures at a market, during an event to promote British business, in Downing Street, London, Britain May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool

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LONDON, May 13 (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson has instructed his ministers to reduce the number of civil service jobs to levels seen before Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, a part of what the government has said is a plan for taxpayers to implement.

Johnson is trying to find ways to cut costs at a time when millions of people in Britain are struggling with rising food and fuel bills, targeting a workforce that has grown to help navigate Brexit and the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The Prime Minister and ministers are clear that the civil service is doing an outstanding job of serving the public and advancing government priorities,” the spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.

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“But when individuals and businesses across the country face rising costs, the public rightly expects their government to lead by example and operate as efficiently as possible.”

Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper reported that the government planned to cut 91,000 jobs, or nearly one in five public sector employees.

The Institute for Government, a think tank, estimated the savings to public finances could be around 3.6 billion pounds ($4.38 billion) a year.

In the current financial year, the government is expected to borrow around £99 billion.

As the risk of Britain slipping into a recession increases, the government is under pressure to provide more support to households, which are facing rising costs for energy supplies and food. But public finances are already stretched after a pandemic response that cost hundreds of billions of pounds.

Asked if the job cuts were a return to ‘austerity’ measures, Britain’s Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg told Sky News: ‘I don’t think it’s the case, because what is being done is getting back to the levels of efficiency that we had in 2016. It is an entirely reasonable and sensible ambition.”

“The administration, the negotiations, most of the Brexit-related work is done,” he said.

($1 = 0.8211 pounds)

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Reporting by William James; Written by Muvija M and Elizabeth Pipe; Editing by Alison Williams

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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2/ https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/civil-service-job-cuts-not-return-austerity-uk-minister-says-2022-05-13/

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