Cutting government staff, UK’s Hunt tries to defuse tax cut row
British finance minister Jeremy Hunt set out plans on Monday to cut the number of public officials working in government to save 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion), an attempt to appease critics in the governing Conservative Party noisily demanding tax cuts.
At the party’s conference in the northern English city of Manchester, Hunt sought to draw the fire of senior Conservative lawmakers, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss, by delivering one of their demands to reduce the size of the state while refusing to hand them any sign of tax cuts.
“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. This will save 1 billion pounds next year,” Hunt told the conference.
“I won’t lift that freeze until we have a proper plan, not just for the civil service, but for all public sector productivity improvements.”
The civil service, or officials who work on government policy, has long been in the sights of some on the right of the Conservative Party, who complain that they have failed to deliver on post-Brexit policies.
It was an offer directed at those who have fuelled a row over whether the government should start cutting taxes.
The debate has put pressure on Sunak, who hopes to use the conference to revitalise his year-old premiership by showing he is not scared of taking tough decisions to try to make people better off.