Boris backs Rees-Mogg on war on civil servants working from home ‘This is backed’ | Politics | News
Mr Rees-Mogg is leading the Government’s efforts to end work-from-home practices among civil servants following the Covid pandemic. The minister responsible for government efficiency has written to cabinet ministers asking them to issue a clear message to staff about a ‘speedy return to office’. He also left notes in empty Whitehall workspaces with the message: ‘Looking forward to seeing you in the office very soon.’
However, his campaign enraged some of his fellow Cabinet ministers with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries accusing him of a “Dickensian” approach to the issue.
But Downing Street said Mr Johnson supported Mr Rees-Mogg’s efforts.
“What the minister is seeking is to do everything possible to bring the civil service back to pre-pandemic levels,” the prime minister’s official spokesperson said.
“That’s what he’s trying to do. This is supported by the Cabinet Secretary and obviously the Prime Minister. »
Asked if the notes left on desks by Mr Rees-Mogg were helpful, the spokesman said Mr Johnson ‘supports any initiative that encourages people to return to pre-pandemic work’ .
“We’re not talking about ending flexible working, which continues to have a place in the modern workplace, we’re talking about returning to the pre-pandemic use of taxpayer-funded departmental buildings.”
It was reported that Ms Dorries’ response was highly critical of Mr Rees-Mogg’s approach.
Mr Rees-Mogg presented figures to the Cabinet last week showing some departments were only using 25 per cent of office capacity at the start of April – the figure for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in Ms. Dorries was 43%.
Ms Dorries told him her letter to Government Services conjured up ‘images of burning tallow, gloomy eyes and the ghost of Marley’ – a reference to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
“There’s a whiff of something Dickensian in there. Why are we measuring bodies behind desks? Why don’t we measure productivity? “, reported the Times newspaper.
The two ministers have long been at odds over the need to return to workplaces following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.
But the dispute between the two was “in good spirits”, a government source said. Mr Rees-Mogg would not comment on the line, citing Cabinet confidentiality rules.
He said: ‘If it’s Cabinet leaks, I’ll comment under the 30-year rule when we’re all a bit older.’
Unions have opposed Mr Rees-Mogg’s approach, warning that his position undermines the morale of the public service.
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union which represents senior public servants, warned that “good people will leave and the public service brand is being trashed in a highly competitive job market.”
Mr Rees-Mogg used a Mail on Sunday article to warn that civil servants could lose London weighting on their pay or see their jobs shifted elsewhere if they were not in their desks.
“Essentially, if people aren’t back in their offices, it will be fair to assume that work doesn’t need to be in London,” he said.