Jacob Rees Mogg discusses civil servants amid passport delays
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is among the organisations understood to be facing the axe. In his letter to Cabinet colleagues, Mr Rees-Mogg wrote the cost and number of quangos “continues to increase”.
He asked each secretary of state to provide a list of government bodies that could be merged or closed, including cases in which their functions “could be provided by organisations other than the state”.
His intervention came ahead of a public bodies “review programme”, which will be launched this week to identify cost savings at individual quangos.
Ministers are reported to want the cost of public bodies reduced by up to 20%.
In his letter, Mr Rees-Mogg wrote: “Necessary public bodies are an important delivery mechanism for the Government. The cost and number of these bodies continues to increase.
“Public bodies should only exist when there is a pressing need, must be accountable to Parliament and be efficient and effective. Please review your public bodies for any that you consider could be provided by organisations other than the state and therefore closed.
The co-Chairman of the Conservative Party Oliver Dowden
“There are other bodies that have duplication in the types of service they provide, often causing confusion to the public. These organisations could well be merged to create a more coherent service for the public, share best practice and reduce cost.”
He asked ministers to provide “a list of your public bodies sponsored by your department” and “your proposals to close and merge bodies from that list”, by June 24.
Mr Rees-Mogg added: “Taxpayers’ money should be spent efficiently and on worthwhile areas. It’s right, then, that we should always look at public organisations and whether they are delivering for the British public.”
One Whitehall source said there had been a “total failure” by the DVLA “to provide the public service it is meant to”.
The agency has come under fire for presiding over a huge backlog of licence applications and renewals in the aftermath of the pandemic.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance pressure group has called for little-known bodies such as the Civil Society and Youth Directorate and Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner to be ditched.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Minister of State for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency
Mr Rees-Mogg has also stepped up his campaign to force civil servants still working from home following the covid pandemic to return to their Whitehall offices.
He said civil servants shunning offices to work from home was “a cost to the taxpayer.”
Boris Johnson has asked for data showing the numbers of civil servants working from home to be published every week after the minister raised concerns about the issue.
In a Sunday newspaper article, Mr Rees-Mogg wrote: “Those who are at their desks every day seem to be younger, hard-working and ambitious civil servants, often renting house-shares in London for whom the office provides the right environment for work.
“Meanwhile, others enjoy the fruits of their London-weighting at home in the shires. As the minister responsible for Government property, it is my job to ensure the Government estate is run efficiently and commercially. Empty offices are a cost to the taxpayer.
Jacob Rees-Mogg left a note for absent civil servants
“The Government is committed to reducing the number of civil servants but there are 91,000 more than in 2015-16. This necessarily means a smaller but better-used Government estate in the heart of Whitehall.
“Essentially, if people are not back in their office it will be fair to assume that the job does not need to be in London. This is clearly a financial opportunity of working from home, which many businesses have taken, by downsizing their offices. This, perhaps, is the trade-off.
“The British people rightly have high expectations of the State. We need to reform Government with a smaller, high-performing and correctly incentivised Civil Service, where talented officials thrive. In order to do that, we need to get back to the office.”
Mr Rees-Mogg has taken to carrying out spot checks of Government buildings which he has oversight of since being placed in charge of government efficiency during Boris Johnson’s February reshuffle.
The minister is understood to have left a calling card in a Cabinet Office area following a tip-off from a minister that the space that can fit “dozens” of staff had been left “completely empty”.
He said some offices have an attendance rate of 180% of staff compared to desks, while others are at 6%.
Tory co-chairman Oliver Dowden yesterday paid tribute to “our hardworking civil servants” and their work through the pandemic while backing the return to the office order.
He said: “They worked tirelessly day and night to deliver solutions. They did so working from home, as indeed I did.
“But the world has changed since then. As we learn to live with Covid, I think if we really want to serve the British people best, one of the things we need to do is have that collaboration, that kind of sharing of ideas that comes from working in the office.
“So, Jacob’s efforts are driven by getting the very best value for taxpayers and I support him in doing that.”
A Government source said: “The minister strongly believes Government works best when as many people as possible are in their departments.
“In this instance, the office in question was completely deserted.
“It isn’t right that the Government’s large central London estate lies unused.”