Rees-Mogg criticised over 'demeaning' notes left for WFH civil servants

23 April 2022, 17:01 | Updated: 24 April 2022, 08:50

Jacob Rees-Mogg was accused of damaging the reputation of the civil service
Jacob Rees-Mogg was accused of damaging the reputation of the civil service. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been criticised for leaving "crass, demeaning" notes on the empty desks of civil servants to stop them working from home.

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The minister for government efficiency is on a drive to encourage public servants back to the office after the coronavirus pandemic.

However, his approach has led the FDA union, which represents senior public servants, to accuse him of damaging the reputation of the civil service.

Notes, printed on government paper with Mr Rees-Mogg's title, were left in Whitehall workspaces with the message: "Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon."

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He is said to have left the 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".

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."

Mr Rees-Mogg is understood to carry out spot checks of government buildings which he has oversight of since he was put in charge of government efficiency during Boris Johnson's February reshuffle.

The former Commons leader, who previously ended Parliament's hybrid-working, also sent cabinet colleagues a league table last week showing how many staff in each government department were attending the office on an average day.

He told ministers they needed to issue a "clear message" to their departments that with the end of Covid restrictions in England, officials should be back in the office.

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FDA general secretary Dave Penman, after seeing a social media post containing a photograph of one of the messages to absent staff, initially questioned its veracity before later telling Twitter followers he had discovered it was "real".

In a statement, Mr Penman accused Mr Rees-Mogg of waging a "harmful culture war" on the civil service.

"That a minister would think it appropriate to leave such crass, demeaning notes for civil servants is testament to just how disconnected Jacob Rees-Mogg is from the business of government," he said.

He accused the minister of being "intent on virtue signalling to his political base", saying he was either "oblivious to or simply doesn't care about the damage he's doing to the morale of civil servants and the reputation of the civil service as an employer."

He added: "Ministers should care about what is being delivered by the civil service, not where someone sits at a particular point in the day.

"It's time Rees-Mogg's Cabinet colleagues stood up for the staff in their departments and ended the harmful culture war that's being waged on the very people tasked with delivering the Government's agenda."