More than 90,000 civil servants are likely to lose their jobs in an attempt by Boris Johnson to find money to ease the cost of living crisis.
The prime minister is understood to have tasked the cabinet with cutting staff by a fifth, telling them every bit of cash saved on government spending could be better used elsewhere.
He is thought to have made the demand to ministers during an away day in Stoke-on-Trent on Thursday.
“We have got to cut the cost of government to reduce the cost of living,” he told the Daily Mail.
He hinted at future tax cuts, suggesting the billions saved from reducing civil servant numbers could help fund such measures.
“Every pound the government pre-empts from the taxpayer is money they can spend on their own priorities, on their own lives,” he said.
Johnson ordered ministers to return civil servant numbers to thoseof 2016 in the coming years, with staffing having increased by almost 25% to 475,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
Ministers will have a month to put together proposals for how they will achieve this within their departments.
A government spokesperson said: “The PM and ministers are clear that the civil service does an outstanding job delivering for the public and driving progress on the government’s priorities.
“But when people and businesses across the country are facing rising costs, the public rightly expects their government to lead by example and run as efficiently as possible.”
Johnson has reportedly indicated the government was poised to cut taxes amid the cost of living crisis – but the idea was quickly shut down by the Treasury.
“We will have the maximum energy, effort and ingenuity to help the British people,” Johnson said the following day.
“You know the money we’re already spending. Of course there will be more support in the months ahead, as things continue to be tough with the increase in energy prices. ”