With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many office-based workers to conduct their duties from home across the nation, many staff have since returned to work as the pandemic slowly subsides following a successful vaccine rollout. Yet reports suggest some ministries are still working at only one-quarter capacity, sparking the Brexit and Government Efficiency Minister to call for workers to reunite with their desks urgently.
Mr Rees-Mogg in a letter to Ministers wrote: “a rapid return to the office” was needed, and has even left notes on empty Whitehall desks saying “I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.”
Ms Dorries responded to the claims by saying Mr Rees-Mogg’s letter to the departments brought “Images of burning tallow, rheumy eyes and Marley’s ghost” in reference to Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.
She added: “There’s a whiff of something Dickensian about it.
“Why are we measuring bodies behind desks?
“Why aren’t we measuring productivity?”
Ms Dorries and Mr Rees-Mogg have previously argued about the need to return to workplaces in the past.
A Government source quashed any notion of an internal rift within the party by saying the debate between the pair was “good-natured.”
Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, said Rees-Mogg’s approach would mean “Good people will leave and the civil service brand is trashed in a highly competitive employment market”.
He added: “It sends a signal he simply does not understand how modern offices work.
“He doesn’t understand … what’s happening across the economy, not just in the public sector.”
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Speaking of his view, Mr Rees-Mogg wrote in a Mail on Sunday article: “Those who are at their desks every day seem to be younger, hardworking 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.
“Essentially, if people are not back in their office it will be fair to assume the job does not need to be in London.”
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Oliver Dowden, chairman of the Conservative party, defended Mr Rees-Mogg’s approach in a Sky News interview.
The chairman said: “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 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.”
The Department for Education is believed to be operating at a mere 25 percent capacity, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has around a third of its staff working at their posts.
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According to the Civil Service, figures vary across departments.
Heading the list with the most staff at work is the Department for International Trade which is working at 73 percent capacity.
The Department for Health, Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence are also all over two thirds back to normal.
However, the other end of the scale is filled with departments operating on less than 50 percent of their capacity.
The Department for Work and Pensions closely follows the Department for Education as the worst performer.
Only 27 percent of staff are at the DWP.