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Rees-Mogg criticised for leaving ‘crass’ messages in empty Whitehall offices

Jacob Rees-Mogg has angered a union boss with his methods for encouraging civil servants to return to the office (Victoria Jones/PA)
Jacob Rees-Mogg has angered a union boss with his methods for encouraging civil servants to return to the office (Victoria Jones/PA)

Calling cards pinned up by Jacob Rees-Mogg in Government offices left empty as a result of civil servants working from home have been branded “crass” and “condescending”.

The minister for government efficiency has reportedly been leaving notes in “deserted” Whitehall workspaces with the message: “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.”

The FDA union, which represents senior public servants, criticised Mr Rees-Mogg’s approach, accusing him of damaging the reputation of the civil service.

PA news agency understands that 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.

Mr Rees-Mogg 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”.

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 on a drive to encourage public servants back to the office after the coronavirus pandemic.

The former Commons leader, who put a stop to Parliament’s hybrid-working when in his previous role, wrote to his Cabinet colleagues last week presenting them with a league table 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.

FDA general secretary Dave Penman, responding to a social media post containing a photograph of one of the messages for absent staff, had 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 “virtue signalling” and waging a “harmful culture war” on the civil service.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been on a drive to encourage civil servants to return to Whitehall offices
Jacob Rees-Mogg has been on a drive to encourage civil servants to return to Whitehall offices (John Stillwell/PA)

“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.

“With every pronouncement and display like this, he demonstrates that he has no clue how the modern workplace operates and cares little about the effective delivery of vital public services.

“Instead, he’s intent on virtue signalling to his political base, and is 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.

“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.”