Downing Street says targets will NOT be set for the return of civil servants to Whitehall offices despite Boris Johnson saying ‘we will and must’ see people back at their desks
- Downing Street said it is not planning to set targets for return of civil servants
- Boris Johnson said last week that ‘we will and must’ see more workers return
- Work from home advice ended July 19 under last step of PM’s lockdown exit plan
today said targets will not be set for the return of civil servants to Whitehall despite urging the nation to ditch working from home.
Number 10 said that ‘we are seeing a steady return of civil servants to in-office working’ and ‘there are no plans for any targets’.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said the civil service is ‘following the guidance to gradually increase the number of staff in the workplace’ and ‘we are confident we will continue to see numbers increase’.
Mr Johnson said during his Conservative Party conference speech in Manchester last Wednesday that ‘we will and must see people back in the office’.
Downing Street today said targets will not be set for the return of civil servants to Whitehall despite Boris Johnson urging the nation to ditch working from home
Number 10 said that ‘we are seeing a steady return of civil servants to in-office working’ and ‘there are no plans for any targets’
The final step of the PM’s lockdown exit plan saw advice to work from home where possible end on July 19.
The Government has repeatedly said the return to offices is a matter for employers and employees.
But many Tory MPs want ministers to be more direct and to issue guidance telling staff to return to their pre-coronavirus routines amid fears over the long term future of struggling town and city centres.
Mr Johnson said last week: ‘As we come out of covid our towns and cities are again going to be buzzing with life because we know that a productive workforce needs that spur that only comes with face to face meetings and water cooler gossip.
‘If young people are to learn on the job in the way that they always have and must we will and must see people back in the office.’
Many Conservative MPs believe Whitehall should lead by example in the return to offices.
Some departments are thought to have as little as a tenth of staff routinely working in the office, although others are doing much better.
In August minister Gillian Keegan revealed that as few as a fifth of all mandarins were back in Whitehall.
Oliver Dowden, the chairman of the Conservative Party, last week took aim at civil servants who are still working from home as he told them to ‘get off their Pelotons and back to their desks’.
It came after one of Whitehall’s most senior mandarins was accused of undermining ministers’ attempts to get civil servants back into the office because she wanted more time to spend on her home exercise equipment.
At a tech conference last month, Sarah Healey, permanent secretary at the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), spoke about how she could put in extra miles on her Peloton bike while working from home, saying: ‘That has been a huge benefit to my well-being, the lack of travelling time eating into my day.’
Asked if targets will be set for the return of civil servants, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: ‘We think that the approach we have set out post-step four continues.
‘We have, as we asked for, we expected, we are seeing a steady return of civil servants to in-office working.
‘That is what we would expect, not just in the civil service but in the private sector as well and that will continue.’
Mr Johnson said during his Conservative Party conference speech in Manchester last Wednesday that ‘we will and must see people back in the office’
Told that targets were set last summer and pushed again on if they will be this year, the spokesman said: ‘There are no plans for any targets as you set out.
‘The civil service is following the guidance to gradually increase the number of staff in the workplace and I will refer you to what the Prime Minister set out in his most recent speech.
‘He said we will and we must get people back in the office. That is very much the approach we are taking.’
The spokesman added: ‘We are confident we will continue to see numbers increase, recognising that it is important that flexible working is part of the offer made to civil servants as it is in the private sector.’
The spokesman said the Government will ‘continue to monitor’ the return of civil servants to Whitehall.
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