OPINION - Evening Standard Comment: These civil service cuts are the politics of distraction

·3-min read
 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

So there we have it — the Chancellor has finally acknowledged that levelling up, in reality, means levelling down London. In an interview, Rishi Sunak seemed to boast that there is a more robust economic recovery outside of London and the South-East.

Such a policy is short-sighted. While we support investment across the entire United Kingdom, it would be fiscal illiteracy to do so at the capital’s expense. London is the engine of the economy and we will not have a sustained recovery without our city firing on all cylinders.

The latest plan to cut up to a fifth of civil service jobs — many of which will be based in London — is a case in point. Civil service numbers have grown in recent years due to two phenomena: Brexit and Covid.

The former, a policy choice, means that the British state is required to carry out duties once performed at a European level, while the argument over the Northern Ireland Protocol suggests Brexit is not quite done. As for the latter, Covid backlogs mean there are departments and government bodies such as the passport office that require greater numbers of staff, not fewer.

More broadly, the last thing Britain needs is a culture war approach to the economy. We face overlapping crises, from the cost of living to the NHS backlog and climate change. Attacking another bogeyman — at other times it has been the BBC — suggests the Government does not have a proper economic strategy in place. Not least because ministers will need highly skilled and motivated civil servants to deliver their policies.

After yesterday’s revelation that the number of party gate fines issued by the Metropolitan Police has doubled to more than 100, today’s announcement has all the hallmarks of the politics of distraction. But there is no magic trick to sustained growth and rising living standards, only the hard graft of governing.

Dame Deborah

Deborah JAMES, whose fundraising for cancer research has now surpassed £4 million, has been honoured with a damehood. A former deputy headteacher in the outskirts of London, she has bowel cancer and is now receiving hospice-at-home care. James has captured the public imagination as a podcaster and now, fundraiser.

But she has also performed a vital public service. As a result of the pandemic, screenings for cancer and other diseases have fallen behind and we face a ticking time bomb. It has never been more important to be aware of symptoms, check our bodies for possible changes and to talk about them. A damehood is the least a grateful nation can do to say “thank you”.

Queen of puddings

The Queen is no stranger to association with classic recipes. Coronation chicken, a national favourite, was devised by the food writer Constance Spry and chef Rosemary Hume for her ascension to the throne in 1953.

So we have high hopes for the new and now official dessert of the Platinum Jubilee, a lemon and amaretti trifle, inspired by the lemon posset served at the

Queen’s wedding to Prince Philip. Congratulations also must go to Jemma Melvin, who won the nationwide competition, besting 5,000 other desserts. The queen of puddings indeed.

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