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First Minister accused of ‘alarmist point scoring’ after blaming UK Government for cutting 6,000 civil service jobs in Wales

Mark Drakeford’s comments about losing 6,000 civil service jobs in Wales is “alarmist point scoring”, the Welsh Secretary Sate has said.

Responding to accusations that Wales could be “disproportionately affected” by plans to cut around 91,000 Government jobs across the UK, Simon Hart MP said he was unsure how the First Minister had arrived at the figure of 6,000 jobs for Wales. Read more about that here.

“I’m not sure how he’s calculated that figure,” Mr Hart said on Wednesday, adding it doesn’t reflect the way civil service is distributed across the UK.

Read more:Warning that energy price cap could jump by £600 in October

In fact, he said, the hubs in Wrexham and Cardiff are already increasing numbers as the Government looks to move jobs away from London and into other parts of the UK. “Civil service jobs are going up in Wales,” Mr Hart said. “The devil is always in the detail and there are no details how the cost reduction will manifest itself.”

Plans to axe 91,000 civil service jobs are part of a major cost-cutting exercise to ensure the UK Government is run “as efficiently as possible”. Mr Drakeford said: “The fear is we will take a disproportionately higher number of job cuts here in Wales because faced with difficulties of their own making the UK Conservative Government reaches immediately, in a kneejerk way, for the sort of solutions they’ve tried elsewhere and failed and threatens some of those agencies full of very hardworking people who did so much during the pandemic to continue to provide a public service and threatens them with privatisation.”

Mr Hart said the reduced numbers could be achieved through a number of ways including natural wastage and to suggest a mass job cull across the board was wrong. He said: “It’s alarmist of Mark Drakeford to start dangling job threats over 6,000 people in Wales. He doesn’t know any more than anyone else.”

He pointed to the fact that there are “clearly some elements of the civil service” that would need to be expanded in the coming months and years. “It’s not about taking a blunt figure and applying it across the entire civil service,” he added. “That’s never been mentioned and should not be interpreted as much.”

Addressing questions about how his government were dealing with the cost of living crisis and the apparent decision yesterday to block a windfall tax on oil and gas companies after they reported record profits, he said Mr Drakeford also needed to step up and show what he was going to do.

Mr Hart said deliberations about how to solve the cost of living crisis was now a “daily discussion point” in his government. He said: “Rishi Sunak has been very clear that it’s not always easy for government to deliver a perfect solution for all people all the time.” He said that’s why there had been additional discussions around funding initiatives at local authority level to pick up those who fall through the cracks. There’s the expectation that the UK government works together with the Welsh government and local authorities he said. It’s not about “political one-upmanship” but “every shoulder should be applied to the wheel”.

The chancellor is already looking at a £600 payment and tax cuts to help with energy bills, he added. Mr Drakeford has a number of tools at his disposal too, including powers over business rates, council tax and income tax. He’s yet to outline how he’s going to “ease the burden” on people living in Wales, said Mr Hart.

“We need to hear what he is going to do to help people in Wales rather than complaining about the UK Government,” he added.

He rejected any claims that the UK Government had decided against a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, saying it was still something being looked at. “Rishi Sunak has said rule nothing in and rule nothing out,” he said. “There isn’t a single magic pill with windfall tax on the bottom that will solve the cost of living.”

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