Francis Maude, the Conservative architect of Whitehall reforms, has been accused of boasting about civil service job losses and a desire to make irreversible cuts as he announced his intention to step down as an MP after three decades in parliament.
The Cabinet Office minister and paymaster general said that it is time to make way for a younger candidate, so he will not contest his Horsham seat in West Sussex at the general election.
Maude has overseen a cost-cutting programme that he claims has saved the taxpayer £14bn in the last financial year and seen the civil service shrink by a fifth – about 90,000 posts. In his resignation letter, Maude said there was much to do to make the reforms irreversible.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said his comments showed the “cat is well and truly out of the bag on Maude’s enthusiasm for cutting jobs.
“This government has been in a hurry, driven by a political timetable, to make deeply damaging cuts to the civil service and to undermine the unions that oppose them, most recently trying to cut off the funding we get from our members,” a PCS spokesman said. “Scandalously, ministers are being all too willingly assisted by senior civil servants in some departments.”
Maude’s decision will lead to speculation that, given a peerage, he could serve in any future Conservative government that promises another swath of cuts.
His retirement opens up a relatively safe Tory seat for parliamentary hopefuls in May. But it could boost Ukip, which is fielding the former Tory deputy leader of Horsham district council, Roger Arthur, as its candidate.
Maude entered the Commons in 1983 as MP for North Warwickshire and served as a minister under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, before losing his seat in 1992. He returned in 1997.
His resignation letter said: “I was first elected to the House of Commons in 1983 just before I was 30, and will be nearly 67 by the time of the election in 2020. Public service continues to exercise great appeal.
“However, 27 years is a long time to serve as a member of parliament, and I believe now is the right time to make way for a younger candidate to carry the Conservative flag in Horsham.”
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