Jacob Rees-Mogg says civil servants must get back to the office now

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Four months on from the Government scrapping Covid advice to work from home, tens of thousands of state employees are continuing to work remotely.

Department for Education bureaucrats were bottom of league tables with average daily attendance at just 25 per cent in their Sanctuary Buildings HQ.

Several other departments also had pitifully low levels, including 27 per cent at the Department for Work and Pensions, 31 per cent at the Foreign Office and 33 per cent at both the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and HM Revenue and Customs.

Cabinet minister Jacob Rees- Mogg, who requested the figures, demanded “a rapid return”.

In a letter to senior mandarins, the Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency wrote: “We must continue to accelerate the return of civil servants to office buildings to realise the benefits of face-to-face, collaborative working and the wider benefits for the economy.

“To deliver this, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and I urge you to issue a clear message to civil servants in your department to ensure a rapid return to the office. Of course, this is subject to existing legal obligations.”

The move was welcomed by businesses and retailers, who hope it will boost city centre economies, particularly in London.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said: “There are clear benefits to being in the office, such as collaboration and on-the-job learning.

“And blanket work-from-home guidance has had significant downsides for city centre trade in sectors such as hospitality and retail.”

Mr Rees-Mogg urged Civil Service chiefs to inspect attendance records at least once a fortnight. At the Cabinet Office, where he is based, the attendance figure is 69 per cent.

The best attended Whitehall HQ is the Department of Health and Social Care, with a rate of 72 per cent.

Chris McGovern, chair of the Campaign for Real Education, said he was “seriously concerned” that the department overseeing schools came bottom of the league for attendance. He said: “This shows contempt for children and parents.”

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for empty desks. Whitehall buildings should be used properly or bureaucrats should be moved out to make room for savings.”

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