McVey pledges ‘common sense fightback’ over Civil Service diversity roles

Civil service diversity roles will be cut back as part of a “common sense fightback”, a Cabinet Office minister has announced.

So-called “common sense minister” Esther McVey said there would be no more spending on external equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) contracts without an explicit sign-off from a minister, and no more EDI-focused Whitehall jobs outside human resources.

Ms McVey said such roles presented a “distraction” from the core purpose of the Civil Service and an “inappropriate backdoor politicisation” of Whitehall, in a speech to the Centre for Policy Studies think tank on Monday.

She said: “At the heart of these changes are value for money for the taxpayer and better customer service for the public.”

Ms McVey added: “People want their public servants to be getting on with the job of making their lives better, not engaging in endless internal discussions about ideology, and I am not prepared to see pointless job creation schemes for the politically correct.”

Any EDI roles would be moved into human resources and focused exclusively on statutory requirements, she said, adding there were the equivalent of around 400 full-time employees working on EDI across the Civil Service.

In October, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt launched a review into spending on EDI schemes throughout the public sector, with the findings now having been passed to the Cabinet Office.

Spending on EDI has become a recurring bugbear for right-wing Tories, and promises to save public money by slashing such policies are likely to grow louder ahead of the general election.

In addition to changes to EDI roles, Ms McVey promised a crackdown on civil servants’ lanyards, saying they should not be a “random pick and mix” but “a standard design reflecting that we are all members of the Government delivering for the citizens of the UK”.

She said: “Working in the Civil Service is all about leaving your political views at the building entrance, and trying to introduce them by the back door via lanyards should not happen.”

In her wide-ranging speech, she praised Rishi Sunak for taking a “common sense” approach to gender, education, HS2, net zero, benefits and immigration.

She claimed “left-wing politically correct woke warriors” had “worked to get themselves into position of influence within the public sector” without being elected, and must not be allowed to use those positions to “hijack” institutions.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Pat McFadden said: “With over seven million people on NHS waiting lists and homeowners still paying the price for the Tories crashing the economy, no amount of blaming civil servants for the Tories’ lack of delivery will wash.

“They should focus on the day job, rather than looking for other people to blame.”