Government efficiency drive on track but still a 'long way to go'

Francis Maude The government has a duty to cut its running costs, Mr Maude says

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Efforts to cut the cost of running government are on track but have a "long way to go", ministers have said.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said the efficiency drive had been focused so far on "low-hanging fruit" but would move "further up the tree".

The largest single saving over the past year - £1.5bn - came from a fall in civil servant numbers and controls on non-essential Whitehall recruitment.

Spending on consultants, marketing, property and procurement also fell.

Labour has said cuts are hitting core services, but Mr Maude told the BBC eliminating unnecessary spending and using resources more efficiently would actually help protect front-line budgets.

The government say they managed £5.5bn in departmental efficiency savings between March 2011 and March 2012 and these have been independently audited.

Of these, £1bn was saved by using fewer consultants, £390m on limiting marketing budgets, £200m by rationalising the government's property portfolio and £500m from more efficient buying of goods and services across different departments.

'First duty'

The cuts come on top of £3.75bn saved between May 2010 and March 2011.

Mr Maude said the government, like any business, had to increase its productivity and given the scale of the deficit it had inherited, it was the coalition's "first duty" to cut its own costs.

The "rising expectations" of the public could still be met while spending money more wisely, he said.

Start Quote

We have harvested mainly low-hanging fruit so far... we need to go further up the tree”

End Quote Francis Maude Cabinet Office minister

"In many cases, they enable us to improve the service better," he said.

"Where we make a service available online, it is in many cases more convenient for the service user as well as being much, much cheaper.

"We can get services which are as good or better than they are now but for much less cost."

He defended the reduction in civil-service headcount, saying it had "grown unnecessarily" under Labour and, in many cases, things could be done better with fewer staff.

"We are cutting the size of the civil service considerably. It is already the smallest since World War II and there is more to go."

'Perfect state'

Many civil servants were "adapting well" and finding new ways of working, but Mr Maude added that conditions were "challenging" and many officials were "out of the comfort zone".

Unions are currently at odds with ministers over plans for long-term reform of the civil service.

These could see the worst performing 10% of staff face being fired after a year if they fail to improve, new delivery methods for services, and ministers given the power to choose who runs departments.

The civil servant who has been leading the government's efficiency drive since the coalition came to power, Ian Watmore, left his post suddenly earlier this summer.

But Mr Maude said the savings programme had a "long way to go" since no organisation, including government, was ever in a "perfect state" of efficiency.

"We need to go further. We have harvested mainly low-hanging fruit so far. We need to go further up the tree.

"That means getting some ladders and doing things a bit differently in future."

For Labour, Jon Trickett, shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: "Far from protecting the front line, they are cutting thousands of police officers and have broken their promise to protect the NHS budget which has fallen two years in a row.

"Already, 4,500 nurses have been cut since David Cameron became Prime Minister. And yet at the same time the salary bill for Tory and Lib Dem spin doctors has risen by 25% in just one year - so much for cutting the cost of Government."

Campaign group The Taxpayers Alliance said some departments were doing better than others.

"When the Department for Energy and Climate Change increases its headcount, for example - as it has done every quarter over the past year - that only serves to undo the good work being done elsewhere to clean away unnecessary fat in the arteries of government," it said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    It was recently stated on Question Time by David Aaranovitch that the UK MoD has 23,000 people in procurement (that'd be one for every 4 servicemen/women) whereas Israel accomplishes the same task with 340 people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    109.Tio Terry
    "That is why the Banks were allowed to do what they did, because Blair/Brown failed."

    No, the banks were deregulated in 1980 under Thatcher, what do you think drove the boom in the mid 80s? Only now is all that bad debt coming home to roost. And it wasn't Labour who caused the worldwide recession in 2008 either, before you get onto that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Lucy Lastic

    "Don't expect any leeway with the Tory Cretins"

    Just about sums up the reasoned arguments offered up by the "public sector is untouchable" lobby doesnt it.?

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    @112 - You are a troll, and I claim my five pounds.

    Bash hard working public sector workers all you like, but the fact remains that nurses, police and teachers did not cause the worldwide recession - it was greedy fatcat right wing bankers.

    An uncomfortable truth for you.

  • Comment number 115.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    If a family is skint, it minimises outgoings by prioritising essential purchases (food, housing, etc) and cutting out the frills
    Yes, yet at this moment the Government (like its predecessor who started it), is proudly delivering the biggest and most lavish frill of them all intact. There could have been cuts after the world economy went haywire a few years ago, without ruining it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    @106 Ah yes, the Equality & Diversity departments......... Would that be the Equality & Diversity departments that Local Authorities have to have by law? One of the many (4000+) 'laws' brought in by the Labour Government? Mind you, the coalition said they'd have a bonfire of the quangos and that the Great Repeal Bill would sort that out.............*Hmm. I wonder what happened to that?*

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    The Public Sector & its ever dim-witted but verbose supporters ( mostly non tax payers if you know what I mean ) must be brought to heel.
    Should hang their heads in shame as they sit back retired at 50 with huge tax payer funded pension, laughing out loud as they see people working well into their 60 to pay for their privilege DISGUSTING !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    OK, so i make that about £9.25bn saved so far according the the figures in this article.
    That just about covers the £9-14bn cost of the Olympics.
    Presumably all the civil servants made redundant were happy for their jobs to go to fund the bread and circuses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.


    Don't expect any leeway with the Tory Cretins. They will most likely say that Public Service employees don't do any real work and that they pay Public Service wages through taxes which public sector doesn't deserve. Yet are willing to pay for extortionate fees to the private sector with no compliant. Tory viewpoint is myopic. They want services, but don't want to pay for them

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    In 13 years Blair/Brown failed to adequately regulate the Banks, even Brown admits the FSA failed as a regulator. That is why the Banks were allowed to do what they did, because Blair/Brown failed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    I see people have turned this into another vilification thread. Don't forget we have Lord Voldemort in Downing Street at the moment preaching his brand of divide and conquer and turning people upon people by the mass media and TV in a bid to try and make these proposed cuts acceptable. Why are people being taken in by what's coming out of downing Street? .

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I think it needs to be made very,very clear to the Labour Party and to the fat-cat public sector unions who own the Labour Party that we, the people, do not exist to finance their inflated lifestyles through our taxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.


    "No 79 - what on earth are you on about. When you talk about the Public Sector, I presume you mean the Nurses, the Police, Firemen, teachers, binmen, council staff, civil servants and so on?"

    Whenever public cuts are mooted, the same worthy jobs are held up as vulnerable . How about mentioning Equality and Diversity departments, or Route to School Planners?

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Mr Maude should try and remember ( just for once) that the Private Sector / Banks (you know the people who are the biggest Donors to the tories) i.e.the same people who were allowed to run amok when the tories scandalously deregulated them, are the people responsible for the enormity of the economic holocaust now effecting the UK and not some civil servants who you have just managed to sack!

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    I'm all for efficient, cost effective management of all aspects of the public sector.

    What I have a problem with is the ideological dogma which drives outsourcing of services to the private sector. As we've seen from G4S/A4E etc. its a complete myth that these are competant, efficient and trustworthy organisations.

    Keeps things under pubic control and manage them better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    The "low hanging fruit" Maude refers to is cutting posts (including a great many on the front line), a four-year pay freeze (at least), massive pensions cuts and a third lopped off redundancy payments. Public services run at the moment on goodwill and with these changes that goodwill is rapidly disappearing. Perhaps the public will wake up when vital public services are gone forever!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    I like the theory of your suggestion but what do you suggest the police do with cars that are given by local garages for use as police vehicles for free? the only stipulation being they are used as a police car. Refuse them and spend more money on one of your approved choices?

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    But Francis Anthony Aylmer Maude (Corpus Cristi grad, and lawyer] said [...]
    "We need to go further. We have harvested mainly low-hanging fruit so far. We need to go further up the tree.

    Not, presumably so far up the tree that Maude and his bolly-swilling chums jobs might be under threat. The people at the top never cut their own jobs do they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    prehapes we will get to the top of the tree and rid ourself of at lest 50% of MPs and all the luxery that civil servants think there are entitled to


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