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
    +5

    Comment number 219.

    A little off the books out sourcing here, a little kicking the can down the road for somebody else in the future to pick up there. Seen it all before in the private sector, the theory of grandmas donkey, cut its food week on week and lo and behold one day it dies, or until a new manager comes in who realises the stupidity of it. All this at a time when money was no object for the Olympics.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 218.

    179.
    Nemesis of Socialism is Nigh
    On of these days karma will deliver you into the hand of one of these according to you "overpaid doctors" that you so despise. But bein a professional, he will use his skills to repair any damage that your miserable frame has suffered. He won't even bill you for the work, which in view of your venom is amazing.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 217.

    Cost of running "running the government" means wages, not buying pencils. I wish ministers would be more honest about the human impact that these decisions have. Cutting staff may save money on wages but it increases the welfare bill, stops people spending and slows the economy down, which then means we have to borrow more. All of which is precisely what we see happening right now. No plan.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 216.

    "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.".

    It was this form of Darwinian economics that led to the Lehman crisis. If we are comparing people to fruit them I say Maude is a lemon.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 215.

    Yes Mr Maude we could start with cutting you, the chancellor and the for ever absent prime minister. We do not get value for money from any of you.Please go now as during your collective absence at the Olympics the country ran better without you.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 214.

    £ 5 billion which has saved the working taxpayer £500 a year each As said somewhere else i saved 10k yesterday by not buying a new car even though i did not intend to buy one. So by self admission the proposed increase in overseas aid will cost the British taxpayer £1k + a year. Can i please opt out of this and save myself £1k. If not can my money please go to a deserving cause in MY country

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 213.

    211.Cyber Tantric

    BREAKING NEWS

    Scientists have recently discovered the smallest thing in existence, they are calling it 'the Tory conscience'. They say it is so small it's structure is less than 0.

    I think you will find one thing smaller. That's the hard working tax-payers wallet after the Socialists have had their grubby paws in it.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 212.

    199.Dave1506
    27 Minutes ago
    119.ClaudeBalls
    Agreed but can you get the same favourable terms that your suggested country does? with only one supplier nation that provides your purchase at below cost, its not really that difficult to do.

    A fair point, but 1 procurer per 4 service people is a lot. I've been in the auto industry for years and no-one would dream of these manning levels.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 211.

    BREAKING NEWS

    Scientists have recently discovered the smallest thing in existence, they are calling it 'the Tory conscience'. They say it is so small it's structure is less than 0.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 210.

    Maude The Fraud. Anyone believe a word he says ?

    After the gerry can debacle, he should have stood down, but he's still in his post, letting out hot air every time his lips move.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 209.

    The private sector also uses up large amount of tax payers money.

    Take your average bank worker starting on a salary of £10,500.00.
    Tax payers money is used in working tax credits to subsidise pay for them to have a decent wage.

    The gap in salary of those at the top to those at the bottom with banks is probably on a par if not greater than Wayne Rooney and one of Old Traffords groundstaff.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 208.

    Cameron's favourite policy advisor, shortly before he fled to California, suggested cutting the Civil Service by 90%. His reasoning being what worked in the mid-19th century could be applied to the 21st Century.
    F.Maude is another Tory(one of many), who stands in the 21st century with an 18th century mindset.

  • Comment number 207.

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

  • Comment number 206.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 205.

    @203 I stand corrected. Still a lot of money though! :-)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 204.

    'Labour has said cuts are hitting core services, but Mr Maude told the BBC eliminating unnecessary spending and using resources more efficiently'

    I wonder what Mr Maude and Cameron feel the word unnecessary means.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 203.

    #195 not according to HMRC it would not. HMRC estimate for tax avoidance is about £4.5b, tax evasion is roughly £25b.

    I think it was either Ed Balls or A Darling who said that increase tax collection from 92% of tax due by an extra 5% was possible but that the methods required would mean no one would like living in the UK

  • Comment number 202.

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

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 201.

    Rumour that the coalition and governer of BoE have asked FIFA to study the economy's performance-dont know whether true or not? FIFA have just pronounced that England are 3rd in the world despite them having beaten just 5 teams in knock-out tournaments away from home since 1966. Should auger well for their economy ruling then.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 200.

    If I want my shrubs to spread and make more fruit/flowers I generally prune at the top to encourage growth underneath. If I prune at the bottom all I get is a very tall top heavy shrub which has to be destroyed. Surely it is better to start the cutting at the top first.

 

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