Wales politics

Cut bureaucrats to cope with cuts, says Welsh secretary

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Media captionAlun Cairns says the Welsh Government should be 'scaling back' the number of 'bureaucrats'

Welsh ministers should cut the number of "bureaucrats" to help them manage budget cuts from Westminster, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has suggested.

He said UK government civil servant numbers had been cut significantly without affecting public services.

He spokes as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warned Welsh ministers face a 3.2% budget cut in three years.

The Welsh Government said it was "hopelessly naive" to think trimming staff numbers would be enough.

Mr Cairns told BBC Wales that ministers in Cardiff were "talking about how much money they're spending, rather than the value they're getting out of it".

"We've seen across Whitehall significant cutbacks in the civil service for example but the output hasn't necessarily changed," he said.

"I'm not sure that we've seen the same scaling back of bureaucrats in Cardiff Bay or in the Welsh Government in Cathays Park for example.

"So there are savings that can be made that don't impact on public services directly."

He added: "I think the Welsh Government need to be looking at how they can get the best value for the money that is being spent. It's not about measuring the amount of money that's going in, it's not only about that. It's also about getting the best value.

"Anyone who runs a family or who runs a business knows they've got to get more for less and that's the challenge for every government, be it in Whitehall or be it in Cardiff."

'Protected'

Asked about the IFS statistics, Mr Cairns said: "The figures haven't changed from the Autumn Statement or from the Budget that we had earlier this year.

"It's quite obvious that we still need to live within our means but this element of data only includes part of it.

"It doesn't necessarily associate itself with the 16% uplift in capital spend so we need to look at the wider picture overall and Wales is in a very strong financial position in spite of the cutbacks we've had to make in public spending because we at long last introduced a funding floor where Labour ignored it for so many years.

"Wales is protected financially, £115 will be spent in Wales compared to the £100 equivalent in England."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Staffing numbers fell by more than 300 in just one year between 2014-15 and 2015-16 as we constantly seek efficiencies and improve performance.

"The IFS report sets out the scale of the financial challenges still ahead right across the public sector, and needs a proper, evidence-based debate about how these will be managed.

"To suggest you can meet the scale of this challenge by trimming staff numbers alone is hopelessly naïve."

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