By Vivienne Russell
7 December 2009
The prime minister has pledged a further £3bn in efficiency
savings through what he said would be a radical transformation of Whitehall and
of local service provision.
Gordon Brown said one third of the £3bn efficiency gains,
which are supplementary to the £9bn identified in the Treasury’s Operational
Efficiency Programme, would be achieved by streamlining central government. He
said the planned changes would be tantamount to ‘some of the most sweeping
changes in administration in this country in half a century’.
The changes include cutting the senior civil service pay
bill by up to 20% over the next three years, releasing savings of £100m a year.
A further £500m will be generated through the merger or abolition of 123 quangos,
including the network of 31 regional committees relating to agricultural
workers; merging the Sentencing Guidelines Councils with the Sentencing
Advisory Panel; and merging four military museums into a single National Museum
of the Royal Navy. The government will also press on with the relocation of
staff outside London and the Southeast.
Many of the plans, outlined in Putting the front line first: smarter government, published on
December 7, centred on greater use of technology and more devolution to
frontline public services.
As well as the changes to Whitehall, government is hoping to
save money by moving the majority of public service transactions online. Brown
said evidence from local authorities showed that carrying out transactions
online could save £3.30 a time over telephone calls and £12 over paper and mail
Brown said: ‘Our aim is – within the next five years – to
shift the great majority of our large transactional services to become online
only – and this has the potential to save as a first step £400m but as
transaction after transaction goes online, billions more.’
It is also hoped that some of the £600m lost to the NHS each
year through missed appointments could be recouped by texting patients to
remind them of appointments.
Pressure to provide value for money would also be generated
by publishing detailed information on all aspects of public services ‘to
encourage feedback and dialogue between professional and citizen’, Brown said.
‘As the country emerges from recession, taxpayers want more
than ever to see their contributions used in the same way they manage their own
finances: by getting maximum value for money.’
The government is also promising to review the burdens it
places on frontline public services, making more reductions to the national
indicator set and re-evaluating the burden of inspections. The 2010 Budget will
include a review of the work and number of inspectorates.