After the Spending Review, by Jon Sibson

20 Oct 10

The severity of the spending cuts announced today goes beyond anything in living memory.

The axe has fallen and the public sector recession will be with us for four years. The severity of the spending cuts announced today goes beyond anything in living memory.  This Spending Review, more than any other,  will have far-reaching impacts, not just within the public sector, but on businesses, communities, and individuals.

Today's Spending Review announcement is confirmation of a well trailed inevitability.  Public sector leaders have known for some time what has been coming their way, and have been making plans on how to cope.  Those plans have focussed first on deep job cuts.  But those cuts, while painful, are the simple bit. The real challenge is to redesign front line services, and to reorganise back office support functions, so that decent public services can be delivered with fewer people and less money.

Public services must be put on a sustainable footing for the long term, while making the immediate savings required now.  Taxpayers want and expect money to be spent wisely and public services to be provided to the highest standard possible within the new budget constraints. This means doing things differently, as well as doing fewer things.  Conventional approaches will not work.

Front line service delivery will have to be rethought, starting with the needs and perspectives of the people who use them.  This is the moment to get away from services designed around the professional structures of those who provide them.

Radical reform of support services will be required too, in order to minimise the impact on the front line.  The analysis has been done - for example, PwC research shows that around £4billion could be saved through standardising, simplifying and sharing back office functions across the public sector.  The agenda has been clear for some time.  The accent now must be on rapid implementation.

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