Magazine article Public Finance

Experts Question How Much 'Wasteful' Spending Will Be Cut

Magazine article Public Finance

Experts Question How Much 'Wasteful' Spending Will Be Cut

Article excerpt

Doubts have been cast on the government's ability to make cashable efficiency savings after this week's announcement by the Treasury.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws set out the individual departmental contributions to the £6.2bn of required in-year Whitehall savings on Monday (see table overleaf). These included £1.15bn of savings from discretionary spending areas such as consultancy, advertising and travel costs; £1.7bn from delaying and stopping contracts and projects; £600m from quangos; and £95m from IT programmes.

At least £120m of savings are expected to be achieved through a civil service recruitment freeze.

Laws said: Our first priority is to cut out waste. We cannot expect difficult decisions to be taken on spending until we have eliminated waste.'

A cross-Whitehall 'efficiency and reform group', chaired by Laws and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, has been set up to oversee the savings.

But Eilis Lawlor, a public services expert at the New Economics Foundation, said the Cabinet Office and Office of Government Commerce already existed for that purpose. She urged the new body to identify true efficiency savings by measuring expenditure outcomes rather than simply how much was spent. 'We haven't got a good enough sense of what is wasteful and what is not,' she said. …

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