Headlines: October 22nd, 2003

The Prime Minister is expected to use a speech on public services later today to highlight the need for improvements in efficiency as a way of making more money available to frontline services. It follows the publication this week of a consultation document seeking views on the best opportunities for greater efficiency.The Efficiency Review was first announced by Gordon Brown in the Budget. It is being led by Peter Gershon, who heads the Office of Government Commerce, and its brief is to take a radical look at the way government does its business. It is estimated that by the financial year 2005-6, 320 billion pounds will be being spent on public services with 70 billion of that controlled by central government.

The Review’s objective is to release major resources into those frontline services which most closely meet the public’s highest priorities, by undertaking other activities more efficiently. It also aims to reduce the bureaucracy faced by frontline professionals so they have greater freedom to meet the needs of their customers.

At the same time it is proposed that investment going into public services will be maximized by assessing measures to strengthen the transfer of best practice and by supporting the devolution of funds to local bodies. This will create new opportunities for them to collaborate and so achieve better value for money.

The review team is looking for opportunities to improve efficiency that can be delivered in the next three years, releasing substantial new resources by 2007-8. It is focusing on six priority areas – procurement; back office functions; transactional services; policy, funding and regulation of devolved public services; policy, funding and regulation of the private sector and productive time. The results of its work will play a key role feeding into decisions to be taken in the 2004 Spending Review.

The consultation launched this week is asking for views by November 21st. Next year the Review will consult extensively about how to achieve the best opportunities which have been identified. A copy of the consultation document, which has been sent to senior managers in the public sector, is available at http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/reform/efficiency.asp