Securing greater efficiency across public services is a top priority for the new Government. Scepticism about delivery of the promised savings expressed during the election campaign has put the focus firmly on delivery. It is planned to cut the civil service by 90,000 posts and local government is expected to deliver savings of two and half per cent a year which will add up to 6.45 billion pounds by 2007-8. The early efficiency gains will come from procurement savings. Public bodies will join together to lever prices downwards and greater use of e-procurement will bring staff savings.Alongside procurement a major area of saving is improving the productivity of people actually doing their jobs. Reducing the time people spend servicing the organisation and increasing the time they spend on core activities has the potential to produce substantial savings. Ensuring an improvement in productive time is not solely a public service problem, it is an issue in every field of human endeavour, but bureaucracy leaves less time available for core activities. The problem is highlighted by the amount of time police officers have to spend completing paper work in the police station rather then being out on the beat.
The Treasury is leading a series of Productive Time initiatives and has published guidance which sets out a framework for measuring productive time. It offers option of measuring by task, by staff role and by service delivered. The preferred option is to use the staff role as the basis for measurement. The guidance recognises the risk that a focus on productive time could endanger quality and it sets out a series of safeguards to ensure that quality is not adversely affected.
The Productive Time initiatives have emerged from the Atkins review published in January 2005 which recommended a way forward in measuring public service productivity.