Headlines: June 22nd, 2005

Local councils are committed to making efficiency gains totalling 1.28 bn in the current financial year. This is higher than the government target of £1.03 bn. The figures are derived from an analysis of the Forward Look Annual Efficiency Statements. The savings are part of the response to the government’s overall drive to make significant efficiency and effectiveness gains recommended by Sir Peter Gershon last year. Over half of the efficiencies will come from individual service departments such as Social Services, and the remainder from activities either supporting or cutting across several direct services to the public.Sir Jeremy Beecham chair of the Efficiency Task Group in the Local Government Association said: “These figures do not reflect a sudden reaction on the part of councils to a Gershon agenda. Year after year local authorities have protected services and kept council tax down by both budgeting for, and delivering, increased efficiency. But one of the advantages of the national focus on this is that the central collection of these figures gives us the evidence we need to show our long-held commitment to cost effectiveness.

Figures published by the Cabinet Office show that in the financial year which ended in April 2005 central departments delivered 2 bn pounds of Gershon savings ahead of target. Departments have also made a 12,500 reduction in posts towards a target of 84,000 by 2007/08. The Home Office has made 600 million pounds in efficiency gains in the same period. These include savings in better use of police time and smarter procurement.