Upbeat assessment of government efficiency efforts

The National Audit Office has published a review of ‘Progress in improving government efficiency‘, following the Gershon review and its call for billions of pounds of savings. It actually puts a surprisingly positive spin on the whole matter:

The National Audit Office found that many efficiency projects are making good progress towards achieving efficiency gains and that in many respects departments are managing their efficiency programmes well, particularly through effective senior management focus and some high calibre project management.

‘Reported gains of £4.7 billion should not be regarded as final,’ it warns, suggesting the picture might be even rosier. Equally of course, since such figures are rarely more than educated guesses, it could all be rubbish. So you won’t be at all surprised to hear the CBI’s cynical response:

The survey findings show that 90 per cent of firms believe the government will fail in its quest to switch spending from the back office to the frontline… The number saying they are not at all confident has risen sharply, with 56 per cent expressing this view compared with 37 per cent last year.

Of course, you have to remember that it’s in the CBI’s selfish interests to cast doubt on government’s ability to deliver improvements. Outsourcing means more work for its members. But it’s hard to argue with Neil Bentley’s assertion that the civil service ‘needs the injection of new professional skills and a more rigorous and challenging system of performance management.’ More on that another time.