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April 21, 2009



The real problem is the government is just involved in too much.


"The people who’ll lose their jobs under “efficiency savings” aren’t the ones who are useless, but the ones who are powerless."

It's worse than that - the people who will lose their jobs are the ones who are useful. The resulting problems can then be used to show that the department needs its budget increased.

"There is, though, another possibility - to abandon top-down managerialism."

Isn't this the point of internal markets, school choice, etc?

The Welsh Jacobite

Spot on - especially the reference to Systems Thinking.

And of course the same applies to the private sector, which is just as inefficient (and as prone to making stupid decisions) as the public. The underlying reason is identical: modern command and control methods of management.


Speaking from experience in British Government, there are three ways of squeeziing out waste/improving efficiency. In order of amounts yielded, they are:

1. Push down the line the idea, opportunity and credit for making each bit of the system work better. The fall out from doing that is excellent, year-after-year improvements (4-5% a year) in the relation between total work done and total resources used.

2. Spotting where substantial sums are being spent to no good purpose usually has to be done near the centre. All you have to do is to ensure that the young turks who will be the future managers know that they get good marks for pointing out cases. A few dozen of them identifying about 20 million each of savings a year is a reasonable expectation for Whitehall.

3. Old fashioned candle-ending questioning the need for that allownce here, that expensive bit of office space there or asking why the gas bill is so high, is unspectacular; but treated as routine it rolls up useful amounts aver the years.

The means of cutting waste which never really works is the sort of crash programme that the Chancellor has signalled he is about to announce. Crash programmes sometimes crash; but more often fade away as Brown initiatives so often have..

Richard T

Cutting down on waste usually entails a freeze on recruitment - John Redwood is especially keen on this one. There is one small drawback - staff turnover is highest at the working level (the lowest paid) so those who check benefits, make payments and the rest of the essential work of government leave and are not replaced. The upper levels do not leave so the most expensive and probably least essential for the short to medium term stay put. But because the essential work has to be done, in come the agency staff and the supervisors to cover. So costs may paradoxically tend to rise and effectiveness reduces in a recruitment freeze - look at the revenue and tax service where the loss of the working level has reduced both service quality and effectiveness.

Bob B

"There is one small drawback . . "

Trust John Redwood to get it wrong . .


Why would the workers want to cut waste, instead of spending more public money on themselves?

After all, the NUT thought this a fine moment to ask for a 10% pay increase.


Darling's £15 billion is not from cutting waste, it's from pooling back office support functions.

The only way you can make that happen across autonomous local authorities and NHS trusts is with some form of central co-ordination. Without that, it will never happen.

Localism and empowerment and autonomy are all nice words but if you want to cut costs on this scale you need a centrally controlled initiative.

Deeply unfashionable, I know, but without it nothing will happen.


I agree with RobW. The Government is doing too much.

How about zero based budgeting? You'd put a stop to end of year spending splurges in order to maintain departmental budgets.

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And a lot of it reflects a switch from bank deposits to securities; foreigners “other investments” in the UK, http://www.watchgy.com/ mostly bank deposits, fell by £143.2bn in Q1. And of course there’s no guarantee such buying will continue.

reverse cell

I agree - too many regulations and baby sitting on the government's part, which does not allow oxygen to seek and establish answers.

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