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Efficiency and Reform Group

Volume 532: debated on Wednesday 7 September 2011

4. What estimate he has made of the savings to the public purse arising from the work of the Efficiency and Reform Group in 2010-11. (69984)

The Government saved £3.75 billion in their first 10 months after taking office by stopping unnecessary and wasteful spending. We saved £800 million by renegotiating with the biggest suppliers to Government. We cut spending on consultants by 70% and on advertising by 80%. This is just the beginning; there is much more to be done.

I thank the Minister and welcome the initial savings of the Efficiency and Reform Group. He will be aware, however, of the £1 billion of additional savings that my own research has identified. Will he agree that I could meet the chair of the Efficiency and Reform Group to discuss these savings further?

The chair of the Efficiency and Reform Group is me, so I will be delighted to meet my hon. Friend, who, when he was leader of Barnet council, showed how much can be done. We do, absolutely, have a huge amount to learn from what is being done best in local government, particularly the sort of savings that can be made by much better use of office accommodation. It is such a pity that when the current Leader of the Opposition was Minister for the Cabinet Office he did not do this stuff himself. The country would be in less of a mess and the public finances would be in better shape if he had done his job properly.

Of course everybody welcomes cuts to wasteful expenditure. However, will the Minister explain why the Cabinet Office website indicates that in January a contractor charged the taxpayer £5,867.66 for flying flags? Will he explain why the Government paid a single taxi fare of £324.14, which would almost get me from here to Yorkshire and back again? Finally, will he explain why the taxpayer paid £181 for a single individual’s eye test? What a waste of money.

I shall be absolutely delighted to provide the hon. Gentleman with full and detailed replies. I just point out to him, however, that if we had not opened up public spending to public scrutiny, he would not have a prayer of even asking the question.

Proxima, a small software company in my constituency, has the potential to offer real efficiency savings in the use of Government software. Its initial discussions with the Department have been positive, but they have now stalled. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet me and my constituents to see how we can save the Government millions by better use of their resources?

My hon. Friend has raised an important point, and I will be very glad to meet him to discuss it. There is a huge amount we can do to use IT resources much, much better. Far too often in the past, the Government were reinventing the wheel by buying new systems and not reusing what they had already spent money on. That will now cease.